Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oh, Pioneers...

When I was growing up in the 1970's, Little House on the Prairie was going strong and I felt so proud to have grandparents who were farmers and who had lived that story.  I even grew up in the town where the first homestead was filed under the Homestead Act of 1862, and I've visited several times throughout my life.

What makes you want to leave this? (Norway)
My view of history has naturally changed quite a bit since then and I can't help but feel some guilt about how the white men drove out the Native Americans and killed almost all the buffalo and helped to create "the most extreme natural event in 350 years."  Even the Homestead National Monument now has an "Opportunity and Displacement Exhibit" about the Native American culture that we destroyed.

...or this? (Germany)
But the thing that astounds me the most when I think about the pioneers is how desperate they must have been to leave beautiful places like the Northeast and Europe to come to the flatness of the Great Plains just to have a chance at a new life.  So many of the pioneers died on their way to find land, and if they made it and weren't able to build a house and get some provisions set aside for the first winter, they weren't likely to make it, either.

To come to this?
It takes some really hardy, no-
nonsense people to survive and flourish in a place like that.  As Garrison Keillor says, it's a place, "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."  Well, I definitely think of it as a place where all the women are strong, at least.  :)

This flat, unforgiving place.
On one of our most recent car trips, I read the first book of the Little House on the Prairie series out loud to the kids.  I don't remember it being so interesting when I read it as a child, but I was fascinated by the description of everything it took to live off the land and sustain themselves over the long winters.  Surprisingly, the kids were mesmerized, too - they loved it!

I'm not sure what got me to thinking about this today, but it's something that I think about often.  I'm still extremely proud of my ancestors, but I can't help but think, "Oh, Pioneers... you're crazy!" (and amazing)


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Origami Valentines
Fellan has an amazing ability for doing origami.  He first fell in love with making origami after getting an origami flapping crane from his school Librarian.  She gave him one and he opened it up and taught himself how to fold it again.  From then on, he has checked out every school library book on origami and has taught himself how to fold all kinds of things.

This year, he decided to make little boxes to hold Hershey's kisses for Valentines for his classmates.  We noticed that he didn't put his name on them, so we asked him if everyone in class would know that they're from him.  His response: "Oh yeah, I'm known for doing origami. I get in trouble a lot for folding paper when I'm supposed to be doing work."

At least he's honest.  ;)

Friday, February 08, 2013

Beauty of Houston

As I was taking pictures last Sunday morning, I stopped and took a picture of the path I had just ridden up and then turned to discover this spectacular sunrise through the bridge structure.  Who says Houston is ugly? ;)

Sunrise through the bike bridge

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Wow, they finally finished the bike path!

After we were awakened on Saturday morning with the news of our friend's death, we felt it would be appropriate to take a family bike ride in his honor that morning.

As you may recall, the bike path has been under construction for several years and we've been having to find alternate routes to avoid all the mess for that whole time.  But we haven't tried the bike path for a few months, so we thought we should go check it out and see how close to completion they were.

We made our way through Hermann Park and over to the "tunnel to nowhere" that we discovered about a year ago next to the path around the Hermann Park golf course.  At the time, it had a fence across the entrance and it wasn't connected to anything.  Lo and behold, though, a path has finally been installed leading to and from the tunnel so, full of optimism, we rode through it and set off to see if we could make it all the way to U of H again.

Happily, there are only a couple sections of dirt that we had to negotiate, so our bike route has finally been given back to us!

I was so inspired to know that we finally have our bike path back, I woke up early Sunday morning and got in another bike ride before the rest of the family got up.  This time, I took my phone and got some pictures.

No longer a tunnel to nowhere! Path from the golf course to the tunnel

The tunnel (left-hand side of pic) leads to the Braes Bayou path and cool new bike bridge

The path now runs along both sides of the bayou, connected by this bridge

Bike bridge!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A funeral

Today I'll be attending the funeral of a friend of ours.  We met him through the preschool our kids attended together and I was the assistant coach on our sons' T-ball team that he sponsored and was the head coach for.  I have gone to many "Girls Night Out" evenings with his wife and our families tried many times, but unfortunately, only once were able to actually pull off a family bike ride together on a Saturday morning.

He was absolutely one of the nicest people I have ever met and his life was cut short in a horrible tragedy for which we still don't have any answers.  The viewing was last night at a funeral home and several people spoke about their memories of him.  Every single person talked about how infectious his love of humanity was and what an amazing gift he had for helping other people.

I've been trying to figure out what I can do to help his family get through this devastating event, but I know that his wife has been surrounded by her closest friends since it happened.  She is well-cared-for and she seemed to be holding up fairly well last night.

As we were leaving from the funeral home, I realized that it's going to be the help during the day-to-day living in the next few months and years that will be most useful to her and the kids as they try to accept this new reality.  And it made me really glad to be living where we do and to know that our tight-knit school community is ready and willing to help, just as he would have done if he were in our place.