N3 contributor forgoes nap and angling routine to step up and provide a take on the Center for Hope and Healing event.
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
I think it happened when we were sitting in a local restaurant. I was enjoying a perfect cappuccino and a delicious pastry. It was one of those moments where you are happy and enjoying the coffee and conversation. The restaurant was nice, there was a low buzz of conversation around us and the staff was making cooking noises and chatting in the kitchen. You have been in that place, your senses are dulled, you are kind of emotionally composed and then it happens, someone says, “we need to talk or I need a favor.” Your stomach turns over and your flight reflexes kick in and you look for the nearest exit. In this case, it was a favor, the less frightening of the two. My friend and Editor of Near North Now quietly mentioned that he had a hard family commitment and could not attend the Capital Campaign and Open House for the Center for Hope and Healing in White Cloud on Wednesday the 17th. His able, second-in-command Alexis wasn’t available either. She was off running a half marathon in the hills of Philadelphia on that day. “Would you mind so much to go and cover this important event?” A mental, auggggggggggggggggggg followed by a reluctant surrrrrrrrrrrrrre.
I have been plagued by friends, family members, and positions in organizations that require me to be better than I want to be. You know that situation, those expectations that you will get your responsibility and industry. Agreeing to this favor meant breaking my afternoon fishing routine, cleaning up and putting on real clothes, and meeting important adults. And for goodness’ sake, forgoing the afternoon nap! Ken the Editor knows I am a lazy storyteller and not a reporter. And writing is hard and writing small succinct interesting media articles is really really hard.
On the way home after a moment of whining and self-pity I consoled myself with the delusion that I did have a little foreknowledge of this subject. After all, the Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NCPCAN) Center had been housed down the street in White Cloud. They were in that ugly, cold, dank, occasionally vermin-infested pole barn by the railroad tracks on James Street. I had other intel as my wife Dianne was one of the minions helping get the new place ready for the open house. Wednesday came so quickly. In a blink it was time to suit up, find the advance Flyer, put my little N3 Press Badge on and get on over there and stand around and not embarrass anyone, especially myself.
After signing in I followed NCPCAN Executive Director Tara Nelson on a guided speaking tour of the new, soon to be repurposed 23,000 square-foot Center for Hope and Healing building located at 601 N. Evergreen Dr and just a bit North of White Cloud. After the tour I wandered around, met a few people, chatted, and took a bunch of photos. Later when I was standing in this great open space looking at an easel with a bare black-on-white line drawing of the new facility I had a sort of epiphany. This drawing was a metaphor for what I was beginning to feel. I know you have had those moments where you stand still and know that this moment is larger than the event or this moment in time.
Maybe it was the vibe, the light in the expansive space or because this place used to be a church. I don’t know but it was a biblical sort of moment.
It was that light against the dark in the drawing that made it feel like this event was a reset or resurrection and a rebirth was happening. Director Nelson had come out of that gosh-awful, dark, cold, damp pole barn to this place with light, good energy, and abundant space that is needed to do the work that needs to be done.
And there is plenty of work to be done.
Putting this in context the reason that we are here in this place is to address the muddy, messy complex problem of child abuse and neglect. It is that dark side of human behavior that we don’t like to talk about. Today sexual abuse is rampant in all branches of the Military, our religious institutions, and national youth programs like the Boy Scouts of America, College campuses, in our corporate offices, right on down to local schools and the family unit.
Here in Michigan, it is in our face. We are all too familiar with the high-profile case of the predatory Dr. Lawrence Nassar as he worked at Michigan State University's sports medicine clinic. His crimes reverberated from Michigan through the world of gymnastics all the way to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. It appears that these horrible abuses occurred unchecked over decades and were exacerbated by the failure of many adults who knew or should have known but did not take action to protect these young women.
Every year thousands of children in West Michigan are victims of abuse and neglect. It appears that these incidents can be embedded, generational and increasing as families and communities face the churn of raw cultural clashes that are intensified by the pandemic, political polarization, and economic and environmental uncertainty. To address this embedded and growing problem two organizations have stepped into the fray to mitigate the damage of our communal sins.
What would a biblical story be without some angels? Somewhere I heard or read something like this “I will send them without wings so that no one suspects that are angels.” I believe there were three angels at this open house. Tara Nelson, executive director of Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NCPCAN), Amy Taylor, Open Arms Child Advocacy Center (OACAC) executive director Wendy Samuels, chair of OACAC’s board of directors. These visionaries and leaders of the OACAC and the NCPCAN’ organizations have collaborated, then merged, and will leverage their strengths, expertise and staff. They will now operate from the new Center for Hope and Healing at 601 N. Evergreen Dr.
“The new Center for Hope and Healing will be a state-of-the-art facility that promotes trust, calm, and a sense of security for children and their loved ones. When built out there will be dedicated spaces for a range of services that will be offered to the residents of Newaygo, Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties. These services include:
Forensic interviews in child abuse investigations
Children’s rights education
Evidence-based safe sleep information
Play and reading areas for children
Summer activities programs
Meeting and gathering areas”
At 5:00 P.M sharp we gathered and the three gave a brief and professional introduction of their roles, their purpose of being and their mission. Additional details were presented by an excellent 6-minute video. Please click to review the video. 6-minute video
They concluded their presentation with thanks to the donors, volunteers, and attendees. Let there be no doubt for these three have driven a stake in the ground. They have proclaimed that here in the Center for Hope and Healing, we will do the dirty work in the messy, muddy, dark, heartbreaking arena of child abuse and neglect. It was obvious that they are committed to educating, discovering, intervening, helping and healing the abused and neglected child. Then, when necessary, help reform or adjudicate the transgressions. I felt that these three had raised the curtain and turned on the lights and illuminated the scope of this awesome challenge.
“Neither do men light a candle and put it
under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it
giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light shine before men, that
they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
I glanced around at the attendees and saw some smiles but just as many grim faces. Good news there because it was not so much about how many attended but who attended this event. In my opinion, they were the 20 percenters that are always there when things need to get done. There were the electeds, Drain Commissioner Twing, Register of Deeds Stewart, Commissioner Bryan Kolk, Mayor James Rynberg, and Representative VanSingle. The Judiciary with Judge Melissa Dykman, Friend of the Court Referee Michael Paige, Prosecutor Worth Stay, Undersheriff Chad Palmiter, White Cloud Police Chief Dan Evans, and other officials. The business community also had representation including Colleen Lynema and other members of the River Country Chamber.
There were the so very important donors like Dennis Adama and platoons of invaluablevolunteers. The Fremont Area Community Foundation was represented by CEO and President Shelly Kasprzycki and Mark Petz. The Foundation through their well-considered and compassionate grant program makes awards to projects, programs, and organizations that most effectively impact our community.
Then there was Abraham. Az Ibrahim the media magician was representing Spectrum Health and had helped organize and publicize this event. His article on the event can be found here:
To refocus, we know that our precious children are irreplaceable and will determine our collective future. We can rear leaders and astronauts or future abusers and lifelong criminals. We have the capacity to provide harm and hurt or love and support for our children. Therefore, it is time that we, the ones here with the responsibility and the means, to get up and step up and speak out for those that are hurt and harmed. Speak out through contributions or commitment to support this new Center for Hope and Healing and this righteous cause. We must help these brave people do what needs to be done in our community.
To contribute to this important campaign please access the following link. www.center4hopehealing.org.
Side Bar: Being a skeptic and a bit curmudgeonly I always like corroborating evidence for modern miracles and biblical stories. In the previous sermonette, we had three Angels, Abraham the Prophet and some good and faithful folks gathered for a good cause in a former church building.
Maybe we needed another Angel or a traveling Wise Man or good Samaritan to show up to add a little reinforcement to this story. As it turns out we had all three. Josh Guerrero was the traveling Wise Man and Good Sumatran and Beth Keloneva was the Angel. According to Beth “Josh Guerrero, (former marine) is hiking all 1200 miles of the North Country Scenic Trail that runs through Michigan. He is doing the Operation Wolverine Walk and raising funds for Veterans. He started August 22, 2021 in the Western UP, and after hiking for three months and 900 miles he was passing through Newaygo County.
Beth, a former NCTA Western Chapter President, was one of his “trail angels” in Newaygo County. Beth also serves as a volunteer at the Center for Hope and Healing and was preparing for the Open House when she also needed to pick up Josh in White Cloud. She asked Josh if he might be willing to help with the set up, and he willingly said, yes!
After learning the purpose of the Center for Hope and Healing, Josh was right on board with the mission. He said one of his other passions was the prevention of human trafficking. Josh volunteered at the center on Tuesday for nearly two hours helping to move nearly 50 heavy tables and chairs.
The next day Josh was back on the trail and continuing his mission!
Those that hike or run long distances know that a few minutes off your pace can change your estimated time of arrival or departure by hours. In three months and over 900 miles it would take more than coincidence or careful planning to put Josh the Good Samaritan in the Center for Hope and Healing on the days of this event. As for Angels, an Angel is as an Angel does. For me I am going to go with the supporting evidence.
Like I said it was a biblical sort of moment.
N3 Note: Region 6 includes Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola, Ottawa
The health care systems within Region 6 are at a tipping point - our individual and collective resources are being overwhelmed, and we need our communities’ help to get back on track. For all Michigan Region 6 care providers, the health and well-being of our patients, their families, our communities and our team members are our top priority.
The hospitals and EMS systems in our region are operating at extremely high capacity - and have been for weeks. While other areas of the country have seen the number of patients with COVID-19 decline, our numbers are on the rise. We are also seeing more patients with other serious health issues that cannot be further delayed or ignored.
How does that impact you?
• Wait times for emergency, urgent or primary care may be much longer than usual • Ambulance transfers may be delayed
• Surgeries or procedures may be deferred to a later date
• Visitor restrictions remain in effect
• You may have a prolonged stay in the emergency department waiting for a bed in the hospital
Similar to other industries in the region, state and across the country, we are also experiencing staffing challenges. Our team members are exhausted and are doing their very best care for our communities.
It is important to note that the strain on our system is due to the COVID-19 response, plus the many other demands our teams are facing to care for seriously ill patients. If more people were vaccinated, that would help reduce the number of COVID-19 patients, as most of the COVID-19 patients in the ED and admitted remain unvaccinated. This is impacting our ability to care for those who are seriously injured in a car accident, suffer a heart attack, stroke, or experience another medical emergency or issue. We are concerned there will be a surge of influenza along with the current COVID-19 surge adding to the capacity issues. We strongly urge people to get the influenza vaccine as well.
Please utilize your primary care office for minor or non-emergent problems. Urgent care is also available for non-emergent needs. If you have an emergency, please call 911 or go to the emergency department as soon as possible. During the prior surge some people waited too long because they did not want to burden the emergency department. Unfortunately, some of those people came too late to treat their emergent condition such as stroke, heart attack or diabetic emergency. Please be patient with our staff in the hospital as everyone is doing all they can to care for a large number of patients.
Everyone can pitch in to help. We’re pleading with our community members to do everything they can to avoid COVID-19 and lead a healthy lifestyle:
• Get a COVID-19 vaccination or booster if you are eligible
• Get children 5-18 a Covid-19 vaccination
• Wash your hands frequently
• Wear a mask when in indoor public spaces or outdoors when unable to socially distance
• Practice healthy behaviors such as socially distancing, getting good sleep, eating well and exercising.
We know that together we can get through this safely, but we need your help. Thank you for your support and patience as we navigate through these challenges.
Jerry Evans, MD, MMM, FACEP
Region 6 Healthcare Coalition
In cooperation with Region 6 Hospitals and EMS agencies
The changes wrought by Title IX
By Ken De Laat
On occasion I come across a post from one of my high school classmates that triggers a memory of those long ago days. A recent one came on the heels of doing the N3 articles on the all conference teams for the fall high school season.
Usually, putting together the names of our local scholar athletes is merely the tri-annual compilation to honor their efforts but, combined with the post, it gave me a bit of pause.
The original was a post about a female member of the vaunted Caledonia Class of ‘69 engaged in a biking competition and resulted in a thread with references to girls athletics at our school back in the day.
Pre Title IX.
Yeah, there were none.
While difficult to imagine if one has attended a sporting event featuring high school girls in recent years, les filles of Caledonia High School in that era could either sideline cheer for the boys or take part in something called the Girls Athletic Association. From my knowledge of the group (limited to a failed attempt to be in their photo for the yearbook) there were no competitions with other schools and games were limited to intramural type activity.
I think they played basketball, but nowhere near the basketball one sees these days. The speed and gritty defense of the Newaygo Lions as they marched to the state finals last year would not have found a place in the roundball rules I recall for girls in those days with stationary guards and forwards limited to one half of the court and a limit on the number of dribbles one could take. It was speculated that the rules were formed to protect the fragility of the fairer sex.
Then came 1972 and Title IX, the landmark gender equity law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, banning sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.
And while women’s sports were merely a part of this far reaching law and it took years to get traction toward the needed changes, today there are 16 sports for Caledonia girls.
Granted there are at least triple the number of kids in the newer hallways of CHS these days so the opportunities have expanded along with the resources.
But to my count there are also 16 sports for the boys.
Just like the girls, thanks to Title IX.
Cross, football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, tennis, golf and track were available to the boys.
The girls got to cheer.
6 of them.
And a male classmate of mine joined them one year so even cheerleading apparently wasn’t exclusively for girls
And while taking nothing away from those who support the teams on the sidelines?
It’s awfully nice to see them on the court receiving some of the cheers as well.
Next year when Title IX reaches the half century mark there is certainly raison de célébre (One year of French from Mr. Goodyke at CHS, circa 1967) given the hard fought progress that has been made.
My earlier reference to the Lions tournament run last winter is a testament to how far sports for women have come after seeing an entire town taken hold by the team. Much as they were a couple decades earlier when those state title banners were hoisted 2 years in a row.
It’s the kind of community excitement that spurs interest in the sport and eventually leads to more participation in more sports by younger girls.
I only wish the athletes among my classmates who plied their skills solely in gym class could have experienced the excitement and crowd support of interscholastic competition available to girls today.
Because if those early rules about competition were created at the time to protect the so-called ‘fragility’ of the girls, I am here to testify that most I knew back then were anything but fragile.
Determined, strong willed, wickedly smart and resilient, yes.
Not so much.
And given the chance they would have no doubt excelled on the playing fields of old ‘Donie.
Note: Thank you to Dr. Patricia Magle Jones for her assistance in securing the GAA photo.
By Ken DeLaat
“The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”-H.L. Mencken
Man, who’d a thunk it?
I recall when I turned 30 and Lil threw this big party for me. We had a 1 year old son and unbeknownst to us we were just over 8 months away from having our daughter.
Life was busy, about to get busier. I was one year into a job I would spend the next 20 years at, we lived in a house we would leave a couple years later and in a city we’d leave a couple decades later.
And it seems like it was just...
A mere 40 years ago.
And now here comes 70, arriving seemingly out of the blue just as I was becoming accustomed to sexagenarianism. And if 70 is the new 40, then doddering is the new dancing.
This is probably the time of life when an aging scribe is supposed to philosophize about his years on earth. To eloquently pen some of the lessons learned in life while embarking on what looks to be the game of life’s 4th quarter with the possibility of overtime but an equal possibility of an early cancellation.
However this implies one has somehow gathered wisdom by virtue of having walked on this earth long enough to have spanned 14 presidents, numerous international crises and, believe it or not, 3 championships by the Detroit Lions.
Of course the last one of the three occurred when I was 6 so it’s not like I have fond memories of those pre Super Bowl crowns.
As for the wisdom acquired during this time?
Yeah, not so much.
Age has helped reduce the number of unwise actions on my part, but it has in no way eliminated them. I still find myself astounded by the amount of things I don’t know. And acquiring new knowledge occurs only if the subject holds a strong interest since my forever wandering mind seems to clash with anything perceived as even a tad tedious.
Age seems to have provided the simplicity of saying, “Yeah, I don’t want to do that.” with only a modicum of guilt.
I once seemed to require little sleep. LSC Lil used to say my philosophy was to never go to bed on the same day I woke up.
Truth. I was a night owl often extending awake time far past the witching hour, a condition that has certainly gone by the wayside. Sleep has evolved from an annoying break in my waking day to treasured hours of welcome slumber. Not only does 10 pm represent the far outpost of time when it comes to retiring for the night but savoring the occasional nap, a previous rarity occurring about as often as a total eclipse or a Lion playoff game, has become a desirable diversion.
When it comes to television I find myself less preoccupied with the news and more attentive to the weather. I attribute this to recognition that meteorological events are far more important to me than anything currently cruising the salty seas of the 24/7 news cycle. I find no interest in who said what in the perpetual culture wars, just give me the 3 day forecast and precipitation possibilities.
As for other TV, where I once had a proclivity for any and all sports, there has been a shift to more selectivity in this area. The games need to be of stronger interest to me and the days when a post midnight battle between a pair of Australian Rules Football teams drew my attention enough to forgo sleep are long gone.
The Great British Baking Show, however, has become a favorite weekend watch and seems to project a more intriguing competition and far more drama than most sporting events.
My current role as sous chef and clean up crew in the home kitchen is more than satisfying and the chef I chop for spins some seriously righteous culinary creations. Lil’s transition from chewing to eschewing meat has resulted in fewer carnivorean pursuits at the home table and I’m totally ok with that.
Well, not totally.
Bacon. Gotta have bacon.
These days I hold more value for the time spent with my family and friends, my exercise regimen has long ago moved from softball and basketball to less strenuous activities, my musical tastes have expanded only minutely, dark chocolate remains a staple, my clothing tastes have likely not improved and haircuts continue to be somewhere around a quarterly event with a bit less to trim each trip.
Some things have changed and some haven’t.
But two things have remained constant.
My enduring love for the exceptionally patient woman who has been my partner for 48 of the 70 years.
And the ongoing mystery of those orphaned shoes found individually placed along the roadways of America.
A perpetual puzzle forcing one to ask the eternal question…
What does it mean?
“Take kindly the counsel of the years, graceful surrendering the things of youth.”- Desiderata
There is a waging war on our next generation in the form of modern-day slavery. It is real, hidden in plain sight, and tearing at the social fabric of every nation, economic structure, and even our schools. Everyone has a role to play in combating human trafficking. Knowing the signs to look for and the right responses to provide are vital in helping to identify victims. Education is key to prevention of human trafficking.
During the sessions, attendees will learn motivating and engaging Child Exploitation & Human Trafficking Prevention Strategies and techniques that are age-appropriate, well-designed resources, that are immediately applicable addressing Human Rights, Character Development, Relationship Boundaries, & Digital Safety. The attendees will also learn how to bring awareness of the crafty and tricky methods that human traffickers and online predators use, how to identify vulnerability traits, and how to take action against this injustice.
Valerie has dedicated 30+ years to the field of education in various roles as a National Board Certified Teacher, Curriculum Specialist, Mentor/Coach, Florida Department Of Education Human Trafficking Education Specialist, International Educational Consultant, and Best-Selling Author. Her books and resources in the areas of literacy, self-worth, and human trafficking have been inspiring educators to motivate and engage today’s whole learners, impacting young adults in classrooms and universities globally in 37 Nations.
In addition, she helped align a Primary Prevention Curriculum for 6,000 Thailand students and worked with South Africa to bring human trafficking awareness to nearly two million students. Currently, Valerie is A21’s Global Education Curriculum Specialist for human trafficking. She travels the globe to inspire and cultivate healthy educational environments for learning. Valerie is a devoted wife, mother of four adult children, and a proud “Nonna” to four grandchildren with one more on the way in 2022. She lives for creating healthy schools and families!
International Educational Projects Include:
● Honduras - University of Honduras and Honduras Department of Education - Trained 400 leaders in their capital who each represented a school in the nation. Developed “bully-proof your school” prevention program.
● Dominican Republic - Created a cross-curricular Language and Culture Curriculum for (MLB) Major League Baseball Pittsburgh Pirates Academies for 12+ year-old player development program reaching 1,000 players; Provided custom training for 18 Major League Baseball clubs on “Cultivating the Whole Player”, mobilizing them to perform 3,000 hours of community service.
● Nigeria - Created curriculum for Saint Mary’s Press (SMP), Worked with University of Nigeria and Catholic Diocese of Nsukka to create a Leadership Conference and Train-the-trainer model, training over a 100 of their lead educators in the region to become trainers.
● Zimbabwe - Established resources and professional training to help develop educators and school culture that is rigorous, engaging, and relevant for students. 4,000 students impacted from the training we provided.
NC Compassion Home continues their mission, deserves support
By Ken DeLaat, Publisher, Near North Now
“We believe care of the dying to be an act of mercy that our community will embrace and support as a worthy endeavor.”- Ann LaPres-Hindes at first NCCH event
Five and a half years ago and just a couple weeks after we launched Near North Now I received a call from Amy Drilling, a nurse at Gerber Memorial, about running a story in our fledgling journalistic endeavor about an initiative she was part of. It seems a group of nurses were discussing the idea of establishing a cost-free volunteer-staffed home to provide care for those who are facing the end of life stages.
After meeting with her I began the article thusly:
I have known a lot of nurses in my time. I’ve worked with them, sat on boards and committees with several, been friends with many and have had the privilege of being married to one for over 4 decades (a nurse, mind you whose Mother and Aunt were nurses before her so the creed is steeped in family tradition).
While never claiming to know more than a smattering of what creates these wonderful folks, there are some things that are just understood. For instance, when there is a problem that needs solving, a puzzle to be unraveled, a gap in service that needs to be addressed or other pressing issue, if it is put in the hands of nurses who have decided on a course of action it will most certainly be done.
In our meeting Ms. Drilling spoke to how the initiative got started.
“Ann (LaPres-Hindes) read about the Mother Teresa Home in Lansing and we decided to go visit.
“We came away just amazed and excited at what they were doing, the level of compassion and care given to all who entered their doors,”
Sharing their enthusiasm with others who had been part of the discussion, the group got rolling and formed a nonprofit organization called the Newaygo County Compassion Home for the Terminally Ill.
Since that time N3 has run numerous articles on this organization and watched their growth from those early roots to the highly regarded program it is today as they continue to carry out their mission.
I have had the privilege of speaking to folks who have had the experience of having a loved one receive care at the Compassion Home and each has been beyond impressed with the workings of the facility. This is truly a program that has made a tremendous impact on our community by their dignified and devoted approach to those who are nearing the end of life.
When considering the passion with which these palliative paladins pursued their vision I finished the story on their first shindig with:
“The event proved successful in helping the organization gain some traction in their quest and now the group will be looking at the next step toward achieving their goal.
And achieve their goal, they will.
After all, these are nurses.
So I certainly wouldn’t bet against them.
Smart no bet, I’d say.
Consider attending their event On October 29th at the Dogwood Center in Fremont.
And while you’re there munching on a few hors d'oeuvres, participate in the silent auction and then listen to the words from the folks who describe their contact with Compassion House.
However, if you cannot attend, consider supporting their mission with either your dollars or your time.
They are truly doing the good work.
And they deserve our support.
By Ken DeLaat
“I can almost see it
That dream I'm dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head sayin'
"You'll never reach it"- The Climb, Miley Cyrus song, lyrics by Jessi Leigh Alexander and Jon Clifton Mabe
First, my take on the Park itself.
Way, way, way too many people and equally way too few dining options.
LSC Lil and I visited the canyon briefly circa 1977-8 when we left our jobs, piled our belongings and a black Lab named Molly in a somewhat converted ( a raised bed in the back) Chevy Van and traveled out West until we later returned some time later (no one in the marriage seems to remember the timelines) to settle in our bipeninsular paradise.
As I recall we stayed a night or two in a cabin in the park for about 10 bucks a night and explored the area along with what seemed to be a few hundred others.
The room at a non park hotel was merely a few fins beyond 20 times what was paid back then. Of course that was a tad over 4 decades ago, but people in my age group are always fascinated by the dynamics of inflation so...
And while complaining to Lil about the crush of humanity, she informed me of her chat earlier that day with a guy familiar to GC who spoke to the relative reduction in the crowds due to international travel restrictions.
Well, I suppose if one considers inflation with regard to the overnight rates one can surmise that with the population of the planet increasing from 4.2 to 7.8 billion in the years since we last visited more folks are likely to be out and about.
And thank heaven for the bar and grocery store at our end of the park since the other dining options where reservations were likely to be required a few years in advance, the wait for a table ranged from 2-2/12 hours.
I give a lot of credit to the poor folks whose job it was to relay this bad news over and over again eliciting reactions ranging from stunned awareness to hunger-abetted anger. They generally had one of those ‘deer in the headlights’ look to them. With one exception.
We’ll call her Dianne to protect the not so innocent..
You have likely known this person in one form or another. I know I certainly have.
Dianne seemed to absolutely revel in delivering the hope shattering message to those unfortunate enough to encounter her. Armed with a look that dared you to challenge her or even begin to show displeasure she swatted away criticism with a sneering smile that beamed with self righteous authority. One could easily have pictured her saying “What we have here is failure to communicate”
Into the Canyon
Lil has long had a goal of hiking down into the canyon.
“We don’t need to go far, I just want to hike down a ways.”
How far? Like, more than a couple hundred yards? You know there's that whole hike back up thing right?
“Not far. Just as far as you want to go. How’s that?”
“Not an inch farther.”
Knowing this was coming a couple months beforehand most would begin a rather rigorous regimen of preparation to make the upcoming hike more doable.
My prep for the Canyon hike was an occasional stroll around the lake near N3 World Headquarters.
It wasn’t enough.
Not nearly enough.
We got to the trailhead and peered down to where the trail made the first switchback.
It looked steep.
And far more narrow than I imagined.
Just as far as I feel like going, right?
“Yes. Though I might want to go farther”
I didn’t like the sound of that because I knew above all I was not about to have her continue down what looked like a daunting trail alone. I couldn’t bear to be That Guy.
We mounted our packs and started down.
And down and down and down. Passing folks who were on the way up and not exactly looking like they were having a great time. Switchback after switchback we descended until I was convinced we were nearly at the bottom.
How far have we gone?
“Not that far. Why, do you want to go back?”
“I just want to keep going for a while, ok? But if you want to turn back..”
It’s ok. Just not too far, ok?
We shuffled on being passed by younger hikers and twice by the mules. One seemed to be nudging his pack up against me in a way that somehow reminded me of Dianne.
At one point it was announced that we had reached a mile down. Though convinced it was at least 3 times that distance I was elated that we had possibly reached a milestone and could begin the arduous trek upwards.
“There’s a rest stop with a bathroom up ahead. Mind if we go there?”
How far is it?
“Just another ½ mile or so.”
Feeling emotionally deflated and yet swept up in my ego driven need to prove my mettle I hitched the pack back on and we continued. When we finally arrived at the rest stop it became time for the return.
A younger me may have had an easier time but on this day I identified not with Rocky who trotted up the steps of the Philly Museum of Art, but more like Frodo and Sam using their last bits of energy to scale Mt. Doom.
Dramatic? Perhaps but being on the cusp of septaugenarianism every injury from the remote past to my knees, legs, feet and hips returned to haunt my body. I recalled my friend Charles Chandler telling the story of having to drag his hiking companion up the trail which conjured up visions of Lil doing the same as a line of hikers looked on trying hard not to laugh.
With a multitude of breaks and rests along the way and Lil pushing snacks and water to me I labored on.
How far to the top?
“Umm maybe a quarter mile”
I questioned the sincerity of this estimate since she seemed to be smiling a bit, but mustered up the energy to follow her across what seemed to be innumerable switchbacks until we finally reached the corner with the end in sight.
A final push got me to the top. It was over at last.
“Aren’t you glad now that we did it?”
I was too tired, too sore and too aware of my inability to filter my responses to answer, choosing to simply nod while attempting to bring my lungs back to some semblance of normal breathing.
For what it's worth the 3.5 mile distance isn’t exactly grueling for those who might be in better shape. Lil, who works out frequently and hikes far more often than her sedentary husband, seemed to have a significantly lesser struggle. In fact that afternoon she decided to take another hike along a rim trail for several miles.
I went to the bar and ordered a beer while I wrote this.
A rather large beer at that.
When she returned she talked about hiking down in the canyon on another trail the following day.
A shudder of terror went through my body before she added, “But it’s supposed to rain tomorrow so we should maybe consider a rim hike.”
And praise be to the weather gods, it did indeed rain.
And rain on a vacation never felt quite so good.
“Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb”- The Climb
Third in a series on a road trip west
Parts I & II
By Ken DeLaat
“He knew the road would get more interesting, especially ahead, always ahead.”- Jack Kerouac, On The Road
Denver is a big city with the requisite traffic snarls and such so when the mountains finally appeared and we reached the outskirts of the Mile High City we decided to ramble on into the heart of the Rockies and came to rest in the town of Silt.
A potential hike was aborted when dark clouds rolled in and the skies began to spew some significant moisture so we cruised the area and took in some local eats at an intriguing (and popular) spot called Miner’s Claim.
As for shoes I spotted a cowboyish boot near Grand Junction and wondered aloud if those who believe in conspiracy theories might set aside the QAnon nonsense and focus on the mystery surrounding this phenomena.
My road trip companion gave no response other than a far too familiar sigh and a return to her knitting.
Moving on, the next day we headed for Arches Park and on a whim decided to take the first real hike of the trip. With merely a long ago hotel breakfast as sustenance we challenged the lengthy trek to Delicate Arch.
We set out on a trail that proved to be steeply uphill and after ascending to the top of a rocky tor we ran out of gas and were only saved by a downhill return that, while a challenge in itself, was infinitely easier than the ascent. My thoughts immediately went to the planned journey into the canyon that awaited us and the knowledge that the upcoming hike would involve an uphill second half.
And those thoughts were not pleasant ones.
We pushed on and ended up staying at a hotel in Kayenta smack dab in the middle of the Navajo Nation. Should the opportunity arise for you I would advise a stay at the Hampton Inn in Kayenta if only to dine at their restaurant and avail yourself of some of the most delicious fry bread imaginable. It was also the strictest mask enforcement place I’d ever experienced.
Their nation was hit hard by the virus and so the leaders came together and responded with masking and distance protocols as well as getting their people vaccinated at a far faster rate than other parts of the country.
While waiting to check in the gentleman in front of me came to check in maskless.
The desk clerk responded that he needed to have one on.
“It broke,” he said, showing her a disabled mask.
“Then you will have to fix it or find another,” she replied politely but firmly.
She handed him some tape to fix the mask in place and when he was finished, and only when he was finished, she waited on him.
It was simple. There was no argument to be had. We were in the Navajo Nation and they were going to protect their people.
So no, you didn’t need to wear a mask.
But you weren’t going to stay there if you chose not to.
That was crystal clear.
And it was a long road to the next hotel.
By Megan Wirts
My best friends and I all turned forty years old this year. A milestone we all have actually been looking forward to despite what the world may have you think about women and aging. Many of my friends and family that have seen age 40 come and go have told me this is my “power year”, and I am here for it. A dear friend of mine has a tradition in their family where they give a speech when it’s a milestone birthday starting at age 13. She encouraged me to write my own speech this year and we each read them outloud to our families. Here is what I had to say…
When you are a child, your entire world is your parents and family. You know nothing but them. Then you go to school, meet friends, see new places, learn, read books, and start to become your own person. You begin to make choices for your life. Along the way you blend all the things you are taught and you create your own path. Sometimes you fall into old patterns and do as your ancestors before you did. Sometimes you grow up and see the generations of trauma and brokenness and decide to break that cycle.
I was born into a cycle of fear. That is not to say I wasn’t loved, I know I am loved, but the truth is I have been scared most of my life. I was afraid to speak up, to disagree, to not please, scared of the dark, thunder and lightning, too much wind, getting lost or being left alone, among others. Most of those fears I have overcome, but not all. I am still afraid of many things, but the most important fear I have let go of is the fear of who I am.
I'm not afraid of her anymore. I love her now. It took me almost 40 years, but I love myself enough to say it out loud now. I spent countless years hating and fearing my body and mind. Most of my life I spent trying to change it all to fit the mold that the world told me it needed to fit. Years of fearing that my body will malfunction, get too big, get too wrinkly, be too hairy, or be not enough of anything. Fear of losing my mind and fear of losing my voice. I have feared my own thoughts and instincts to the point of not trusting them, causing me to worry over every decision.
Now, after a lot of work, yoga and therapy, I love my thick powerful thighs that hold me upright. I love the stretch marks on my belly that remind me of the way my body carried my babies. I love the hands that create delicious food, hold the ones I love and can type these words. I love the voice that comes from my guts. I love my creative thinking and ability to make others laugh and feel joy. I trust that I know my body and I know what it needs. I love that I can sleep soundly when I put my deaf ear up and my good ear against the pillow. I love that I can walk again even if it is with assistance. I love myself enough to let that love pour out onto everyone around me.
The scars that I carry both inside and out are the cracks that the love and light shines in and out of now. Those are the places that I used to try to cover and shield and now I feel no more shame inside this body. Our body is the one thing we have when we are born and when we die. I choose to love every inch from the tips of my toes to the hair on my head, from the depths of my heart to the recesses of my mind. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a day where I cringe at the way I over-share when I’m nervous or have a bad hair day, but every day I will try to show myself love. Sometimes love is binge watching the Golden Girls and eating cheesecake. Other days it’s walking two miles and dancing in the kitchen. Love is a balancing act.
As we age not only does our body change, but so do our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. The things our parents told us to be true aren’t always true. (Hello Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny!) As we age our world view grows due to experience and education and that inevitably will change us. We take bits of what our parents, our friends, teachers, grandparents and the world in general shows us and we get to decide which parts we keep. That’s the beauty of being a human that gets to grow older. We get to choose our path and the people that are in our lives. That’s what I love most about turning 40. I get to choose my family. I get to choose my future. I get to choose how I respond and react in each moment.
Birthdays are a great time to reflect and reminisce and they are an excellent time to dream of the future, but it’s most important to look around and take in the present moment. If growing older has taught me anything it’s that time is a thief. The moments are fleeting and are soon just a memory. Instead of dwelling on the past, I want to embrace today and flow with whatever changes may come. I want to be the flow. To flow is to change.
And change is the only thing that is constant.
The journey west continues
By Ken DeLaat
Iowa is different in the fall.
Most of our road trips through the state have somehow occurred in summer when the corn is high and the greenery is extensive and almost feels a bit like an entry way into the Emerald City.
In early October the corn has been harvested and the fields look like a bad haircut.
And there are plenty of them.
After getting past the Indiana-Illinois industrial area and through the agricultural expanse that is western Illinois we crossed the Big Muddy and rolled into the Hawkeye State where one can visit the birthplace of John Wayne, the Bridges of Madison County and The Field of Dreams.
A stop in Iowa City home of U-I proved to be a splendid respite with a fine eatery nearby. The Homestead Suites (highly recommended) provided a great spot to relax and plot out day 2.
And while Iowa can be a bit of a challenge to cross when rambling across the country on 80, once it is in the rearview mirror, Nebraska looms.
And being a veteran of many treks across the Cornhusker state, I remembered that although it is mainly pretty flat with few trees and virtually nothing of interest beyond the Kearney/Grand Island oasis of civilization at least it’s...it’s…
It’s hard to imagine many people choosing to stay over in North Platte. The western Nebraska town is a little on the rough side. It’s a railroad town whose primary claim to fame is that Buffalo Bill Cody owned a ranch there. Old BBC did his part in wiping out the buffalo in the west (hence the nickname one surmises) taking out over 4000 for the railroad. Later of course he put together his Wild West show and if you’ve paid attention to the news recently a poster from his traveling show was recently discovered (and subsequently stolen) in Manistee.
Eschewing the handful of chain hotels we opted for the Husker Inn, a classic, well manicured, 10 room little Mom and Pop place nestled in the heart of NP.
If anyone recalls staying at a motel back when Holiday Inns and Quality Courts were the only real chains out there they may have stayed in a Husker Inn clone.
Bed takes up most of the room, the bathroom providing enough space for almost one person, the ability to hear neighbors sneeze and a challenge to find adequate outlets for devices.
To their credit they had WiFi (kind of) and the rooms were exceptionally clean and a guy who directed me to the ice machine room told me it is his favorite place to stay when traveling.
He seemed to want me to ask him more about his travels but I was tired, hungry and have learned that such conversations can easily lead to lengthy monologues involving information devoid of items of personal interest.
Dining options are also limited in NP if one isn’t interested in fast food.
We found a downtown spot called Good Life on the Bricks, a fast moving joint with good beer choices, smoked burgers and what seemed to be a 1:1 ratio of staff to customers with young servers moving food from a busy kitchen at breakneck speed. It was packed from our arrival to our departure and when asked about the name our server explained the name came from his buddy who owned it.
He didn’t expound and we chose not to pursue it.
All in all some good progress made thus far and with the mountains within shouting distance (that is if you can shout 250 miles or so) we rose early, grabbed breakfast at one of those spots filled with regulars who all stopped talking and stared at us in silence when we walked in, and headed west.
Oh and thus far on the shoe situation?
Just one. A lone loafer (brown I think) lying alongside US 83 just south of North Platte.
I let LIl know and was reminded once again how she doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for the mystery of those solitary soles despite the phenomena being pointed out to her repeatedly over the years.
Once when we were living in Grand Rapids I called her at work.
“I’m in a meeting. What do you want?”
You know the exit ramp from 131 to the Ford freeway?
There was a red pump lying there on my way to work. Just sitting there all by itself.
Silence (for a while) then...
“Look, don’t call me at work about the shoes anymore, ok?”
A patient woman indeed.
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