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Kathy B Article: Inclusion

 

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My cousin, Kathy B, a college student, has written an article on a topic that is very dear to her: inclusion. Being someone who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, she knows much about being excluded from many things but her deep desire to be “included” and to have equal opportunities in life continue to be strong within her. In recognition of Independence Day, she has taken on a deep perspective and wanted share her thoughts here. I hope you all enjoy and take to heart the words and thoughts she wanted to share with us all today:

Inclusion is the act of including someone or something. That does very little to help us to truly understand what it means, so what does include really mean? Here are some definitions that make it a bit clearer: comprise or make part of a whole set. A second definition is to allow somebody to share in an activity or privilege (Google, 2016). An activity or a privilege does not begin to describe the way that I, and other disabled people want to be included. We want and deserve to be included, as much as humanly possible, in every aspect of our own lives! For almost all my life, I have accepted exclusion as a fact of my life. After all, I have thought that people and the laws were making progress toward allowing me and others with disabilities to have more freedom and equality, weren’t they?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men {and women} are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” –Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

As we prepare to celebrate America’s birthday, it’s 240th, how far have we come in nearly two and a half centuries? We, as people with disabilities, are people with the same natural rights to life, libertyworkplace and the pursuit of happiness – just like everyone else. In my opinion, we have so much farther to go!

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. To say I was elated that day would be an understatement! If I could have leapt for joy, I would have done it. At long last, there were laws on the books that protected me and others from discrimination!  I felt that in only a few short years that I would be able to join the workforce. I tried to go back to school in 1999. I was treated just as I was before the ADA passed, obstacle after obstacle was thrown in my way. If I enrolled, I would not be allowed to take a full schedule of classes because I had no caregiver.

Fast forward to the present – 2016. I started an internship in order to complete my BA online program. I was finally finishing college. The agency’s motto and mission statements seemed to mirror my own: “Opportunities for Everyone.” It also had its roots in Christianity, something else I appreciated. Of all organizations, this place would surely respect me, my skills and the ADA laws. By now, I had less than a year before I would get my Bachelor’s in Human Services. To be completely fair and honest, I was told in the beginning that there was no possibility of a paid position, however, I was given no reason for this. I thought that perhaps all that I had to do was impress them with my passion, empathy, education and skills. Some wanted me to stay, one was willing to modify the job so that I would be able to stay, but the agency administration would not go along with the idea. The “Opportunities for Everyone” slogan was/is a complete fallacy; this was/is equally true of the mission statement: “Empowering individuals with disabilities to enhance their quality of life.”

The ADA says this: “If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA protects you from job discrimination on the basis of your disability. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” However, agencies can and do get around the law by adding job requirements that many people with disabilities cannot do: have a driver’s license, have the ability to lift 30-50 pounds, have the ability to stand for long periods etc. During my internship, I worked in the main office for the supported living division. I was not alone with clients. I did task analysis, behavior analysis, writing functional and positive behavioral support assessments. I also took part in writing goals and working one on one with the client.  However, it was stated in an email that I did nothing that anyone else could not do and nothing that I did was worthy of a paid position. I could be not alone with clients, could not learn to perform CPR and other home care aid requirements, including driving.

Thank God that Jesus did not feel this way. “Matthew 20:16 New Living Translation (NLT) states:

16 “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” Here is another example that means a great deal to me.  I will give some background to clarify my point. A man with leprosy approached Jesus. Everyone was encouraging not to waste a moment on this poor man. There was not a single individual that wanted anything to do with this man because he was diseased and demon possessed. Yet, Jesus ignored all of those around him and spoke to him with love, respect and dignity: “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. [a] This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” (Matthew 8: 1-4.).

Lord, please let people see the gifts and talents that You have blessed me with, allow their eyes to clearly see my abilities, not my dis-ability {Emphasis intended}. I also ask this for anyone else in similar circumstances. In Your name, Amen.

 

Remembering My Mom and the Runaway Grocery Cart

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Today, February 13th is my mother’s birthday and she would have been 71 as she was born in 1945. She was gone too suddenly and too soon and I can’t help but miss her. I miss her smiling face and her look of astonishment when I would stop by for a surprise visit. I miss our little chats when we sat in the living room in the evening and her quiet laughter when we watched a light-hearted comedy movie. During the many quiet evenings, she often worked on a project while later is revealed as a Christmas gift. She also shared about her faith in God in very quiet ways.We also used to go on long strolls past the farm fields and visit the tiny pond on our property. Mom enjoyed hearing the sound of frogs at night which was something she remembered as a young girl: listening to the choir of chirps in the night air. She also talked about how she saved money and bought her own radio. With her radio near her bed, she would lay awake and listen to the Grand Ol Opry. She liked taking photographs too but often didn’t like having her own picture taken. As a mom she could be stern at times and let us kids know when she was displeased about something we had done. However, she made sure we all knew that she deeply loved us and there was no end to her love.  My mom was a modest and quiet lady usually too modest to draw attention to herself; this was evident in her quiet mannerisms, often subdued tone of voice, and even her laughter contained a quiet and musical quality. To be sure, I have shared many humorous moments with her when she suddenly would erupt in giddy laughter However, one day unexpectedly, I heard her burst into loud and uncontrollable mirth.

One warm summer day while I was visiting my mom, she had decided she needed to go to the grocery store. Sometimes, if she didn’t need too many groceries, we would just visit a grocery or convenience store in nearby Hixton. However, on this day, she needed more. That meant heading to Burnstad’s in Black River Falls. I accompanied her to the store where she proceeded, with list in hand, to grocery shop. She had the aisles memorized and knew just where to find each item. Often her grocery list was organized according to items needed in each subsequent aisle. I helped to look and grab items she couldn’t reach or I might run back a few aisles to pick up a forgotten item. And, almost always a few extra things get placed into the cart.

We finished shopping, completed our purchase, and headed to our parked car. I was pushing the cart and parked it in back of our vehicle, opened the trunk, and began transferring the groceries into the open space of the trunk. I had all the grocery bags loaded and needed to only transfer the gallon of milk and the watermelon.

Suddenly my mom cried out, “The cart!!”

I turned to see our grocery cart, still containing the milk and the watermelon, rolling downhill across the parking lot. I dashed off as if I had been propelled from a canon to catch up with the runaway cart; but no matter how fast I ran that cart rolled faster. However, I continued to pick up my pace determined to catch up. The crazily careening cart shot across the parking lot, rolled into the grass, and flipped over in the ditch sending the milk and melon flying. Much to my amazement, neither item was broken. I retrieved the cart and the groceries and then headed back to the car and my waiting mother.

As I retraced my footsteps across the parking lot I mentally prepared to apologize to my mom about being so absent-minded as to park the grocery cart on the wrong side of our vehicle. If I had set it next to the car on the uphill side, it would not have rolled off speeding across the pavement and crashed into the ditch. However, I soon found that my apology was unnecessary. When I arrived at the car, I found my mother bent over laughing hysterically; she could not control her mirth. According to her giggle-tainted description, the scene of me chasing this speeding runaway grocery cart across Burnstad’s parking lot looked so ridiculous and absolutely ludicrous that I was convinced I should have been in an episode of The Three Stooges or, perhaps, Laurel and Hardy. After I stored the milk and watermelon into the trunk and safely put away the cart, we headed home which was roughly 13 miles. During the drive, my mom still couldn’t contain her laughter and it was contagious for soon I was smiling and giggling with her.

We arrived at home still unable to subdue our hysterical mirth. Nathan, my nephew, ran out from the poll shed demanding, “What’s so funny?”

Between bursts of giggles I tried to explain, “I just turned around and the cart was gone.”

This made no sense to Nathan so I took a deep breath and explained the tale of my oversight in parking the grocery cart on the wrong side of the car so that it shot across Burnstad’s sloping parking lot and flipped in the ditch. Then I picked up the milk and the watermelon from the trunk and exclaimed, “But look, neither the milk nor the watermelon were smashed. Isn’t that good?”

Nathan shook his head and smiled.

It was not every day that I had the sweet opportunity to hear my mother’s unhindered and joyful laughter. That day was an unexpected and special gift. While she lived on earth, my mother faced her share of hardships and disappointments but even during those times she made sure her children and grandchildren knew they were loved. She worked hard over the years to take care of the family she loved so much. She also basked in the sunlight on warm and beautiful days when she could sit outside in the yard to hear and watch a nearby water fountain which sent a tiny waterfall gushing over the stones and into a small pond. There was a sense of gentle calmness when listening to the trickling water. Nearby she had set up bird feeders so she could watch the colorful humming birds fly in and feed. Those were wonderfully pleasant days to sit and just visit. Often I wish and yearn to have just one more day with my mom. Each memory I have today of her is a gift that I treasure in my mind and heart.

Writing 101 Day 7: Starting with a Quote about Hope

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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Holy Bible NIV

I have heard it once said, “Joy is a choice; choose joy.” As I awake on any given morning, gaze out the window, I can choose to be joyful or not. Well, I am also learning along life’s pathway that hope is also a choice. I can wake up on any morning and decide to be hopeful or not. Admittedly, there are days when choosing to be joyful or hopeful are very hard to do when I am in the middle of a difficult situation or perhaps, when I have been disappointed because my latest dream was slashed to pieces.  Or I wake up realizing I have a huge problem.

Several months ago, that is exactly what happened; I woke up one spring morning and found I had no electricity in the house. I wondered around checking all the rooms. As I entered the kitchen and looked out the window, I found a huge problem; a huge tree had fallen during the night and had pulled the electrical wires out of my house. It damaged an entire wall. The lower interior south wall looked fine but once I stepped outdoors, the story changed. A large section of the outer wall was missing and a window from the attic had also flown out.  I was much shaken and wasn’t sure what to do first. Being on my own, there is no one to call for help.  I started with the city utility office and went from there. They had already found my fallen tree and turned off power to my house until I could make repairs. I had to arrange for emergency tree removal, have my wall repaired, fix the electrical hardware, and then I could have power. But all of that could not be done in one day. Completing all the repairs was a long process in which I needed to work with my insurance company and pay my deductible to have everything done.  Also due to lack of power, I was temporarily displaced from my home. My insurance company was really good and paid for my temporary stay in a hotel where I also received hot breakfasts.  Additionally, the hotel was near my worksite so getting to work every day was not a problem. No doubt, God was good as he kept blessing and providing for my needs.

But as this process continued on, it was easy to lose sight of hope. I was so anxious for everything to be fixed in an instant and life be back to normal. My mother did tell me more than once that I was too impatient. The practice of being patience is a lifelong endeavor for me. How I wish I could hear my mom’s gentle and cheerful voice one more time.  Also, my finances tend to be tight so this personal catastrophe was a huge drain. I felt sick to my stomach as I contemplated this latest mess in my life. Furthermore, I was displaced from my home over Mother’s Day weekend. Both my parents have passed away and I didn’t receive the blessing and honor of becoming a mother. Therefore, not only was I temporarily “homeless”, I also was all alone while everyone else I could think of was celebrating and spending special time with their families.  The weather did not help matters either as it was raining with heavy gray clouds in the air; the charcoal gray scene outside my large hotel window seemed to deepen my gloomy mood. So I rested on the unfamiliar bed in tears.

The next day, Sunday which was the dreaded Mother’s Day, on my calendar, I did manage to muster the willfulness to attend church and tried to stay close to God in quiet prayer. Because my own mother wasn’t here and I wasn’t a mom, I knew I would be spending most of the day all alone; a sense of hopelessness, like a large boulder, had parked itself in my stomach. Considering the special family holiday, everyone I met at church had plans to spend with their loved ones.  So, as expected, I returned to my home away from home all alone. But something made today different from yesterday. I was struck by a sense of restless;  felt as if God was nudging me and saying, “Come on, you don’t want to stay cooped up in here all day.” For by now, the weather outside had gradually changed. The dark, soaking rainstorms of yesterday and this morning had finally dissipated. In place of the storms was a bright blue sky beneath brilliant and warm sunshine. No, I didn’t want to stay indoors all day.

I wandered outside where I could smell the fresh spring air and feel the warmth of the sun wrap my bare arms. Since this area was new to me I felt adventurous enough to embark on a new path where my footsteps have never wandered before. Although the highway was nearby, I was also surrounded by the greenery of the ground, the bushes, and the trees.  Singing birds glided and swooped high above me. I smelled sweet lilacs along the way which was a tender reminder of my childhood home where each spring new lilacs bloomed along the road. As I walked along, I felt hopefulness trying to return to calm and soothe my aching soul.  It was as if the Lord was quietly speaking inside of my heart and kindly telling me it was my choice to make. I could continue this day in a sense of gloom and, “oh, woe is me” attitude or I could choose to hope and firmly believe that all will be well and fine; I just needed to continue to trust and believe over time. So with a silent prayer and taking a long, slow breath, I resolved that today I would choose hopefulness.  With a lighter heart and a burst of cheerful energy, I felt that once immovable boulder in my stomach slowly melt away. I continued along, letting God gently speak to me. And being a writer of poetry, I sensed a new poem forming in my thoughts. Often I write poems as a way to remind myself of the little milestones between the Lord and me; my writings are like a memory album of my walk in faith. God had meant for me to remember this day and how I emerged from this long tunnel of dark gloom to embrace renewed hope now resting inside of me.

After the Rain

The sun brightly appears after a stormy spell

Letting everyone know that all again is well.

The shrilling wind has lessened its’ churning

While the pelting rain has ceased it’s drumming.

Trees, shrubs, flowers, and everything green

Is bathed in wetness on this summery day in Spring.

A new fresh scent permeate  the air;

A welcomed sign that the earth is renewed and fair.

Such a sweet blessing to remember and realize

That the loving Lord is in charge: rain, snow, or sunshine.

And at night when the orange setting sun is dipping low,

He stays in charge of all our nights, and our hopes for tomorrow.

Blogging 101 and Writing 101: A Letter to my Visitors

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Welcome to my personal blog and I am so happy you dropped by. I was recently given the assignment to blog about “Why I write.” It is my hope that you find something that you enjoy here. I now have been blogging on this site for a little over a year. I use this blog site as an avenue of expressing myself through writing poetry and some stories. I also try to share some of my photos. I tend to be this very introverted person who is leading a very quiet life most of the time. I try to be more extroverted but that is often quite a challenge for me to do. I go to work almost every day and have contact with co-workers and some very close friends. I also keep contact with family and visit them when I can. But at times I will try to be more outgoing or something. If I do seem to become somehow too outspoken or say the wrong thing, it doesn’t take too much to knock me down and I just disappear for a while; sometimes a long while depending on the situation.

Anyway, about a year ago, I became very frustrated with myself being stuck in this shyness cocoon where I am too afraid to come out and just be myself.  I felt I had neat things to share and needed someone to share them with. So I got this great idea to try blogging. I set up my blog on WordPress but then didn’t know what to do with it. So I read and studied up on blogging to see what it was all about. I also visited other blogs to see how it was done. I found blogs on all sorts of subjects. I learned that a blogger needed to write with a purpose and maintain a consistent theme. That way, readers may become familiar the type of blog one writes and come to know what they may expect at one’s blog site. I then arrived at the idea of using my blog to share my poetry and to hopefully, be upbeat and encouraging to others. So I came up with the theme, “on a quest to find inspiration in everyday life.” It is often too easy for me to become downtrodden and discouraged. So,  I am on this personal quest to discover inspiration for myself and for others who might want to follow my blog.

Keeping up with the blog is very motivational for me as well as a challenge as I do go through dry spells. But overall, I tend to write poems and try to share interesting stories as a way to share a piece of myself. I write about my faith, things I find in nature that inspire me, and some personal stories. I continue to hope that all who visit find something that might encourage them. Blogging has become a winding and spiritual journey; I hope you enjoy seeing a piece of my blogging journey. Thank you again, for visiting my blog and may you be blessed in a very special way today.

 

Thinking about my Dad on his Birthday

 

Me and My Dad

Today, June 4th, is my dad’s birthday; he was born in 1942 and passed away when he was just 58 years old.  It is hard to believe that he has been gone from our lives now for 15 years. My dad had this quiet personality but with a very hearty laugh. When something struck his funny bone, he would roar in joyous laughter that echoed through the house. He worked for many years in an iron mine and later for another 10 years in a tire factory. Additionally, he farmed and sometimes was self-employed as an electrician. He did everything he could think of to pay the bills and make ends meet. I am convinced that his very best friend in life was his older brother John who was born in 1941 and also passed on in 2010. Even though they lived far apart in their adult years, they shared a special closeness.

My dad also possessed a sense of adventure and wonderment. In 1969 when man first stepped on the moon, my dad watched enthralled. He held me on his lap and pointed to the TV, “See, Becky, they’re walking on the moon.” When I was still very little, he liked to swim and let me ride on his stomach while he laid on his back floating. Years later, he showed his sense of adventure by taking us on a family trip out west. We traveled as far as Utah and visited family there. Other highlights of that trip included seeing Mt. Rushmore and camping at Yellowstone National Park. We spent many summer weekends camping in Hatfield.

As a father, he was stern when he thought he needed to be but also very loving when someone most needed it. At least that was how he was to me. And his gift of joyous laughter with twinkling eyes will always stay with me. He could regale in humorous animation a lively story of his childhood. His Christmas Skis story comes to mind. He also loved watching a comedy or a movie that could really bring out that laughter. But other times he would watch a movie and give it more serious thought. We once had a conversation about the old Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Through the course of the movie, the main character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is very unhappy and in a dire predicament although through no fault of his doing. The situation seems hopeless to George and he doesn’t want to continue in his life. Near the end of the movie, George is happily running down the street. His dire situation had not yet changed. My dad puzzled over this saying, “His situation had not changed and yet suddenly he was happy.”

“No,” I slowly commented in my own quiet way, “His situation hadn’t changed; just his perspective.”

“Yeah,” my dad’s face lit up now satisfied, “His perspective changed and THAT was the point of the movie.”

My dad’s laughter and his quiet moments of wonder and thoughtfulness are gifts that I will always treasure in my heart.

 

Writing 101 Day 19: My Ramblings in Writing and Poetry

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The Journey and Mystery in Writing Poetry

Somewhere along the line while I was still a kid running around on the farm and dashing through the woods, I became this quiet person who liked to sit and just quietly be. And as I reclined I sometimes felt inclined to read or write a bit of poetry. I can’t remember when it exactly started; I remember in school we sometimes had these creative writing courses. Just like reading, writing is an escape into another place of fantasy; whether I write action filled stories or rhyming verses in poetry. Writing is an outlet and creative fun where I can express myself to anyone; a friend, a family member, and strangers too who happened to see what I wrote as on my blog they like to scroll through. I know that what I write about isn’t to everyone’s taste and liking for we all are different in our preferences and our individual life journeys.  But writing stories and poetry is wonderful fun with some mystery. For each time I start a new piece, I don’t always know what the ending will be. It is an unseen adventure through the mind where ideas develop influenced by my perceptions and interesting discoveries I might find. My writings are also influenced by my internal and spiritual growth through faith as I draw nearer and nearer to Jesus with each passing day. Other times I am affected by the things in the world I see. I try to focus and learn from others who encourage and inspire me. In any case, as I write along constructing new verses in my head to the tune of an unknown song, I feel like I am on a journey where the end of the path I cannot see. So I keep writing these things in my heart and, at least, I know where my trail of thought had its’ start. So I just keep on scribbling and typing until I find the end where I discover the fitting conclusion to my thoughts; a meaningful ending that I and I hope others appreciate and comprehend.

 

Writing 101 Day 16 Lost

 

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Lost in Wyoming (Part 3)

Well, I am still on my journey to visit my friends living in Wyoming. So far, the weather has been warm and beautiful with no hint of foul conditions along the way. It seems that God has seen fit to bless my little excursion as once again I drove along Interstate 90 with optimism and confidence. It never occurred to me that I would have any sort of difficulty. I had it all planned out in my head to drive into Buffalo, pull up to my friend’s house, and surprise her at her doorstep. I was sure I knew the way and so now set off without delay. A part of me knew that there is always some danger when on such a long journey but it seemed to me that things were going so very smoothly; I had no unusual fear or foreboding as I cruised along enjoying another day of glorious sunshine to light the way.

I had now crossed most of South Dakota and was edging closer to the Wyoming border. I remember seeing sunflower fields which also brightened my long journey and the scenery was changing as the flat terrain became hilly. And those hills became steeper and steeper as I drew nearer to the mountains.  I stopped at a scenic outlook at one point to study the hills a bit and to gaze at the distant mountains now on the horizon. The slopes were rugged with blunt shapely edges as if God, the Creator and Artist, had reached down taking clumps of earth to hand sculpt these towering and protruding hillsides. I thought of a potter working with lumps of clay in his hands to lovingly create an awe inspiring masterpiece. No two hillsides looked the same. The grass is also different as it is a softer green than the vibrant hues you may see in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I stopped in scenic Rapid City for lunch and to gas up.

I am now seeing tourists’ signs for the Wall Drug Store/Wax Museum, the scenic Badlands, and Mt. Rushmore. All of these are very fine places to visit and see. Once again, I experienced a flood of memories as I recalled my mom and dad on our trip years ago visiting all those places. I also remembered touring through caves then also. Soon I was approaching the Wyoming border and a certain gas station with a long row of gas pumps. I never counted them but it was much more than usual as the store itself looked tiny compared to the elongated row of pumps. I don’t recall the name of the station but I do know there used to be this informational sign which warned drivers that this gas station would be the last one they’d see for many miles. As you might imagine, that piece of advertising worked as every car, truck, motorcycle, and camper pulled off to fill their gas tanks. And you probably guessed; it worked on me too as I didn’t relish becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere. Another factor in my decision making at this point was that now, according to my cell phone carrier, I was in a dead zone where my phone would not work. So if I have car trouble at this point, I couldn’t call for help.

Soon I had crossed the border cruising up and down the steep, wild hills of Wyoming. The country side itself emitted this wild and untamed sensation as for miles there was nothing but wilderness. I was seeing a lot of brush and clusters of trees; and very few farms or other housing. And the towns now seem very, very far apart. According the latest US Census, Wyoming is the least populated state of the US.  And, apparently according the same census report, South Dakota is the fourth least populated state. As I continued along, I learned to recognize the bluish green sage brush along the way because my friend had pointed it out to me on a previous visit. Also there were these long, tall and strategically placed wooden fences all along either side of the interstate. These were not meant to pen in herds of animals. No, they had a very different purpose in which they were used to block snow from blowing across the highway as was explained to me.  Now, I have never driven this way during the winter months and so I have no idea how well they worked. However, I am guessing that they are somewhat successful and make a noticeable difference in protecting this road because there seems to be quite a number of these long wooded barriers in place. And why would someone keep building and installing these fences if they didn’t work?

But as for fencing in the farm animals? Well, a lot of Wyoming is open range so the animals are free to wander. Many farmers and ranchers here do not use barbed wire fences, electric fences or any other type of fence to pen their herds of animals. This is so different from where I grew up in Wisconsin! There are some barriers in place such as these metal, gaping grates built in some driveways and some roads to keep the animals from crossing. And I think the interstate highway is somehow guarded too from wandering herds of animals although, I am not clear on that.

One time on a previous visit, my friend and I were sightseeing along a dirt backroad when we came across a dairy cow with a tag in her ear just nonchalantly standing in our way. We came to a complete halt as she was in no hurry to cross. I rolled down my window and kindly called out to her, “Hey Milking Cow Number 33, could you please move along?”

My friend who was driving burst into laughter but my remark had very little effect on the cow as she just stood and stared at us. Slowly though, she did decide to meander along.

One difference I noticed on my current trip was an increase in mining in this state. Companies hungry for new fuel resources were hard at work digging up this beautiful and pristine land. I saw a number of mining sites along the way. To me they were unsightly eye sores searing scars in the midst of Wyoming’s natural and wild beauty. From what I understand now, most of those mining operations have ceased and moved to other locations in their hunt for more fuel resources.

I hope those mining companies had plans in place to restore the land as much as they could to its former natural beauty but I don’t know if that was the case. And I do understand that mining is an important industry as we need to wisely use our own resources instead of depending on other countries. My father had worked in an iron mine near Black River Falls, Wisconsin while I was growing up. That mine is closed now and the land has been restored and even renovated into a beautiful county park known as Lake Wazee and is a serious tourist attraction. That lake is actually the former mining quarry and the water is as pure and clean as can be. It is about 355 feet deep at its deepest point and attracts boaters and scuba divers. There is also a camping area, beach and a swimming area. It costs a small fee to visit and there is a nearby sports store to rent or purchase water sport equipment and supplies. I enjoy visiting the park and walking along the wooded trails that surround the lake.

But as I drove along the Wyoming highway today, the coal and methane mines all were in full operation with plenty of huge trucks and heavy equipment transporting along the roads. As I drew nearer to Buffalo, the roads became more hilly and steep. I was nearing the mountains. As I reached the top of one steep hill I glanced in my rearview mirror and my heart pounded wildly in fear. For the first time on this trip I was meeting terror head on.

I saw a huge mining truck reach the crest of the hill I had just crossed. Most of the time large trucks move at a slower pace especially on steep grades. However, this driver knew how to shift and keep his vehicle clipping along at a very face pace. Several minutes earlier when I was atop that previous hill that truck had been many miles behind my car. It never dawned on me then that he would catch up so quickly. From judging how fast he had climbed that hill, I knew he would catch up to me in no time. That driver was in a race and this highway was his racetrack.

Now in full panic mode, I frantically wondered what to do. I was sure he would collide with me as I mentally envisioned that I and my car would become flatter than a pancake. What should I do? No room to pull off and no other roads to turn onto. I was afraid of speeding like he was. The road was curvy as well as hilly and I knew I could lose control. I checked the mirror again. That speeding missile on wheels was temporarily out of sight as it had dipped down between the two steep hills. And here I was a moving target about to be plowed and pummeled to death. I knew he’d be behind me in seconds. Should I move into the other lane?  That seemed like a good idea but then I thought no.  He may already have seen me (since I had also spotted him) and therefore may already be prepared to go around my car. If I moved now into the other lane while out of his eyesight, it could potentially goof him up. He may have already moved into that lane but I couldn’t tell. So, with a pounding heart, I stayed put in my lane driving as fast as I dared with white knuckles glued to the steering wheel. I prayed for God to welcome me into his beautiful home in heaven for I was preparing to die. I didn’t know if I was making the right decision. I didn’t know if I would be alive in the next few seconds.

Suddenly, the hugely ominous truck loomed behind me and I felt my heart nearly jump out of my chest. He was still in my lane. This was it, I thought; will I live or die today? I gripped the wheel tighter than ever and continued to drive faster as I tried to keep some cushion of space between the truck and my car. Then, much to my relief, the roaring monstrous vehicle swerved into the other lane and flew passed me. That driver did not slow down for anything and was soon out of my sight. This road continued to be his one truck racetrack. I heaved a long sigh of huge relief. I continued to breathe deeply trying to calm my beating heart and my shaking arms. I was so thankful to be alive and safe. It was God’s will for me to live a while longer and to continue this journey.

Soon after that I reached Buffalo, Wyoming. I was so overjoyed that my long drive in the car was soon over. Feeling very confident again, I drove through the streets as I pictured myself showing up unexpectedly on my friend’s doorstep. Oh yes, I thought, I know the way to go; just turn here, then here, and then one more turn and in a few blocks, I will pull up in front of her house. Except… That didn’t happen. I pulled up to the wrong house and was baffled. What happened? I was sure I knew the way.

Oh well, I was certain I was close so I drove around a few more blocks. I was positive that I’d recognize the right road and then find the right home. After all I prided myself with having a photographic memory. I just needed to spot the right old house, turn at that corner and just drive a few more blocks and I would be there. Yeah, right. Well I drove and drove in circles. Obviously, I didn’t have such a great photographic memory. Perplexed, I knew I would have to stop somewhere and dig out her address from everything out of it. Her address wasn’t there. I had left it sitting on the table at home. I then checked my gps device to see if I had entered her address there. I had done no such thing; so much for careful planning and paying attention to details. Now I was 1300 miles away, lost in a city I did not know and my larger than life self-assurance had finally deflated.

“Well,” I thought, “I will just have to call my friend and her daughter and admit I got lost.” I flipped open my small cell phone, dialed her number and listened. It was not a smart phone, by the way, just a very basic cell phone.

“Sorry, that number is no longer in service,” answered a female robotic voice.

I didn’t have the right number. I couldn’t believe it but I thought of the next step. I simply called my cell phone carrier’s directory to retrieve my friend’s number that way. However, to my stunned surprised, my carrier didn’t have a listing for her for two reasons; her cell phone number is with a different carrier and she didn’t have a land phone. Therefore, my carrier had no listing for her.  I also tried calling the regular phone directory and they also had no listing for her as she seemed to have a private listing.

More perplexed than ever, I wondered what to do. I thought about booting my laptop computer to contact her through facebook but I didn’t think I would pick up a signal to connect to the internet. But, with a start, I thought of someone who could do that.  Picking up my phone again, I called my cousin living in the state of Washington, “Hi, I’m lost in Buffalo, Wyoming and need your help.”

My cousin sounded incredulous, “What do you want me to do?”

“Go on Facebook, send a friend request to my friend and her daughter, and see if they answer.”

“Okay,” replied my cousin who was eager to help.

She logged into her computer and into Facebook. I gave her my friend’s name and her daughter’s name and she sent the friend requests. Then we waited and waited. No one answered her requests.

“Shoot,” I said feeling more deflated, “neither one is on the computer right now. What could they be doing? They both know I am arriving today so they must be home.”

My cousin had the next brainstorm, “Do you want me to search for her in the white pages?”

“Okay,” I said a bit more hopeful.

She went to work entering my friend’s name and searching through the pages, “Well, several entries have come up but it is hard to tell because only the initials are used.”

I thought about it, “Can you just read each entry and I will see if one of them sounds right?”

So, carefully and concisely, my cousin read each entry to me. By process of elimination, I was able to determine which one might be my friend.

Kathy clicked on the entry I indicated and found an address. She read it to me and I entered it into my gps unit.

“Thanks for helping me, cousin,” I replied, “and I will let you know if this worked.”

“Okay,” answered my cousin, “I will talk to you soon.”

So off I went again to find my friend. I followed all the instructions supplied by my gps device and soon I was indeed pulling up in front of a familiar house. I knocked on the door, and much to my elation and relief, my friend answered the door. And was surprised to see I have arrived. Excitedly we hugged and then I exclaimed, “What have you been doing? I actually got lost and couldn’t get hold of you. So my cousin tried contacting you through Facebook for me.”

“Oh?” My friend and her daughter looked at each other and then me trying hard to not laugh. Then they explained, “We fell asleep!”

Curious now, they jumped on their computers, logged in and checked their Facebook messages. They had indeed received my cousin’s message requesting to be friends and explaining that I needed help.

We all laughed and began planning the next few days. We all liked hiking and geocaching so we planned several of these along with some sightseeing.

One of the biggest highlights is that we hiked to the top of a certain mountain where an old fire lookout house still remains. We had engaged in a geocaching hunt and the cache was hidden near the old building. We searched under rocks, around trees, and around the old building. Due to the steepness and rocky terrain, it was a challenge to safely maneuver around. Numerous times, I grasped the edge of rocks, tree limbs, or small boulders to keep from slipping. My friend found the cache this time.  But even more thrilling than finding the hidden “treasure” was the treasure of seeing the mountainous beauty and just being with my friends. We don’t get to visit each other often enough so when we do, we cherish that time. Just writing this account now, I am once anxious to be on that long and wondrous journey again to visit my Wyoming friends.