The heat bore down on my shoulders as I walked the perimeter of the forlorn oasis. It seemed someone just forgot to unlock the gate, but it was forgotten long ago. In the heat of a summer day, an abandoned swimming pool is not what you want to find while traveling.

An empty hole of concrete, painted white. Overgrown cracks in the walkways. Last years leaves blowing around, crunchy and brown. Its enough to break a child’s heart or a grown-up’s heart who wishes to splash like a child again. Yes, I could find something else to do with my afternoon. No, I was not going to throw myself on the ground in a full blown toddler meltdown (although the thought crossed my mind). The abandoned pool seemed more desolate the longer I surveyed it. As I moved on back to my car for bigger adventures my thoughts began to wander, like they usually do, to writing about my discovery. I was having trouble putting this one in a positive light. I am not fond of summer weather. I am often heard sating the only two activities one should be doing is hiding in blessed air conditioning or swimming in a cool, clear, pool during these oppressive days.

My traveling heart is always looking for the experiences in my adventures that easily translate into meaningful life lessons. To be honest I was coming up blank at the time. Sure you could say something like, “Nurture your life so others won’t see it as abandoned” or “If life drains you be sure to fill up again”, but really? We all know our nourishment both physically and spiritually is a requirement for our own personal success. It seems contrite and almost condescending to hear the clichés over and over again.

So today I leave you with this simple statement…

If you are feeling abandoned, unlock your gate, let someone in.

Travel well my friends.


Childhood Memories

Memories flood in like waves rushing to kiss sandy toes.


The stage looks the same.  Towers of concrete and metal, sturdy.  Then the art designers are unleashed upon their ‘canvas’.  The soaring metal trusses are adorned with colorful lights.  The pillars of man made stone are converted into a lush growing forest then transformed into a majestic castle, then back to a forest again.  Scenes played out from stories written ages ago.  A different world emerging with each minute that passes by. 

The orchestra is warming up in the pit.  Melodic sounds emanating from the depths below the crowd.  I remember, as a child, wondering why the musicians were confined to performing under the stage.  It seemed like a moat in front of the stage that held the audience back from the performers. 

The sun is still shining over the age old pine trees.  It is warm but it has been worse.  We spread our blanket in front of wood slatted bench.  The benches are the same, many are missing, replaced by open grass areas where patrons place their camp chairs with cup holders and reclining backs.  The benches have been painted the same shade of green over and over again.  Some things never change.

My teenagers flop onto the bench unimpressed by the lack of cell service and country music playing over the loud speakers.  I gleefully chatter on about my past experiences here at Lincoln’s outdoor amphitheater, Pinewood Bowl.  This is the 65th year of productions at Pioneer’s Park Pinewood Bowl.  I don’t think my father has missed more than half a dozen performances.  This was the big summer family event for our family.  Mom would pop bags of popcorn (not microwave style, that wasn’t mainstream yet, air-popped corn, then transferred to plastic bags).  The large Coleman cooler would get filled with water and each of us kids would be asked if we had a plastic cup ready to take with us, because, “We are not buying anything while we are there.”  I still begged.

My first memory of Pinewood Bowl was Annie, Get Your Gun!   I remember the strength of the characters, amazingly rough costumes, and the blank fired from a stage-gun into the metal rafters where a fake bird was then dropped onto the stage.  Creating the illusion, to this small girl, of a true huntress displaying her skill with a weapon.

The list of plays I have witnessed is a long introduction to stage theater for me.  The King and I, Guys and Dolls, Cats, Beauty and The Beast, Annie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers…..the list goes on and on.  And now I can add Shrek to my viewing memories.  This is an especially meaningful musical for me.


My teenagers were just small little ones when Shrek burst on to the big screen in all it’s green glory, toting a furry donkey with it.  I was unsure as a new mother if a movie, even a children’s cartoon, with Eddie Murphy as a voice character would be appropriate for my young impressionable children (enter new mom scorn).  I admit to viewing this particular movie more times than I can count.  We treated ourselves to seeing it in the theater then buying not one but both the soundtracks and keeping those in the minivan, always.  When the VHS (yes I wrote that right) was released we plunked down our hard earned cash for a copy.  This was the movie that just never wore out.  We enjoyed it as a family, often.  So when I heard Pinewood Bowl would be doing the musical version of Shrek I couldn’t resist the opportunity to stroll down memory lane with my offspring once again.

As intermission approached I turned to my teenage boys, who were still sprawled on the bench, sandwiching their grandparents between them, and saw each of their faces in the fading light, remembering their childlike features molded now into young men.  They were watching intently.  I knew the memories of one of their favorite movies were flashing through their minds.  Connections from childhood to young adulthood melding their memories.

The moon began it’s rise over the pine trees, fireflies graced us with their tiny lights as the sky faded from blue to black.  The actors kept the energy of the second half rising till the big finish of the final song.  The standing ovation for the cast was well earned.  This was not an easy production to pull off and the whole cast made it look simple.  Farquaad was on his knees for his entire performance.  Donkey is of course covered in fur, on a balmy summer night in Nebraska.  Green is not the natural skin tone of any human I know and Shrek was covered in green makeup with a huge head piece to achieve his ogre like look.  Not to mention the rest of the cast in fairy dresses, long noses, armor, full body skeleton suits, and so much more.  I give many thanks to all the performers for a wonderful night of entertainment and reviving childhood memories that spark smiles in my family and I.

“Now we need to watch the movie again” was the first response as we left the amphitheater.  My smile is still glowing on my face.  Their childhood memories and mine all intertwined in my heart.


Celebration Preparations


This day marks the beginning of the only ten days of summer I love!  I am a snow-bunny at heart.  So when the days stretch longer and the sun over heats the earth I run for cover, better known as indoor air conditioning.  The activities of summer are fun, the vistas are brighter but the heat melts me, which in turn, makes me cranky.  I was born during one of Nebraska’s infamous heat waves.  My mother tells of how she thought it was far too hot in our house when I came home from the hospital and she promptly moved my bassinet to a prime location, in front of the window air conditioner, where I would slumber peacefully with nary a bead of sweat on my soft baby skin.  I believe my love affair with A/C started right then and there.  So from my first moments till now I have had a tumultuous relationship with warm weather.  Back to why I love these next ten days of summer…. 

Nebraska has some very strict laws about fireworks, what we can and cannot light off.  So we also have a time frame of when we can send fireballs of sparks soaring to the heavens.  Today marks the beginning of the selling season for fireworks!  Little tents have popped up all over the state.  Most of these temporary houses of splendor are decked out in red, white and blue.  With banners beckoning you to stop and spend all of your hard earned money on piles of sparklers, fountains of bursting lights and screaming smoke balls.  Parents slink by the stands praying their beloved little ones don’t notice the new structures that hold untold curiosities.  Teenagers flock to spend their fortunes on five second displays.  I, will spend time investigating the new fun just like every year.  I go into numerous tents, comparing prices, comparing quality, talking with the vendors.  This is the holiday that helps me “survive” the summer, one magical evening of fireworks.

The Fourth of July was the pinnacle of the summer for me as a child.  Our family always spent the holiday in the country with family.  Our families’ Independence Day celebrations were known across the community as the best gathering in a tri county area.  Neighbors would start gathering just after the children got up from their naps.  The farmers would come in early from the fields to scrub up and join in for the picnic.  I remember us kids running off to plan skits to perform for the “older” adults.  The food would sway the rows of tables.  It was a the start of a seemingly unending night.  Everyone brought fireworks to share and display.  We took turns lighting one spectacular explosion after another until the smallest of the children fell asleep in a grandparents arms and had to be carried to bed.  Memories like those can not be imagined they must be experienced.

So to gleefully mark the beginning of 2014 fireworks season I will stop in to the first open tent I see and let my sense of smell take me down memory lane to my favorite 2nd favorite holiday!