Football Sunday

September 27th – Cairo, West Virginia 1800
Yesterday it rained and the temperature dropped into low seventies creating a perfect environment for shopping. Armed with our slightly odd list we went into the town of Ashland, Kentucky to search for things like battery ties, a hatchet, chicken, dog food and a pair of kitchen scissors. Walmart, a necessary evil, would contain all of these items plus several more that we didn’t realize we needed.
Armed with our HDTV antenna in hopes of seeing some Sunday football we started heading back to our campsite when we spotted the local pub and grill. I think there was only one because it was quite large. We headed to the bar area and flat-screen TV’s.
We had barely glanced around when the bartender asked what we’d like to drink. I looked around a little closer and noticed there were no beer taps, no lovely amber bottles of alcohol, no tumblers and no visible signs of the “pub” part.
The bartender looked apologetic and said “sorry, no alcohol on Sundays”. What??? How do we watch football without beer?? Startled we ordered water and stared at each other in shock. Was this the bible belt? Oh dear… no beer. No wonder the bar was empty on a Sunday.
We ordered some fried appetizers and a bowl of potato soup (not as good as our favourite) and left at half time. We decided we’d try our luck with the HDTV antenna.
After several attempts we managed to get a bit of one of the four o’clock games. I was delighted to see the Chiefs were now 3-0 and knew how happy my work partner Dave would be that they beat San Francisco.
To my delight, and Brent’s resignation we got NBC – Sunday night football!!! Woohoo!!! It turned out to be a great game between the Dolphins and the Jets. I watched the whole thing while sucking back as many beers as possible. It was limited due to the potato soup from the pub, but I kept trying.
We woke today to more rain and even cooler temperatures. It was time to search a warmer, drier climate. We decided to pick a spot north east on our way home, but not Ohio. We started driving towards West Virginia and stopped at the welcome centre to pick out a state park.
It took us five minutes to decide on the 3300 acre State Park called North Bend just outside of Cairo, West Virginia. It was a difficult drive with narrow twisty roads once we got off highway fifty, but it was worth every time the trailer tire rolled off the road and frightened the crap out of us.
We’re going to head back into Cairo tomorrow to check it out. We saw four people on the narrow porches and every single one of them waved at our Ontario truck and trailer. I guess they don’t get much traffic. There was a diner, general store and general gift shop. The town is set into the side of a hill, so the sidewalks are narrow and everything is on an angle. It’s quaint and a little backwater, but beautiful.
I can’t wait to check it out.
Our campsite is beside a small stream nestled in a valley. There are no digital channels, no internet, but there is a handful of campers who’ve found their way to this secluded spot in the mountains of West Virginia.
A word of advice for those looking to camp in the United States: State parks. Don’t bother with the expensive KOA or privately run campgrounds. The State Parks are clean with lots of hiking, biking, paddling and hook ups. The general feel of the state park is one of relaxation. The big excitement is when a new rig pulls in, which doesn’t happen all that often during the week.
I think there are thirty-two RV sites and only fifteen have electric here in North Bend State Park. Fewer than ten have electric and water. Our spot has both, a little stream and is right across from the shower. I can see four other campers from my perch and it gives the feeling of comfort. Isolated, but not alone.
I hope that’s a good thing in West Virginia. We think we may have heard some banjos last night.
Overall our camping experience has been fantastic. We’ve nearly set ourselves on fire last night with an electrical problem, we lost and recovered a kayak, outran a tornado and have managed to find several incredible places to visit, get lost and found in less than a day.
We’re having the time of our lives.

One Week Anniversary!

September 25, 2010
Just for the record: I was having a nap at four o’clock today, exactly one week ago when we were married. Wow. Married. Do all newly married folks wake up in the morning and go… “holy crap. We’re married?” I still do. Given my occupation, I’m eternally grateful to be surprised and extra happy that Brent is the dude who can still shock.
We woke surprised because we thought it was still raining, but the sun was shining through a perfect blue sky. We expected rain. We were told there might be some lingering showers, but it was not meant to be in the little valley of Greenbo, Kentucky.
We rose and drank coffee with baileys excited about the day’s adventures. First order was a good kayak. We took all three puppies and started paddling towards the lodge four and a half miles uphill if you went by foot or car. Much shorter by water.
Gizmo found a great spot inside the kayak and out of the sun with the cool plastic on his belly, while Taz sat on the top of the kayak barking at the hikers along the water’s edge. Poco sat in his captain’s position with Brent. Excellent.
It took us an hour to paddle to the lodge and then we hiked around the lodge. We found the pool – empty. We found the waterside – dry. We continued our trek until we came to an empty parking lot protected by a pair of white ducks. I hope Mr & Mr Smith are doing well.
We had an hour paddle back and were encouraged by our hunger as breakfast was ages ago. Back at the trailer we ate sausage, potatoes with carrots and green pepper. Brent had to have a couple of melty cheese sandwiches to really fill up after the bowl of sausage. A short nap later and we decided to go for a hike.
We thought a short hike after kayaking would do nicely. We left the campsite before five in the afternoon and two hours later found ourselves lost in Greenbo State Park somewhere in the hills of the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky.
We worried a little as the sun began to set and the dogs walked slower and slower. We ended up carrying Taz and Gizmo at times during the heavy uphill climbs. We didn’t intend to hike so far, but we were talking and got lost. No map. No GPS. No nothing.
At one point Brent said “you have to get lost to find yourself sometimes.” I don’t disagree, but I didn’t feel particularly lost at this point in my life. I don’t think he appreciated my sentiment.
We had a few bottles of water and some apples. The dogs had food and the desire to run. The first two hours were incredibly beautiful, but nearing the sun setting and the trails getting dark we were getting nervous.
We managed to find our way back to camp just before eight in the evening. Tired and hungry we fell upon a package of hot dogs and destroyed it. The veggies and some fruit were our next victims until we felt mildly satisfied.
A little campfire talk later and we were headed for the public showers. Brent should be back soon and it’s time I finished my third glass of wine.
What a busy day and still waiting for the chocolate cake. Our biggest decision is whether to stay another day in Kentucky or head to West Virginia for some Smokey Mountains??
The dogs are out cold. Their little legs aren’t even running in sleep because they ran too much on our hike. Taz only fell off the kayak once today… kayaking can be dangerous.
It did cool down to eighty-five today. Last night we slept with the air conditioning and tonight we have a little heater going. Life changes so quickly.

Public Showers

I’d like to talk briefly about public showers. Staying at a campground comes with many wonderful benefits, but hooking up to full sewer is something we’re not willing to spend $12 extra dollars a night on. We’ll use the public showers… plus our hot water tank is not big enough to support a ten minute shower. I can barely wash my hair, but it’s a fair trade off to have a shower rather than no shower at all.
Public showers: often dirty, frequently busy and with many drawbacks, but much like country music I love them.
I love them for their unlimited hot water. I love them for their high water pressure that does not change when several toilets are flushed at once. I was covered in suds in the public shower and heard two toilets flush and couldn’t help but do a little dance to celebrate the public shower as neither the pressure or water temperature changed.
Having said that I managed to drop my fresh underwear in the water pooled on the floor. I worry about foot fungus and the many people who have been naked where I’m currently standing.
Still… I don’t have to clean this shower. I can take a full twenty minutes with unchanging water pressure and temperature. As a farm girl raised on limited water, even more limited water pressure and super limited water temperature I can tell you the joy I feel at using a shower where even if I wash my hair AND shave my legs I can still luxuriate in minutes more of hot water and pressure.
I guess it’s perspective. I don’t have unlimited water at home to play, so these public showers are a little like a gift with the exception of strangers pooping in the stall next to you and my short walk back in the rain, but hey… nothing is perfect.

The First Honeymoon Kayak

September 24th, 2010
Happy Birthday Rob and Happy Anniversary to Lisa and Rob!!! I wish I was celebrating with you today instead of fishing Taz out of Greenbo Lake… again!!
Tomorrow is our one week anniversary and we’re thinking of celebrating with chocolate cake and a ten mile trip into town. Fancy!! LOL…
It turns out we’re the type of people who listen to country music when in Kentucky, wash plastic disposable utensils and take our trailer on our honeymoon. We also: write on our laptops, learn about geocacheing (thanks Brian and Jenn), take videos with our new digital camcorder (thanks Wojick Family) and watch our portable DVD player (thanks Debra and Harry) outside beside the fire (we watched our favourite movie last night on the little screen: Pump up the Volume – stuck in the 80’s).
We managed to drop our kayaks into the Greenbo Lake today and paddle for a little bit in the ninety-five degree heat. The wind picked up to cool us off and heat us up by having to paddle harder. Poco sat happily in captain’s position between Brent’s legs and Taz wandered up and down the front of my kayak. We really need to put a non-slip surface on the top. Luckily she only fell in once. They all have lifejackets, so I managed to fish her out without much ado and she happily wandered to the front of the boat as soon as her little paws hit the plastic. Gizmo stayed in the trailer for his mid-afternoon nap.
To our delight the little sea kayak survived it’s slide down the interstate without damaging it’s ability to float. Brent looked nervous as he pushed the kayak into the water and just sat still for several minutes before determining the craft was sea worthy. Miracles.
The state park is really filling in for the weekend and we’re happy to have a spot up on the hill. We’re angled sideways away from the people so we look fondly on the forest, but the noise of the other campers has reached our ears. Taz is so exhausted that she’s not barking and the boys have found comfortable spots to rest, which means we can rest as well.
We took a good hike after a few glasses of wine post-kayak. The heat really bothers the little dogs and we’re happy to hear it’s going to be seventy-five tomorrow. We should be able to tackle a good hike after the rains push through tonight.
Brent and I have decided this is one of our best adventures.
We’ve got the charcoal grill up and running again tonight. This is the last of our steak, shrimp and potatoes. I just flipped a steak and felt the first of many raindrops. I’m so happy we’re not in a tent!

Honeymoon Adventures

September 22, 2010
It’s nearly ten at night on September 22, 2010 and we’re five days post-wedding. After extensively cuddling a Gizmo Brent has settled into reading his book and I’ve decided to write about the days adventures. We used my sister’s gift of a charcoal grill to barbecue some steaks and shrimp. Along with a bottle of red wine we enjoyed our meal outside with only the sound of the katydids to keep us company.
It was an adventurous day. It took us about forty minutes to tear down and get ready to drive. It poured rain as we emptied our waste in the dump station, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. We headed south west toward the Kentucky border with coffee in our bellies and joy in our hearts.
We were two hours in when an F350 towing a huge fifth wheel pulled up beside us and gestured upwards. We pulled over at the next exit and found we were one kayak short. We finished fuelling and headed back east in search of our little sea kayak.
We found the little orange mess just west of a bridge on the interstate and had to go up two miles to the next exit and turn around in hopes of a quick retrieval. About a mile away from the exit we saw a state trooper and became more nervous about the trouble we could be in for having an unsafe load and causing an accident. We were grief-stricken at the thought that our naughty kayak may have caused harm.
Luckily the trooper paid us no attention as we casually drove by and headed towards our orange beauty laying in the grassy median between the four lanes of traffic of the interstate. Like an insane pair of teens we raced out of the truck and before I could get around to the side Brent had thrown the damaged kayak into the bed of the truck and was already heading to the driver’s seat screaming “get in. Get in wife!”
We raced away and couldn’t stop until we were hours away from the scene of the crime. As we examined the kayak we were grateful it hadn’t caused an accident. Our flying kayak had only damaged itself with a few scrapes and two dents that righted themselves as we travelled in the ninety-five degree heat.
Phew. Thank goodness I took that vow to be Brent’s willing adventurer and partner in cahoots.
We stopped in Columbus, Ohio for human and puppy supplies before continuing our trek south west to a four hundred acre public park on the Kentucky / Ohio border. We were fifteen minutes south of Columbus when the wind picked up and debris started flying across the road. Weird. The sky went black and the rain began to fall.
I said to Brent “this looks like tornado weather”. He laughed. Five minutes later the local radio station made the emergency broadcast warnings with the loud blaring beeps. We look at each other in shock as we listened to the broadcast of the tornado warning for Columbus and areas east.
The storm was heading east at thirty-five miles an hour and we were heading south west at sixty miles per hour. We were out running it, but just barely. It was exciting to see the funnel clouds in the distance and watch the sky turn an eerie grey-green colour. We were exhilarated as the electricity heated up the air to ninety and then drop the outside air to seventy in less than five minutes. We raced out of the path of the storm.
Still riding the high of the intense storm we travelled along the rural road for several hours without much thought. I started to realize we’ve been thirty minutes away from our destination for nearly two hours. What?
It was the snaky roads with fifteen mile an hour curves and fifteen percent grades up and down hill that caused us to slow. Brent missed a turn and it added fifteen minutes and an adventurous endeavour onto a dirt path that was barely wide enough to support our truck and thirty-two foot trailer.
We finally arrived at Long Family Resort, but couldn’t find any staff. It said they were open till ten and it was only eight, but there was nobody around. We searched and search and finally decided to find our own camping spot.
We examined the public map of the facility and decided on a spot by the creek far from the office. The creek was dry, but the shore power was on as was the water. Jackpot!
We fired up our charcoal grill and barbecued some steak and shrimp. I made some red wine potatoes in the microwave that surprised us both to create a lovely meal. Brent was in charge of shopping and somehow forgot the veggies… again. Don’t worry as apples, peaches and grapes were our travel snacks.
We ate our dinner and started a lovely fire to enjoy the evening. We’re both a little nervous about “stealing” a site, but we promise to pay in the morning.
We’re deciding where we want to travel to tomorrow. Kansas City, MO or do we head towards the two thousand acre state park on the Kentucky / Indiana Border? Brent is suggesting we head towards Beckley, WV and find a spot in the mountains.
I know tomorrow comes with be another great adventure. I hope we get internet soon, so I can post some of these stories.
I finished my quick five minute shower and I’m incredibly grateful to have washed my hair. It’s Brent’s turn to enjoy the hot water and I can’t help but giggle as I see him running around the trailer in his nudies. It’s okay because we’re married now! Ha ha…
New Blog! September 23rd, 2010.
Happy Birthday Lisa! I didn’t forget… I just don’t have any cell or internet reception!!!
We woke this morning to the sounds of jet planes. It was so loud and disturbing that we decided that this campground was not the spot to spend several days. The sad dried up creek bed and lack of occupants was not enough on it’s own to have us leaving, but the sound of construction (someone was building a deck on their trailer about one hundred feet from where we had parked) and the jet planes helped convince us it was time to move on. .
After a quick coffee we packed up and headed south east into Kentucky. We noticed an immediate change in the vegetation and the housing. There seemed to be thousands of dilapidated mobile homes in rural southern Ohio. The area seemed so depressed and depressing, but as soon as we crossed the bridge to Kentucky the world was greener and the houses had foundations and basements.
We used the AAA camp book and picked out Greensbo State Resort and Park – a 33,000 acre state park in the north east corner of Kentucky that boasted a whopping sixty trailer sites with electricity and water. We found a lovely shady corner around one in the afternoon and set up.
In our area there were only six other trailers and our spot was on top of a hill. We had a heck of a time levelling the trailer and even moved it sideways so our door faced the woods before we were satisfied.
Once set up we decided to ride our bikes the half mile to the ranger station to pay our bill for three nights ($63 – for all three nights including tax). It took a while to set up and hook up the dog trailer and the basket that goes on the front of the bike. Taz and Gizmo love the trailer ride and Poco enjoys his perch from the basket. I think I’d gone about two hundred feet when my rear tire blew. I pushed the bike including trailer and Poco in the basket back to our site. Site fifty-one.
We jumped in the truck and drove out to the ranger station stopping along the way to watch a new trailer owner try and back into a spot. After several tries she pulled around on the grass and made it a drive-through. We smiled as she laughed and waved on our way by.
Once paid up we drove across the street to check out the lake. It was huge and we can’t wait to drop our kayaks in for a paddle tomorrow. I imagine we’ll go for a hike after our wine, but for now it’s time to relax and maybe take a nap. We’ve decided to stay until at least Sunday that way we beat the weekend rush and can really enjoy some paddling and hiking. Hopefully we can get a new tire for my bike tomorrow.
It’s now four thirty and we’re having a glass of wine. Brent is reading and I’m writing. Too bad there’s no internet, but looking at the green trees and enjoying the ninety degree heat I can’t say that I mind.
We’ve finally found a spot we can sit and stay for a spell. Maybe we’ll move on Monday or maybe we’ll stay longer. It’s a lovely spot and it’s wonderful to know we’ve found a great spot for a few days of outdoor adventures. I hope the weather is with us! No more tornados!
It’s just after eleven at night and we’ve had our fair share to drink tonight knowing we aren’t going to have drive in the morning. With excessive drinking usually comes injury and we’re no exception. I was stepping over the little two foot fence we have for the puppies and I stuck my foot right into this steel contraption Brent bought to help start the coals on fire. I have a six inch laceration on my left ankle to prove my agility. These things happen. I’m not complaining too much, other than it really hurts!
When we searched for my shoe we found it inside the metal device. Woohoo… I did a good job.     
p.s… we never did find anyone this morning at the other campground… Oops…

Day 4 of Being Married

September 21st, 2010 – day Four of being Married.
Well… phew. It took us all day Sunday to clean up after the wedding. We moved all the picnic tables off the beach and took down the tent. Thanks to all our friends who stayed to help and a big huge thanks to Bill Cushman for his time and his amazing (and beautiful) tractor. It’s so shiny.
By the time we got to the farm it was nearly eight at night and we were exhausted, but I was far too excited to wait another day to open our wedding gifts. Wow. We were amazed at the creativity of gifts and the generosity of donations. Wow. Thank you. Especially our parents. We love you all.
We woke Monday morning still tired and didn’t manage to get started on the trailer until nearly eleven in the morning. We were slow. We pulled everything out of the trailer and laid it garage-sale style on the driveway of the farm. This seemed to draw much attention because people started stopping by. We had to have a beer or wine with our guests who wanted to wish us well on our wedding and they kept asking… Why haven’t you left yet? We’d laugh and admit to moving at a turtle’s pace.
We love when people stop by the farm for a visit. We happily delayed our departure to visit with family and friends. You are always welcome at the farm. We cherish you.
By eight o’clock Monday night we realized we weren’t leaving, but Brent wanted to keep the romance alive and what better way than an all you can eat steakhouse? We had a gift certificate for Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse in Niagara Falls and we quickly showered and drove to the Honeymoon capital for our first dinner out as husband and wife.
It was delightful. Salty, but delightful! We laughed and I told everyone that we were just married. Brent smiled his quiet proud smile and continued to eat red meat until I thought he might burst.
We got back to the farm around eleven and fell into bed. I woke around two with the meat sweats. I’m happy to avoid meat for a few days. Just ask Chris about the all you can eat Mongolian place in Vancouver when he got the meat sweats.
Tuesday morning came quickly and we started to prepare to leave. By eleven we were still at the farm, but mostly ready. With dogs loaded we waved a farewell at my dad and headed for the border. First stop: Duty Free!
Several bottles of hard alcohol later we headed south west, tried unsuccessfully to open a join US account and then decided to really start driving. It was one in the afternoon. Three days post-wedding and we were finally ready to start our honeymoon. There are some drawbacks to doing it yourself and losing time is one of them. I would not trade the lack of debt for the lack of time any day of the week. Our honeymoon might be shorter, but our lives are just as rich.
By three p.m. we decided to stop and found a private campground called By The Lake. It was fairly typical, but what came as a loud surprise was the sound of the I90 racing towards Cleveland. We were in Ohio, but just barely.
We set up the trailer without any loss of limb and then sat to enjoy a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers thanks to Betty Ann and Rick Chandler who gave us a lovely gift basket complete with everything you’d need for a picnic.
After a brief nap Brent announced we needed charcoal for the small grill my sister gave us as a wedding present. We walked the one mile to K-mart with the pups and brought the dog stroller to return with the bag of charcoal. After a two mile walk the dogs were napping and we were grilling sausage over a charcoal BBQ incredibly proud of ourselves.
With the light from Diane Conner wedding gift of a three candle lamp we cooked over an open fire and managed to burn, or at least singe the edges of everything we ate. It was the best honeymoon meal ever. Hot dogs, sausages and potato chips with soco to drink on ice. No wonder we’re getting fatter, but heck we’re on vacation!
We managed to get the hot water tank lit and I had a short and cool shower while Brent manned the fire. It felt good to be self sufficient.
We talked about other honeymoons options and both agreed that this is was our best idea. I’m sitting under the stars in Ohio beside a fire and the only sound is the I90 racing to Erie.
The best news? The truck and trailer pulled beautifully! We were delighted with our progress and in the power of our truck. The trailer is like a home on wheels.
It’s nearly ten at night and we’re sitting around the campfire with the puppies passed out and Brent snoring gently in the chair beside me. I guess we should go to bed and watch a movie… wink. Wink.
There is no where else I’d rather be than sitting under the stars in Ohio by an open fire with my love and best friend snoring in the lawn chair beside me. Sweet dreams husband bear.  

Wedding Day!!!

September 18th, 2010 Long Beach four in the afternoon: BEST DAY OF MY LIFE
I have never felt more beautiful as I made my way down the beach towards Brent. I have never felt more love than when I looked into his eyes that were shining with emotion. I have never been more delighted than when everyone cheered as I got out of the truck and kicked off my shoes.
How can this not be the best day of my life?
Hours at the hair salon, putting on make up, jewellery and a beautiful dress is priceless…. and amazing and wonderful and the best and most beautiful I’ve ever felt. I had no idea twenty-nine could feel so good.
The ceremony was amazing. It was filled with emotion, not only from Brent and I, but from our wedding party and our guests. I looked up at one point and everyone in our wedding party had tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces. Thank you.
We are grateful for the witnesses and grateful for the venue, but mostly we are grateful to have each other.
I will remember this day for the rest of my life and I cherish each memory and each thought. Each word spoken and each hug given. I hold this all dear and close to my heart.
The pictures are just starting to surface and I’m excited to see the different poses. What has filled me with happiness is that in each photo our love shines through. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Brent and I talked about it and decided to overcome our nerves and let all our emotions come on display.
It was amazing.
Brent and I have talked about the wedding and how much it meant to both of us, our families and friends. It feels so different. We feel different. We feel matched and married to each other without doubt. There is no where else I’d rather be.  

Poco Update

Our sweet Poco seems to be taking a bit of turn. It’s not so bad that we’re horribly worried, we’re starting to notice changes.

It seemed only a few weeks ago that Poco was a champion cookie catcher. It didn’t matter where you threw it, he’d manage to catch the cookie in his mouth. Now it could hit him in the nose and he wouldn’t catch it. He can’t seem to follow the ball when we throw it and he seems to go by sounds.

We’re worried that our little Poco is going blind.

He’s nervous and fearful. He tends to bite more and is easily startled.

When we got Poco we knew he was badly damaged physically from the years of abuse he sustained at the hands of his previous family. We knew his life expectancy would be shortened by malnutrition. The vet has a hard time getting blood from our little guy because his cardiovascular system is not the best.

When Brent and I decided to adopt Poco from our rescue group we talked at length about the medical attention he may need in the future. After much though and a few sleepless nights we decided we’d make Poco’s life as happy and wonderful as possible without putting him through the trauma of excessive medical tests or procedures. This is our choice.

Modern medicine can’t fix the damage done by five years of starvation and physical abuse. Nothing can and that’s the saddest thing.

Our little Poco is still spunky and I think he’ll adjust to his blindness. He’s relying on Gizmo and Taz to help guide him in the right direction. He’s still eating well and sleeping lots, even if he’s started to pee in the upstair hallway at night.

We make sure that Poco is safe. We’ll keep him warm and love him until the time when his life has more downs than ups. Poco hates the rain, we already know that today will not be a good day, but tomorrow is full of sunshine.

Wedding Tent

Our wedding tent is sixty by sixty. It’s huge. It totally kicked our ass yesterday. With only three days before the wedding and an thunderstorm predicted for Thursday, Wednesday became the day to put up the tent and move tables.

It would have been a thirty minute sitcom with lots of physical comedy, except it took over five hours in real time.

After we managed to sink all twenty-four of the three foot long steel tent pegs we tried to put the side posts up. We’d get one side up and the other side would fall over. We run around to the other side and then the front would fall. This went on for an hour with lots of grunts and a few swear words (okay, more than a few).

We gave up on the sides and decided to put up the centre pole. This was much harder considering we  didn’t know what we were doing.

There was five of us in the middle of the tent trying to get the massive centre pole up. We struggled against the weight of the tent and the sides we’d already tied down. We tried brute strength, but we were no match for the tent.

Huffing and puffing we were getting frustrated and a little snappy with each other when Brent’s dad had the idea that if we take the tension off the sides perhaps we might stand a chance of getting the centre pole up. Hmm… sounded good, but we still were not strong enough to lift the weight of the tent.

My dad offered advice based on watching circus tents go up on TV. It seemed they put the poles in and then pulled them up from the outside. It was worth a shot. We’d be at it nearly three and a half hours, so it was really time for some progress.

We untied all the sides facing the lake and sent Brent and Chuck to man the pole under the now collapsed tent. I don’t know how they could breath. With the rest of us on the outside pulling like mad towards the lake the pole began to rise.

Our excitement fueled our muscles and we pulled harder and the post rose a little more. With a cheer from inside and outside, we pulled. Our feet dug into the sand and our backs and arms screamed as we pulled with all our might.

Once we got it going the centre pole reached the magic point and suddenly it was upright. We cheered out loud. Breathing hard, covered in a slick layer of sweat mixed with gritty sand we popped the tops on our beers and congratulated each other.

It didn’t matter that the sides had all fallen down or that we had to reconnect everything – that centre pole was up.

After struggling to move the heavy hardwood picnic tables into place we sat under the tent, cracked another beer and watched the sunset behind the windmills to the west. Billy and Chuck made jokes that they signed up for a wedding and not a construction crew. Dad joked that we’d get his invoice soon.

I think we all felt a little satisfaction that we’d managed to kick the tent’s ass.

Funny side note: My sister Lisa and I got a pedicure this morning and in order to preserve the delicate yellow flower that was glued to my big toe I refused to wear shoes. The tent erection was done in bare feet and moving the picnic tables by loading them onto a trailer manually and driving them onto the beach with the tractor was done in thong sandals.

Several people asked if I was crazy, but I shrugged my shoulders and said it better break my foot without damaging my pedicure. Go big or go home I guess. My feet and toes survived.

I refuse to wear shoes today or until after the wedding. Wish me luck!

Why We Do It

My house guests sleep peacefully as I wake at the crack of six and am filled with excited energy. Two days till the wedding. By eight I’ve got the dogs fed and walked, the living room dusted and the kitchen tidied. I feel the steady calm that comes when I clean.

It’s a wonderful feeling I get when I can quietly clean my house. The structure infuses me with waves of calm as appreciation for the tender ministrations. I am usually filled with joy when I clean. I know it sounds a little weird, but I love to take care of this house. This old century farm house that needs so much care. We have found each other and out of love and respect we take care of each other. Brent says I’ll wash the pattern right off the floor, but it’s therapy and way cheaper than shopping.

I am envious of my house guests as they sleep on into the morning, but I’m happy to steal this moment to write and relax. Jenn and Billy are my best friends visiting from afar and I am so grateful we have more than just one day together. I’ve realized the wedding is about more than one day. It’s about family and friends coming together to build a foundation for the future. When I hear couples who have been married for over twenty years speak of the best man at their wedding or the maid of honor with pride I know what they’re talking about.

Our wedding party is still reeling from all the work. I thank them with my whole heart. Without our friends and family there is no way we could pull this together in typical Brent and Amy fashion: cheap.

Yesterday we set up the tent and move twenty picnic tables to the beach. It’s sounds fairly simple, but let me tell you it was a bit of a struggle. We made up for the lack of tractor power with man power as we pounded in twenty-four, three feet tall steel tent pegs with sledge hammers. There’s no better work out than the sledge hammer, but there’s not better way to hurt yourself either. The sledge can be oddly daunting until you figure it out. It’s all in the swing and let the hammer do the work.

There was seven of us taking turns with four sledgehammers. You can only swing that thing so many times before you need a break. I was standing over a peg huffing when Billy came over and offered to take a few swings. Gratefully I handed over the sledge and stood back to watch.

Billy is one of those people who was never exposed to tools – power tools, hammers, screw guns or the dreaded circular saw. He doesn’t really have much of an interest in learning for long term used, but he does light up once he figures it out. Last time he was visiting we were building the picnic tables and Billy learned to use the chop saw. He is so proud.

With a gentle swing Billy brought the sledge down onto the steel peg. With a ring and a giggle of delight he pulled back and took a harder hit – he missed. I hate to admit, but we were all watching out of the corner of our eye. Actually, I was standing beside watching in earnest everyone else had a soft smile as they watched from a distance.

I offered the advice of “letting the hammer do the work” and “keep your eye on the peg”, but Billy was going to swing that sledge his way. Much like a princess. It took about ten minutes, but Billy did sink that peg and he stood staring at his new nemesis with pride. He handed the sledge back to me and smiled. I am so proud.

We got the tent erected with a few attempts and as we all sat at a picnic table under the tent eating slightly charred hot dogs watching the sunset, covered in sweat and sand and dirt, I began to realize that this is what is was all about. Working hard together and bringing memories that will last a lifetime.

I can hear the stories decades from now: “Remember when we set that tent up for your wedding and I used the sledge?”

I wonder what today holds in store for Jenn?