A to W minus X and Y plus Z equals Great Memories



Here is a recap (with links to the posts) of my April postings of the places that I have lived or visited:

Vintage Bob
Arizona :: a 31 year gap between visits revealed that it is still mostly desert

Brooklyn :: remembering my bus, ferry and subway trek to high school

Chicago :: the week that Ann came close to death and her journey back

District of Columbia :: the Smithsonian and my first boxed chicken lunch

El Paso :: my years serving in the US Army at a missile firing site

Fort Jackson :: it was a lot colder in South Carolina that I thought it would be

Galveston :: our first spring break vacation with the family in 1995

Hong Kong :: adventures in bible smuggling and sermons in Mandarin

Internet or Iowa :: with all due respect to my family in Iowa

The Jersey Shore :: blindness and 65 mile one-way commutes in my twenties

Kansas City :: 40 years later I still love so many things about KC

Lenexa :: sweet times raising kids on two acres in suburbia

Mississippi :: dad's stew, annual family reunions and being half rebel and half yankee

Niagara Falls :: majestic beauty encounters as we celebrated ten years of marriage

Olathe :: the hard years of Ellen's blindness seemed to behind us

The Philippines :: an amazing encounter with 30+ pregnant women

Q39 :: great urban rustic place to eat delicious KC BBQ

The River Market :: a new adventure for Ann and me in wheelchair living

Staten Island :: thankful to have grown up surrounded by so much friendship, love and acceptance

Toronto :: the views of the city and Lake Ontario were amazing

Union Station :: over a half million fans gathered there to celebrate the Royals' World Series win

Victoria :: fun times riding ferry boats in a red mustang

White Plains :: one of the many business trips that I took in my years at at&t

Zanesville :: memories of my 1200 mile journeys to visit family on the east coast


Ann and Bob in 1999 at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Zanesville



Ever since we moved to Kansas City in 1976 we would take a week or two of vacation time around the holidays to travel east to see my family in New Jersey. It is a 1200 mile journey on I-70 & I-76 through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the early days it took longer because the speed limit was 55 mph. Our trek was greatly shortened when it was raised to 70 mph. Columbus, Ohio was about midway on the trip and we often stayed there. One time in the early 1980s we could not find a place to stay there that had a crib. So we drove about another hour and found a place at Zanesville.

I really do not remember much about the place. Here is some trivia I found on the internet. The city was named after Ebenezer Zane. Novelist Zane Grey, a descendant of the Zane family, was born in the city. It has a total area of 12 square miles with a population of about 25,000. It has an airport and a train station. A three-way bridge called the "Y-Bridge" (pictured) spans the confluence of the Licking and Tuscarawas river to form the Muskingum river. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of very few bridges of its type in the United States.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

White Plains



My first visit to this city in Westchester County, New York was in 1973. I was being considered for a computer programming position there. My wife and I drove up there to just check things out. I did not get the job and would have to wait another three years to enter the world of software design in Kansas City.

In the late 1980s I worked with fellow AT&T designers in White Plains and visited there several times. I have memories of staying at the Crown Plaza hotel and eating at an Irish pub. Trivia-wise, White Plains is about 25 miles north of downtown Manhattan in a very scenic part of New York state. About 58,000 live there but the daytime weekday population is about 250,000.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Victoria




One of the most memorable things on our ten day June 1999 vacation to the Pacific Northwest was visiting Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, Canada. It is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and it is beautiful.

The trip was our first one where we used our 56/kbps connection to the internet to plan our itinerary and to book all of our hotels. Our vacation began as we flew into Seattle where I rented a very cool red Mustang. We stayed a night in Seattle at a hotel by Pike Place Fish Market and walked the area sucking down that famous strong Seattle coffee.

From there we drove north to Canada. We stayed in downtown Vancouver walking around taking in the sights, drinking strong coffee and eating at eclectic restaurants. We visited the historic Gastown area and enjoyed the sights.

After a few days in Vancouver we took a ferry to Victoria. A few memorable touristy Victoria things:
  • a visit to the beautiful Butchart Gardens (pictured); 
  • dining at the Bengal Room at the Empress Hotel (we skipped High Tea there as it was quite expensive); 
  • sitting in on a session of parliament; 
  • taking in the Royal British Columbia Museum and 
  • walking the beautiful downtown harbor area.
From Victoria we ferried across the Strait of Juan de Fuca back to the USA and landing in Port Angeles. We stayed at a French Style Bed and Breakfast right on the water. We relaxed and greatly enjoyed the food and the water views.

The last full day of our vacation was spent visiting Hurricane Ridge in Olympia National Park and driving the Mustang to a hotel at the Seatac airport. The flight home started on a cloudy and foggy day. The plane took off, we rose above the clouds and was surprised by a sighting of the top of Mount Rainier. An awe inspiring end to a really awesome vacation.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Union Station



This beautiful Kansas City landmark and treasure is just a few miles south of our downtown loft. Next month a streetcar line will connect us with it. I remember voting for a tax that restored it. It is a great place to visit. Below is a photo of it when over a half million fans gathered there to celebrate the Royals' World Series win last Fall. Here is a bit of it's history.

Union Station opened in 1914, serving Kansas City, Missouri, and the surrounding area. During World War II my father-in-law was one of the thousands of soldiers passing through the station. After the war patronage declined. The station was closed in 1985. Then in 1996, a public/private partnership began funding Union Station's $250 million restoration. The station reopened in 1999 housing museums and other public attractions. In 2002, Union Station saw its return as a train station. Amtrak began providing public transportation services and has since become Missouri's second-busiest train station. Today the station boasts restaurants, theaters, museum exhibits, and other interesting attractions.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Toronto



After spending some time at Niagara Falls, Ann and I continued celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary in Toronto. We stayed at a hotel in the city and pretty much walked everywhere. Most notable was our trip to the CN Tower (pictured). At that time it was, at 1,815 feet high, the world's tallest free-standing structure and world's tallest tower. In 1995, the CN Tower was declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Standing on the glass platform in the observation deck was a bit creepy. The views of the city and Lake Ontario were amazing.

We left Toronto and drove west. We crossed back to the US at Windsor, Ontario via the Ambassador Bridge. From there we stopped in Flushing, Michigan and stayed with Ann's aunt and uncle. It was such a sweet time connecting with family there. A great vacation.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Staten Island



My first nineteen years of life were lived in five different rental houses on Forest Avenue. I have memories of four of these places - I was pretty young when we moved from the first house. My dad worked several jobs to make ends meet. We had a rich life in one of the poorer areas of the Island. These are the things I remember most.
Eydie, Bill, Nancy & Bob in the 50s
  • Playing stickball, kickball and touch football on Summerfield Place with so many friends. In my teen years we erected a basketball goal on one of the electric poles and shot baskets for hours on end.
  • Hiking in the woods behind our houses was a great adventure. We built forts in the woods and found all sorts of fun things to do by the streams. Friends like Tommy, Nick, Albert and Johnny were everything to me.
  • I took a city bus to school using a bus pass. All kids went to school that way. When the weather was nice I could walk home from school as it was less than a mile away and was also on Forest Avenue. 
  • PS22, my elementary school was pretty old even then. Today it's renowned music program is all over Youtube. Went to Junior High in a brand new building. Spent hours there shooting hoops in the playground.
  • The five mile ride on the Staten Island Ferry across New York Harbor. Growing up, I rode it to high school and to different jobs in lower Manhattan. Lady Liberty still holds a warm place in my heart and mind.
  • Our extended family. Such an important part of living on Staten Island for us. We spent a lot of time with my Aunt Blanche, Uncle Charlie and cousins Charlie, Eddie and Blanche. Then there were times with Aunt Elsie, Uncle George and all of my other cousins. These all made my life rich with love and a sense of belonging.
  • My Dad, Mom and Grandma. Hard to briefly describe the impact these had on me. I always felt accepted. Always felt appreciated. These emblazoned love in my heart like nothing else ever could.
  • Lastly my siblings Bill (8 years older), Eydie (7 years older) and Nancy (1 year younger). Sharing a room with Bill. All of us eating and playing games together. Celebrating birthdays. Watching the Twilight Zone with Nancy. Playing catch with Bill. Making pizza muffins with Eydie. Our parents provided such a rich family environment for us. My brother Bill and sister Eydie both died when they were 70. I really miss them.
I get choked up remembering these times so many years ago. I am so thankful to have grown up surrounded by so much friendship, love and acceptance. My parents may have passed on but their love remains in me to this day.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

The River Market



Ann was disabled in 2007. She got her first motorized wheelchair in February 2008. Adjusting to wheelchair life in the suburbs was a struggle. It was hard to navigate around corners in our house. LOL, the woodwork really took a beating. And if she wanted to go to the hair salon or out to eat, she needed taxi driver Bob. The experience caused me to seek a place where Ann could experience more independence. For two years I would look for accessible places to live.

In May 2010 a realtor friend showed me a loft in the River Market area of downtown Kansas City. Immediately I knew I was home. The loft was large and wide open. Large sliding barn doors separated the master bedroom from the living space. It had no narrow spaces and plenty of room for Ann to freely wheel around in her chair. The loft had a very large deck that had a view of the river (pictured) and Kansas City Kansas.  Two days later Ann saw the loft and we made an offer that day. In June we bought it, spent ten days widening a few doors, and, with the help of family and friends, moved into our new home.

The River Market is a great neighborhood. A feeling of community is tangible here. Almost everything is within walking distance. The grocery store, farmer market, hair salon, barber, library, many restaurants and much more are close by.
We still struggle with other things but feel so blessed to have found this bit of heaven on earth in the River Market.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Q39



The Q in Q39 is the national champion, award-winning dishes from the Muchin’ Hogs barbeque team, led by Rob Magee (pictured). This BBQ restaurant has been in business about two years and is regularly packed with BBQ loving Kansas Citians every night.

I first learned about them when Rob was on a local morning show right after they opened. Ann and I tried them out that day for lunch and have been back many times. I have eaten the brisket (my favorite), the ribs and the burnt end burger and have loved them all. Ann eats the BBQ chicken and says she really loves it - tender and enough for the hungriest appetite. The urban rustic atmosphere makes it a great place to take folks who are new to KC BBQ.

I highly recommend the Q39 restaurant to you if you want authentic KC BBQ.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

The Philippines



About 20 of us left Kansas City for a two week trek in early 1987. After stops in Dallas and Los Angeles we transferred planes and boarded a Philippine Air flight to Manila. On our way out there I struck up a conversation with Sister Celestine, a Roman Catholic nun serving in Manila. As I stood in the aisle, I shared my faith with her as she sat in her seat. We talked about our love for the Lord. As we were talking Rene, one of the gals in our group, joined our conversation. Sister Celestine spoke to us about her ministry to unwed pregnant moms in Manila. Rene and I shared about our adopted children. An atmosphere of divine appointment filled the air.

Almost two weeks later this beautiful Catholic nun, pictured here in a blue dress, picked Rene and I up at our hotel. On the plane we spoke about the two of us sharing our stories with the girls at the convent. Soon we would be in a room with them. I get choked up just thinking about what would happen next. Rene spoke about giving a child up for adoption when she was young then years later adopting a child from South Korea. Emotions in the room were so high. I took a few photos of my kids from my wallet and passed them around. I spoke to the girls about how much I loved my kids' moms. With tears in my eyes I told them how much I admired the sacrifices they were making for their unborn children.

I began closing my short talk by sharing a gospel message with them. In a few moments I would watch as 30+ young women asked Jesus into their lives. There was such a sense of joy as Sister Celestine drove us back to our hotel. She told how she would be discipling her girls in the way of Christ. I returned home is amazement at the working of God.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Olathe



Pronounced Oh-lay-tha, this city was the first one that Ellen, our dog Max (pictured) and I lived in Kansas. I was 27 when we bought our first house there. Back then this KC suburb had a population of about 25,000. It is about 125,000 today and is the fourth largest in both Kansas and in the KC metroplex. I lived there for eight years and began to lay down my KC roots. My kids were born in there and would eventually finish their schooling there. Olathe has a good school system and is a great family community.

What I remember most about that era is how everything seemed new. New house in a new community. New faith at a new church. It was in Olathe where my faith began to grow. We began attending a nondenominational pentecostal church in Kansas City Kansas named Full Faith Church of Love. I went to their Bible College and began to take on leadership responsibilities. Soon I was leading two small groups in our large family room. Everything seemed so fresh and alive. The hard years of Ellen's blindness seemed to behind us. I think that happiness is what I remember most about Olathe.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Niagara Falls





In June 2005 my wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in Niagara Falls. Our hotel room overlooked the horseshoe falls on the Canadian side. In our room there was a tube-like vent beneath the window that, when opened, allowed the soothing sounds of the waters to enter our room. The view was spectacular yet I expected something more majestic.







After the initial let down we rode the "Maid of the Mist" boat and experienced the Falls from a different point of view. It is hard to described the sense of power that I felt as I experienced the Falls from this position. The Falls were so huge and so magnificent. Perspective made all the difference.


When we later returned to our room I snapped this pic of the Falls. You know, when the view changes … when the perspective or content is different … a different dynamic is at play. When I saw the Falls from the boat I was able to take in the power of the Falls. When I saw the rainbow over the Falls I was reminded of God’s blessings. A different perspective will often bring us to a new place of appreciation for God’s working in our lives. If we can only get past our expectations and imaginations. ツ





... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Mississippi



I grew up knowing that I had a lot of cousins in Mississippi. My Dad grew up there. He left when he was 17 to join the Civilian Conservation Corps. After seven years of military service he met and married my mom in New York. So I grew up half yankee and half rebel. In the early nineties my folks divorced and my Dad shocked everyone by moving back to Mississippi.

After Dad moved my wife, children and I would regularly visit dad once or twice a year. We were the geographically closest to him and were able to drive to see him (my brother and sisters had to fly). That went on for a few years - I especially enjoyed going there on Thanksgiving. My dad was a great cook. He was a chef for a colonel when he was in the army (before World War II) and seemed as comfortable cooking for fifty as for five.

A few years passed and my dad remarried a wonderful woman and I was honored to be his best man. It was a strange experience standing beside him when he married again. A time I will never forget. A year or so past and my dad began working with his niece and nephew to put on a family reunion that the family simply called "The Stew" (see photo). Upwards of 50 or so of my Mississippi family along with my sisters would attend it on the last weekend in September. The timing was great because it was close to my dad's birthday.

I have great memories of meeting my Mississippi relatives. I had never met any of Dad's siblings and it was a wonderful feeling getting to know them and a bit of my southern heritage. It was a strange feeling seeing Dad's younger brother - they looked so much alike. The move was a good one for Dad. I saw a lot of change in him over the years. He began going to church and one day moved me deeply when he spoke to me about loving the Lord. I so miss my Dad.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Lenexa



I was 35 when I bought my fourth house on two and a half acres in a suburb of Kansas City. My son was four and my daughter six months old. I lived there for eighteen years. I watched my kids grow up there. My first wife died during that time. I later married Ann and she joined our beautiful hamlet in Lenexa, Kansas. So many family memories.

Early on we felt like we had moved to the sticks. We lived in an unincorporated party of the county - Lenexa would annex us a few years later. The city did not have a grocery store - we traveled to nearby Shawnee to shop. Our house had a septic system. There were no sidewalks in our area. It was a bit different for this city dweller.

I bought a used riding mower and wished that I had bought a new one - spent a lot of my free time working on that beast. But it was great to have a lot of space for the kids to run around. For years my son loved hiking in the many acres of woods behind us. He fished in the creek and would be gone for hours. Snow clearing was a challenge on our one hundred foot driveway. And we would rake leaves for days on end in the fall. A bit of work for us.

I guess my predominant thoughts about my time in Lenexa involve things that are not about raking, mowing or shoveling. What I remember most are family times eating and living together. Reading my daughter bedtime stories. Watching my five year old son throw the cat in the pool. Seeing the kids at the top of the stairs waiting to come downstairs on Christmas mornings. These were such sweet years. Lenexa will always be the place that our family grew up together.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Kansas City



I came to KC almost 40 years ago. I first flew in to interview for a promotion. In July 1976 I began training to be a computer programmer. For two months I stayed at a hotel in midtown and took a bus to the office where I learned all about software design and coding. I absolutely loved what I was learning. I really had an aptitude for it. Each weekend the company would either loan me a car to hunt for a place to live or they would buy me a round trip plane ticket to my home in Houston. It was a beautiful time of transition to a new profession and a new city.

40 years latter, these are the things that I love about Kansas City.
  • That first summer I was introduced to KC BBQ and have loved it ever since.
  • Great schools and great churches in the metroplex.
  • The Chiefs, the Royals and Sporting KC Soccer are fun sports venues.
  • Cost of living is fairly low. Homes are very affordable.
  • Wonderful entertainment spots, theater, eateries and museums.
  • A downtown area that is an a bit of a renaissance.
  • We see all of the seasons but temps are usually not too hot or cold.
The beauty of Kansas City is that it is a fairly large city with small town feel. It is a great place to raise a family.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

The Jersey Shore



I was discharged from the US Army on October 4, 1971. It was a day that I had long waited for. I journeyed back to Staten Island with my new wife and stayed with my parents. I got my old job back at Home Insurance in lower Manhattan. Before I knew it I was riding the bus and the ferry to work again. It was comfortable but temporary. I hoped for something better.

Then I got a letter from the USO asking me to enter their job search forum. Before I knew it I was offered an invitation to interview with AT&T. I got a job with them working in Newark, NJ as a technician on their network. The photo of me on the left first appeared in an AT&T publication. Before I knew it I had bought my first house, at age 22, on the Jersey Shore.

That first year on the Jersey Shore was a mixture of heartbreak, long commutes and the joy of new beginnings. In the Spring my wife Ellen went blind. I joined a carpool and was commuting over an hour to Newark. Yet there was something magical about living so close to the Atlantic. When I was not working on our new house we were spending time with my sister who lived just a few miles from us. We met new friends and spent time at the beach with them.

We lived on the Jersey Shore for three years. I have so many great memories of our time there. Also have painful memories dealing with my wife's blindness. Trips to an eye hospital in Philadelphia to try experimental laser surgeries on Ellen's eyes. Things got really rough in November 1974 when Ellen's eyes hemorrhaged once again. Things got dark for us in many ways. In December I learned about a job opportunity in Houston, Texas. I started there in February 1975.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Internet or Iowa



Is the Internet a place? Hard to say. It is a part of cyberspace and lives in different server farms. The truth is I really could not think of an 'I' place other than Iowa that I have been to. And there was really not much to write about. Well there was that time many years ago when I attended our niece's wedding in Red Oak, IA. And we have visited a few other times. Yet nothing seemed too memorable about Iowa. Except for Larry, Kathy, Kevin, Angie, Conor and Caitlin of course.

Now the Internet. I have several homes on the Internet. I visit them regularly. You are visiting my main home right now. Then there are my homes on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Wordpress, Tumblr, Livespace, Xanga, Myspace and possibly a few more that I cannot remember. And I visit many of your places on the Internet too. In fact, I may have been to your place this week. I find the Internet to be a place of information, inspiration and interaction. I like that. Especially when I consider how being connected this way does not require putting gas in my car or buying a plane ticket. ツ


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Hong Kong



Almost 30 years ago the bearded guy pictured on the right departed Kansas City to smuggle bibles into China. I made three trips from Hong Kong into China carrying bags of Mandarin language bibles. It was a bit surreal. I have vivid memories of acting like I was lost and walking past x-ray devices. I also remember how others on our team were detained. On our last journey into China we were running late and had a pile of bible filled bags on the train platform. We watched as several Chinese guards approached us. Thought we would be discovered. They were only concerned that we were holding up the train. We watched in awe as they helped us load the train with our heavy bags. It was a beautiful exhibition of the providence of God.

Hong Kong was a lot like my hometown. There was a New York style energy to the place. On Sunday we attended a church service where the pastor delivered his sermon in Mandarin instantaneously translating it into English. It was breathtaking to watch a guy who taught himself mandarin speak so effectively and powerfully. Other things I remember was the camaraderie. Twenty three of us with a common mission and purpose. We would travel through China on trains and buses. We would sleep under mosquito nets. We ate all sorts of indigenous food. We took a hydroplane ferry from Macau on the last leg of our trip. After a week of ministry we would fly out to continue our ministry in a remote village in the Philippines. It was an amazing time. Before Hong Kong I had such a small view of the world and the love of God.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Galveston



It was Spring Break 1995. Ann and I got engaged on Valentine's Day. It would be our first time away with the children. We chose to fly to Houston and drive down to Galveston with my two kids (ages 14 and 10) and one of my son's friends (also 14). What an eye opener for Ann. She was 42 and never been married. Teens and a preteen acting up in the rear seat of our rental car was a bit outside of her comfort zone. Here are a few things that I remember about that week:
  • early morning walks on the beach with Ann;
  • crawfish meal with the family;
  • a trip to the Johnson Space Center;
  • riding the rides at Six Flags over Texas;
  • warm temps, but not warm enough to swim;
  • a time of discovery for a new family.
That time of my life caught me by surprise. I did not know that I would find love again so soon. Being with Ann during our courtship was such an amazing experience. Our trip to Galveston marked the beginning of many family vacations.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Fort Jackson



Fort Hamilton, NY :: the place I raised my right hand and was inducted into the US Army. Fort Jackson, SC :: basic combat training, the next step on my journey of national service. Fort Bliss, TX :: I wrote about my time there yesterday. Fort Benning, GA :: we watched my son graduate from basic combat training there in 2004. Fort Carson, CO :: a nice week with my son in between his tours in Iraq. I have been to a few Army forts in my life.

A few thoughts about my two months at Fort Jackson in the fall of 1968:
  • South Carolina is not all that warm in November;
  • marching in the sand with a backpack is really hard work;
  • google "drag ass hill" to see what our training was all about;
  • hated army chow but remember liking our Thanksgiving meal;
  • my drill sergeant was better than most but pretty bad;
  • listened to Hooked on a Feeling by BJ Thomas on my bunk;
  • sent my laundry out and it came wadded up in a bag;
  • was really homesick and called the folks when I could;
  • went to Charleston on my only weekend pass with buddy Mike Good;
  • was 5'9" and weighed 125 pounds when it ended in December;
  • have never been pushed that hard physically in my life.
I remember how that 19 year old kid, pictured above, was really afraid. The Vietnam War was raging and many of my friends, enlisted and drafted, in the barracks would be sent there. Perilous times. I was glad to be heading to Fort Bliss.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

El Paso



When I left Boot Camp in Fort Jackson, South Carolina for missile systems training in El Paso, I thought that I was heading to a town with dirt streets and hitching posts for horses. Yeah, I had watched one too many TV Westerns. I flew in at night. When I saw the lights in the night sky I wondered what they were. The next morning I got a surprise when I saw that those lights were scattered over the Franklin Mountains, the southernmost part of the Rockies. I would spend many days hiking those rocks.

When I graduated from training, I served my remaining years at a missile firing range in New Mexico just 20 miles north of El Paso. Several times a month I would support the test firing of Nike missiles by Army personnel who came to NM for their annual service practice. It was an amazing experience for a young man from New York.

During my time in El Paso I developed technical and interpersonal skills that would last me a lifetime. I met my first wife Ellen. I got outside of my comfort level in a major way as I learned to live away from home and family. In the end, I wonder what my life would have been like if I had not been drafted to serve my country. Probably a lot different. ツ


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

District of Columbia



It was in the Spring of 1963. I was in the ninth grade at Edwin Markham Junior High on Staten Island. I showed up there very early in the morning to embark on my trip to Washington, DC. We took a bus to Grand Central Station then rode the train to DC. While on the train I had my very first fried chicken boxed lunch. I remember liking it. Once there we visited several places. I honestly cannot remember any of them except the Smithsonian Institute. The image on the right is what I looked like a few months after my visit to DC. I didn't smile a whole lot for pics back then. ツ

Thinking back, I feel that one of the great things about growing up in New York City was the school field trips to museums and historical sites close by. I still remember walking through the Franklin Institute and seeing the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Such great childhood memories.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Chicago



Ann and I spent the summer of 2011 in the Windy City. It was a hopeful time that turned really bad. We travelled to Northwestern University in March of that year for a few days of testing to determine if Ann was a good candidate for a stem cell transplant. The treatment seemed like a good option as there is no cure for NMO, the disease that disabled Ann in 2007. After testing, doctors though the transplant was a good option.

Later that spring we spent four chilly weeks in Chicago getting prepared for the transplant. Ann was hospitalized for some of that time. She received a dose of chemo and lost her hair. Her stem cells were harvested for use later in the process. In late June we drove back to Kansas City for a week. Not too many memories of that week except a visit to a place where Ann bought a wig. In hindsight, I think that Ann probably would have done well to stay with her hat as she did not wear the wig much after that week.

We drove back to Chicago and the transplant process began. Ann received more chemo and her immune system was sufficiently suppressed to receive the stem cells that were previously harvested. The day of her transplant was a joyous day. A hospital chaplain was there praying and saying a blessing over the cells. Our kids and grandkids drove up that weekend to celebrate Ann's birthday. Things were looking good.

Then the bottom dropped out. Ann caught a bug when she had no immune system. She struggled for days fighting it off. Then I got a call at 10:30 on a Monday night saying that Ann was in trouble and needing a breathing machine. I hurried over to the hospital. I spoke to Ann and prayed with her. We both agreed that she needed help. It was one of the scariest times of my life. Did not sleep that night. The next morning they brought in a crash cart and I thought that I was losing my wife. Ann's sister flew in to be with us. One of the guys from my men's group flew in from KC for the day. Perilous times.

On the following Sunday my prayers were answered. Ann had slowly begun a progression of breathing during the week. She was receiving oxygen from the respirator and nourishment through a tube in her nose. On Sunday the respirator was turned off a few times and Ann began to breathe. Later that afternoon the tube was removed and Ann breathed on her own. One of the happiest moments of my life. It would be another day before Ann would be able to have the feeding tube removed. Within days she was moved from intensive care to a regular room. Things were getting back to normal.

Yet the month long hospital stay had taken a toll on Ann's body. She was very weak and could not transfer in and out the bed to her wheelchair. Consequently we would spend one more month in Chicago at the Rehabilitation Institute where Ann would once again fight to regain her mobility. The days seemed to go by slowly. I stayed at a downtown hotel and daily walked over to the rehab hospital where I witnessed a strong woman get stronger. And in September, after a month of rehab, Ann and I drove back to Kansas City where she would be in rehab for three more months.

Looking back on that time, I have mixed feelings. For a few years the new immune system seemed to be keeping her disease at bay. Then it came back a few years ago. Since then we try to simply take life one day at a time. We pray. We hope for the best. We trust in the Lord with all of our hearts as we walk out what might be a difficult future.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Brooklyn



From 1963-1965 I attended Brooklyn Technical High School, a 6,000 student all boys engineering magnate type of high school. The school itself was an intimidating edifice. 11 stories tall and a one square city block footprint. The curriculum and the teachers were even more intimidating. In addition to these challenges I travelled one and a half hours each way to school. 30 minutes on a bus. 30 minutes on the Staten Island Ferry. 30 minutes on the subway.

One and a half years after enrolling. Struggling to maintain a "B" average. I had an attack of appendicitis and, weeks later, found myself enrolled by my parents at my local high school. Which I sometimes walked (about 3 miles) home from. I sailed through the remainder of my school experience and lost most of the study ethic I had developed in Brooklyn. This deficiency later came full bloom.

A number of years I ago I talked with my mom about that experience and realized that my mom saw my illness as an opportunity to pull me out of dangerous Brooklyn. She shared with me of how she worried everyday I travelled to Brooklyn, a place where violence was frequent in that era. My mom did what she believed to be in my best interest. To this day I wonder if it was. School was never quite the same after I left Brooklyn. And I was a bit different.

The moral, I think, is that we need to understand the inner motives that drive us to make decisions for our children. Sometimes fear and other negative inner forces can drive us to act in strange ways. I did with my children. Letting our teenagers go and trusting their wisdom can be a very difficult experience. Not that I know what I am talking about. ツ


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.

Arizona



I first visited Arizona in 1970 with my friend Conrad Martin. We were both in the US Army stationed on a missile firing range in New Mexico. We had a long weekend and travelled to his parents home in Phoenix. I do not remember much about that weekend except that it was the very first time that I ate a taco. His mom made great tacos and I was hooked forever.

My next trip to Phoenix was much later. In 2001 we journeyed there to witness the marriage vows of my nephew to his beautiful bride. I loved the desert setting of the wedding reception and the joy of being with my family. While there we also visited Tempe for a university visit for my daughter who was in high school. And I remember it being over 100 degrees.


... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.