Monday, November 28, 2011

Take a Road Trip (But Watch Out for Stray Decoys)

“As consumers weigh the fear of economic uncertainty and the desire to create lasting family memories this holiday, more Americans are expected to choose family and friends over frugality.” -- Bill Sutherland, Vice President, AAA Travel Services 
Hood Valley, Oregon
The Reinkes joined an estimated 38.2 million Americans on the highways this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We traveled to Portland, Oregon to celebrate Thanksgiving with Dennis' two daughters. I'm pretty proud of the fact that we chose, as Bill Sutherland suggested, "family over frugality", as well as contributed to the U.S. economy. Yessiree folks, this is my plan to get the economic recovery moving (no pun intended). We do it the old-fashioned, American way -- spend money on a road trip. Get in your vehicle and hit the high roads and low roads of this great land in which we live. I'm sure right now employees of two hotels, numerous gas stations, restaurants and Starbucks across Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Oregon are saying to one another, "How about those Reinkes? We need more Americans like them -- choosing family over frugality."

Thanksgiving dinner, prepared by Dennis' daughter, was a gourmet delight. She cooks healthy food that tastes great. This is the first guilt-free Thanksgiving dinner I have ever eaten and for taste I'd put it up against any fat and calorie-laden menu out there.
From the top left: Swiss Chard Stuffing, Roasted Turkey with a light gravy, Kale and Brussel Sprouts Salad, Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon, Mixed Green Salad. Dessert (not shown) Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Walnut Crust 
The Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Walnut Crust was delicious. Kabocha squash is also known as Japanese pumpkin. I found a recipe on Food Gal's Website that I'm pretty sure is the same one used for our dessert. However, we did not opt for the Chantilly topping. The cheesecake didn't need it.

While we were in Portland, we toured Hood Valley (where I shot the photo at the top of the page), and Willamette Valley wineries. Both offered beautiful scenery. Dennis and I love old barns (as is probably obvious by the 150 year-old barn on our homestead). This barn in front of a vineyard possessed delightful character.

The Fall color is gone in the Rockies, so we especially enjoyed the colors of Willamette Valley.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Except for a scary incident on the way home, we had a great trip. Just outside of Twin Falls, Idaho at 5:30 AM Sunday, we hit a big fiberglass goose decoy that had apparently fallen off a traveler's vehicle. It lodged under our car, so we had to pull off the road. Another driver who had hit the pesky decoy before we did, had pulled over to see if he could figure out what exactly he had run over. He played the part of Good Samaritan and dislodged the decoy for us. A third driver pulled over and told us there was also a big bag of decoys in the road. It was a very weird experience, but thankfully nobody was hurt and there was no damage to our vehicles. We thank God for that.

"The LORD watches over all who love Him" -- Psalm 145:20


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Will Toilet Paper Become Obsolete?

"A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water." -- Carl Reiner

We woke up to fresh snow this morning. This must be the fourth or fifth snow storm we've had since October. When I became an adult I lost my fascination with the white stuff, but now that I live in the mountains, snow and I have become friends again. Maybe it's the beautiful white-tipped evergreens that have won me over, or the winter sunshine that paints gray shadows on the white, billowy canvas.Then again, it could be the simple fact that I work from home and don't have to navigate through the snow, unless I want to. The answer is "D"-- All of the Above.

Earlier this week, I came across a blog that I filed under "E" for ee-yew. The blogger extolled the virtues of "family wipes". These are reusable cloth wipes designed to replace toilet paper. Yes, folks. Nix the toilet paper and use cloth wipes instead. Apparently, the "used" cloth wipes are held in a designated container close to the toilet. When the container is full, a lucky family member gets the jolly job of throwing the whole kit and kaboodle in the clothes washer for cleaning. Then the wipes are dried, taken back to the bathroom, and the process repeated.

Ok, now I believe in frugality. I also respect the environment (I don't worship it, I respect it). But cloth wipes are just a little too au naturel for me. I like my toilet paper. I like the fact it's on a roll. I like seeing it disappear when I flush the commode. And I love the fact that I don't have to put it in my washer and wash it, followed by washing my other clothes in the same washer. Get my drift? 

If you think family wipes are the next best thing to sliced bread, more power to you. Just let me know that you've switched to cloth before you invite me to your house. I'll make sure I bring my old-fashioned, environmentally unfriendly, horribly expensive toilet paper with me. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. (I'm thanking God for t.p.)


Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's All Good

Egg McReinke
My husband is a self-confessed "gnarly egg" maker. Gnarly as in knotty; not  the slang word gnarly, as in gnarly, dude. The fried eggs Dennis cooks are delicious, they're just not very pretty. Mind you, I'm not complaining. For me, yummy always trumps beauty.

We've had lots of activity at the Reinke Homestead this week. Dennis has almost finished revamping his website: I like the way it's coming together, and feel a little inspired to spruce up my blog. On the other hand, I may just sit still until the feeling passes.

When he wasn't playing web guru, Dennis painted six watercolors for the Estes Park Cultural Arts Council Holiday Art Exhibition and Sale. The event will take place at the CAC Fine Art Gallery - 423 W. Elkhorn Ave., Estes Park, November 26 - December 31, 2011.

We entertained visitors this week. Early Tuesday morning, a doe stopped by. . .

A buck hid behind our barn and ogled the female . .

According to the Rocky Mountain National Park Service, the deer rut begins in November. I like to think of our homestead as a sort of date destination for these lovely creatures.

Yesterday, while working on my novel, I heard the high-pitched call of an elk calf. I gasped when I looked out the window and saw a large elk herd descend the mountain behind our homestead. . .

They came in a steady stream through our property and gathered in our neighbor's yard, across the street, before parading east, down the road. . .

I couldn't capture the totality of the herd with my camera, but there were probably close to 200 elk. The horses expressed interest in the elk show, too. . .

On Thursday we spotted two Bighorn Rams in Big Thompson Canyon. . .

I mentioned my novel earlier. Our homestead purchase and remodel kept me occupied most of this year, but now that we're past all that I've returned to full-time writing. This is my passion and what I feel created to do. Breakfast at the Aurora Borealis Cafe now has a word count of 24,500. Only about 60,000 more words to go. At times it's a daunting task, but I'm in it for the long haul. Besides, I've had some encouragement along the way. One of my devotionals is featured in Gary Chapman's new book: Love Is A Verb Devotional - 365 Inspirations to Bring Love Alive.
My devotional is on January 24.
Seven of my devotionals are also featured in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Wesleyan Publishing's Light From the Word Daily Devotional. Seven more will be included in the Summer 2012 edition. 

I don't share this out of pride, but rather to show how good God has been to me since I left everything behind to pursue my dream. I have no idea what the future holds. Perhaps I'll finish my novel and no one will like it. Maybe I'll have to go back to a regular 9-5 job. Whatever the case, I'm so thankful that He has given me this opportunity. Even if it only lasts a brief time, I can say, "It is well with my soul." 

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." --- Jeremiah 29:11

To God be all the glory.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Rest of the Story

"If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak - the unborn child - must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for." --  Mother Teresa of Calcutta  from speech to the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, DC, February 3, 1994

One of the positive things that came from resting after surgery last week was the opportunity to catch up on some reading. (The pathology report was benign. Thanks be to God.) Quite unexpectedly, I came across Michael Clancy's web site: Hand of Hope - The Story Behind the Picture. Clancy's name may not ring any bells with you, but I bet his photograph of a spina bifida corrective surgical procedure performed on a twenty-one week old fetus in utero at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on August 19, 1999 will. . .
Mr. Clancy's photograph is used with his permission.
The remarkable picture of the little hand reaching outside the womb and grasping the surgeon's finger first appeared in USA Today on Sept. 7, 1999 and became popular with mass emails. When I received it, I believed the photographer who captured the hand of Samuel Armas outside of his mother's womb at twenty-one weeks gestation would win a Pulitzer.

In reality, Michael Clancy's photo was never published in a magazine, a pre-requisite to a Pulitzer Prize. What is worse, he has spent the ensuing twelve years defending his photo and story against hoax claims, and denials from the doctors involved that Samuel actually reached out of the womb and grasped the doctor's finger. 

Clancy was hired by USA Today to cover the ground-breaking surgery. He was in the operating room at the the time of the operation. He did take photos and immediately following the surgery no one disputed that it was actually Samuel Armas' arm sticking out of his mother's womb. In Michael Clancy's words,
"A doctor asked me what speed of film I was using, out of the corner of my eye I saw the uterus shake, but no one’s hands were near it. It was shaking from within. Suddenly, an entire arm thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor’s finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! It happened so fast that the nurse standing next to me asked, “What happened?” “The child reached out,” I said. “Oh. They do that all the time,” she responded.

According to Clancy, Dr. Bruner the doctor whose hand the baby touched hasn't talked to reporters in ten years. Dr. Noel Tulipan the neurosurgeon who performed the actual repair to Samuel's spine was interviewed In a Tennessean Newspaper article, Spina Bifida Study Vindicates Vanderbilt by Tom Wilemon, published Februry 10, 2011. When asked about the picture of Samuel reaching from his mother’s womb, Tulipan responded, “I hadn’t really anticipated that was going to happen when it happened. I tried to stay on the sidelines as far as that goes. That’s obviously yet another controversial issue. We never really got into that debate here at Vanderbilt. We tried to sidestep that.” 

Confused by all this? You're not alone. Nevertheless, Michael Clancy's story is compelling and worth reading . The incident changed his views from pro-choice to pro-life. He has shared his testimony around the country and recently released his book Hand of Hope The Story Behind The Picture. His famous 1999 photo was cited during congressional debates on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, enacted November 5, 2003.

When asked her observations of the photo ten years later, Julie Armas said, "I don't care, honestly. What I felt the picture showed is that this is a child engaging in some form of interaction. I'm a labor and delivery nurse, so I understand that Samuel was anesthetized to some degree. So if he reached out, I don't know. If Dr. Bruner reached out, I don't know. The fact of the matter is it's a child with a hand, with a life, and that's meaningful enough." - Fox News, May 2009

Mrs. Armas makes a good point, but its Samuel himself who really drives it home. "It's very important to me," Samuel said of the photograph: "A lot of babies would've lost their lives if that didn't happen." - Fox News, May 2009

Amen, Samuel. Amen.

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb,
   “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, 
    Stretching out the heavens by Myself 
    And spreading out the earth all alone," -- Isaiah 44:24