Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Headed to Ohio

I'm flying this morning from Denver to Cleveland. I'll be hosting the Sonlight booth at the Teach Them Diligently conference in Sandusky, Ohio this weekend, May 28-30.

Hours are:
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday
9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday
9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday

Not much down time, as usual for these trips, but I'll be watching for "blog fodder" to share because, no matter what, life is an adventure. Isn't it?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Homeschool Convention Memories and Tips

The first homeschool convention I ever went to was in 1997 in Wichita, Kansas. Laura was four years old and Rebecca was just beginning to toddle. I wasn't seriously considering homeschooling at that time, but a friend of mine was and she invited me to go to the convention with her. We bought vendor hall passes and went one evening just to browse and shop.

We received a tote box full of literature and samples as we went in the door. Yes, a tote box. Apparently they were meant to be sturdier than bags? I don't know. The handles soon broke and we had to carry them in our arms. If I had known then what I know now, I would have taken my own heavy-duty bag. Or better yet, a wheeled suitcase. We collected more information as we went around the hall and our boxes got heavier and heavier. I was just blown away by all the options... and encouraged to reconsider homeschooling my children.

Two years later, after Laura's kindergarten year at home, I attended the convention in Portland, Oregon with my sister-in-law. We spent the whole day there. Lyle kept Laura that day, and I took Rebecca with me. I had our double stroller and that gave me the whole second compartment for stashing catalogs and purchases. The stroller was cumbersome to navigate, but it sure was handy for keeping my preschooler and all our "stuff" contained. Late in the day, when Rebecca was ready for a nap, I just leaned her seat back and pulled the canopy down over her and then walked around and around and around the vendor hall, and even outside a little bit,until she went to sleep. That was the day I discovered comfy shoes are a must. 

Over the years since then I've attended around 80 homeschool conventions by my best count. With the exception of those first two, I've been a representative for Sonlight at almost all of them. At some conventions we are so busy I never have a chance to leave my booth. At others, I've had time to stroll around and visit other vendor booths... and even slip into a workshop now and then.

Naturally I've picked up a few tips and observations. I mentioned the wheeled cart (or stroller) and comfy shoes. Not all events allow wheels, so be sure to check about that before you go. A sturdy backpack would probably be a good alternative, if you can't take something with wheels.

Some events are very kid-friendly with planned activities and hands-on booths for the kids. Others don't allow young kids in the vendor hall at all. Personally, I think you'll get more out of the event if you're able to plan to leave the kids with someone else for the day. At one event recently I was trying to help one mom whose unhappy toddler in the stroller screamed the whole time we were talking. That was very distracting and frustrating for both of us.

There are times when the vendor hall is very busy and you may not be able to get into a particular booth you want to visit, or the line may be long. An insider tip to get around that issue is to plan to skip one workshop and do your shopping during that time slot. The vendor hall is usually much slower during workshops.

One other insider tip I want to mention is to take printed address labels with you. If you have some of the freebie ones that come in the mail occasionally, great! Those'll do! If not, you can print your own. You may want to anyway, to include your phone number and email address. That makes it so quick and handy to enter drawings and provide that info when you are placing an order. Plus it helps the vendor who may struggle to read your handwriting.

Do you have other tips I haven't mentioned? I'm sure others who are participating in Sonlight's Blog Party this month do! Check it out!
Sonlight Blog Party

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Florida Bites

We ended up not having time to drive over to the beach while I was in Florida. Nor did we go to Disney World. As we were riding the airport shuttle today, on our way out, a recorded announcement said, "Chances are, you didn't see and do everything there is to do while you were here..." My co-worker and I had to laugh. Yeah, we didn't see or do very much at all except work. However, we stayed at a very nice resort, and the convention was at yet another nice resort, so there were a few photo ops.
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and "had" to wait at the airport a couple hours before going to the condo. As you can see, waiting at the airport was a real hardship for me. I staked out one of the benches by this gorgeous fountain and read through several of the Psalms while I was waiting. It was a unique place to have devotions. I needed some alone time that time, so that served the need nicely.
Late that evening, after we had loaded and unloaded some of the convention supplies and taken care of grocery shopping for the weekend, one of my co-workers, Sherry, and I explored the resort a little bit. We were tickled to discover that the smoking area was called the Cigar Deck. So pretentious! No one was smoking cigars (or anything else), and it was actually a very nice deck overlooking the lake.
Another thing that cracked us up was the Sensory Garden, which was a nicely landscaped, short garden path. Sherry struck a yoga pose long enough for me to take a picture. I'm not sure she got the full sensory effect in that length of time, but we aren't real sure what that was supposed to be anyway.
The convention was busy. We worked long hours and talked to lots of people. 
It was held at the Gaylord Palms resort, which has alligators in the atrium. They weren't in the wild, and they weren't very big, but still, it was cool to see them. There were turtles in with them.

On Saturday evening my cousin, Kerry, who lives there, came over to see me. We went out for a quick dinner. It was fun to see her again. It had been several years. We were too busy talking and catching up to think about taking pictures.

And that was the extent of my adventure in Florida this past weekend. I've been to Florida twice now, and have yet to see the Atlantic Ocean. 

Someday we'll go back for a vacation. At least, it's on my bucket list.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Going to Florida

I'm headed to the airport this morning for another convention trip. I'll be assisting at the Sonlight booth at the Florida Homeschool Convention this weekend. The exhibit hall will be open 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. I'll be working with several other Sonlight reps for this event, most of them long-time friends, so that will be fun. Also, Sonlight's owner, Sarita Holzmann will be speaking. I'm hoping to be able to sneak off for a bit to visit a beach, but I'm not sure if we'll have time for that or not. In any case, it's sure to be a great weekend!

Monday, May 18, 2015

And Back Again

It was a lovely weekend with lots of driving, which is the way we like it! We drove from St. Louis to Fort Wayne on Friday, stopping for a bit in Greenfield, Indiana where I have relatives. I knew I wouldn't have much time to visit, but I had hoped to at least have a chance to say hi.

As it happens, Friday was my aunt Rachel's birthday. I had texted her to see if we could meet for lunch. She was tied up with work that morning, so she wasn't sure if it would work out or not. I texted her when we got into town. She said it would be a little longer before she would be available, but for us to go ahead and eat lunch, and she would join us as quick as she could.

Lyle asked if I would rather eat at Wendy's or Taco Bell. "Eh. Doesn't matter. Taco Bell, I guess." So he pulled into Taco Bell. About then Rachel called to see where we were. She asked if I had talked to Aunt Dee, who also lives there. I told her I hadn't called her because I didn't know how long we would be there.

I hung up the phone and Lyle said, "Aunt Dee's right there." I looked up and sure enough. Can you believe she was just coming out of Taco Bell with her lunch in her hand? Her car was parked next to ours! I opened my door and said, "Lady! Hey, lady!" She did a double-take and said, "Oh, Karla! Don't scare me like that!"

It was so fun to get to see her. I told her what we were doing and invited her to take her lunch back into the restaurant and eat with us. So she did. I thought it was awfully nice of God to arrange that little meeting for us. If I had chosen Wendy's, or if we had been just 5 minutes later we would have missed her.
Rachel joined us a few minutes later. Then we stopped by their office on our way out of town to say hi to her husband and daughter. We hadn't seen any of them since 2008. That's just way too long.
We got to Fort Wayne in time to set up the Sonlight booth that evening.
Saturday was a busy day at the convention. We had pretty steady traffic through the booth and were definitely ready to put our feet up by the end of the day.
We drove part of the way home on Sunday and enjoyed a relaxing day off. Today was our main travel day. We had lovely weather all the way. We didn't stop much but appreciated the novelty of rolling farm-land scenery through Iowa and Nebraska.

And so, we made it safely home again.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A 3-State Day

We traveled from Denver to St. Louis yesterday with a small detour to Rolla, Missouri to visit Lyle's mom for a few minutes. We left home at 3:00 a.m. and traveled a total of 17 hours, including stops. Mostly we were on the interstate with not much "scope for the imagination" or interesting tallies. We were off the main road for a little bit as we cut down from Columbia to Rolla. With that in mind, here are my tallies for Thursday:

States traveled through: 3 (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri)
Car Talk episodes: 2
Audio book CDs: 3 (of a 15 CD book, Illusion by Frank Peretti)
Dead armadillos along the road in Missouri: 44 (not kidding!)

Country churches with interesting names:
Little Flock Baptist Church
Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church
Grace Cowboy Church

Ok. So we'll see what this post looks like. I don't seem to have the hang of mobile blogging, so I  may or may not post again before we get home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Road Trip to Indiana

Lyle and I are headed to Indiana this weekend to host the Sonlight booth at the Fort Wayne Area Homeschool Resource Expo this Saturday, May 16.
We'll be driving to this event. Maybe I can post some pictures along the way, though we won't have a lot of time for sight-seeing.

I know! I can keep tallies! That's always fun. I don't know if anyone else is interested in my tallies, but they amuse me.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day is Not About Me

As a preacher's kid, it seems like the focus of Mother's Day when I was growing up had to do with the Sunday morning service. I don't remember specifically doing anything for my own mother, though I'm sure we did. Rather, my memories are of Dad having all the mothers assemble at the front of the sanctuary to be presented with some small gift. Then he would preach about the Proverbs 31 woman or another passage of scripture appropriate to the occasion. With such a special service each spring, I came to understand how blessed mothers were. After all, there was not a Children's Day you know! Dad has a sincere love and admiration for his wife (my mother), his own mother, and his mother-in-law... and he always included them as examples to look up when he talked about the sacredness of motherhood.

Later, as a young wife, the traditional Mother's Day service took on a bittersweet note for me. I was happy for the opportunity to honor my own mother, but I longed to be a mother myself. Mother's Day became a painful reminder of our childlessness for several years. When God brought our beautiful daughters into our home after seven years of marriage, motherhood was not something I took for granted. 
For the past 22 years on Mother's Day, I haven't expected to be honored with gifts and pampering, because you see, it's not about me. Motherhood is definitely not without its challenges, but I've never thought of it as a job or a duty deserving of honor. Rather I consider it a privilege.

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, 
and to be a joyful mother of children. 
Praise ye the Lord. 
Psalm 113:9 

On Mother's Day each year I thank God for two women I've never met... the women who chose life for my precious children. It has truly been a joy to raise them... and they make me proud every day!
I am also so very grateful for my own mother, who set a perfect example of what a mother should be. Turns out, Daddy was onto something when he used her (and MawMaw and Grandmother) as illustrations in his Mother's Day sermons.

I am blessed!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Room With a View

Our hotel in Fairbanks overlooks the Chena River. My room is on the fifth floor and I have definitely enjoyed the view the last few days. We stayed in this same hotel last year and I had the same view, but it was a different room so the perspective was slightly different.

I was in Fairbanks last year April 19-22 and the river was just beginning to thaw. It was interesting to watch it break up during the time I was here. This year, we are definitely farther into spring as you can see from the two different river shots.
 For an even older perspective, I noticed this picture (from 1955) hanging on the wall in the restaurant at Chena Hot Springs the other day. It's the same part of town but from the other side of the river, behind the church instead of facing it. Obviously, our hotel did not exist at that time.
 Here are a few other shots I took through the window.
 The sun was beginning to set at 10 o'clock...
...and was still lingering on the horizon by 11 o'clock. It's not quite the Midnight Sun, but close enough!

Today was our final day of conventions here in Alaska. Tomorrow we drive back to Anchorage, and then fly home on Thursday.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fairbanks Convention

The Fairbanks IDEA curriculum fair started today. We have a nice booth location just inside the door. We weren't able to use our new gray tablecloths because they are designed for eight-foot tables, and the tables at this event are six-foot. The blue ones are some we had from last year. It was just serendipity that they match the draping at this event so well.
 This event is held at the Carlson Center, which, it turns out, is the arena for the Alaska Nanooks ice hockey team. Late in the afternoon, when traffic in the vendor hall had slowed down, I went out and hunted the stairs up to the mezzanine to take a "bird's eye view" picture.
 You can see our booth in the left corner, against the wall. Our "sister company," BookShark, is on the right. That's why there are five on our "team"-- three for Sonlight, and two for BookShark.
After work, our team went to the Silver Gulch Brewery for dinner. I'm not sure why most of the restaurants in Alaska seem to be breweries. I had seafood fettuccine and a "Shirley Temple" (which turned out to be a cherry Sprite). Both were delicious!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Outside of Fairbanks

For our day off today, we drove out into the country. Our first stop was the Alaska Pipeline. I learned that the reason it is above ground is because the oil is warm (about 100 degrees F) as it flows through the pipe. The ground, however, is frozen permafrost. If the pipeline were buried it would thaw the ground and  make it unstable. I hadn't thought of that before. I guess I figured it was the other way around-- that the ground would make the oil too cold. But no.
A stream ran parallel to the Pipeline. It was still frozen along the edges. We were fascinated with the ice crystals. So delicate and beautiful.
 Then we drove up to the Chena Hot Springs Resort, about an hour outside of Fairbanks. We ate lunch there and enjoyed walking around. There were several old vehicles of various kinds, just rusting away... lots of log buildings with moose racks galore... and pen of reindeer sleeping under trees... another pen of chickens and goats hanging out together. Just random, interesting stuff.
We didn't get into the hot springs, but we dipped our hands in to see if it really was "hot." It was. It also smelled like sulphur. The middle picture is the "ice skating pond." I decided my ice skates probably wouldn't work on it in that condition.

It was a fun, relaxing day. Tomorrow we'll be back to work at the Fairbanks IDEA convention.

Denali Viewpoint South

The second "sight-seeing" stop of yesterday's road trip was at the Denali Viewpoint South. It involved a short uphill hike for the best view. I wasn't too sure where it would take us, so I asked some ladies coming down if the hike was worth the view. They assured me that it definitely was, and that I was almost there. So I kept going.

The strip of photos in the collage above shows the trail, starting from the bottom picture and going up. I could just barely see the top of the mountain as I started up. The background picture was taken from the viewpoint at the top of the trail. As were these...
The view of the mountain from this vantage point was breathtaking. At over 20,000 feet, Denali is the tallest mountain on the North American continent. Apparently, Mount McKinley is the official name, but the "real" name of the mountain is Denali. If you're like me, you've heard all this before but may not remember it at the moment.

As with most major mountains, seeing it on a sunny day is rare. We were thrilled that the weather cooperated for a stunning view just for us.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Talkeetna, Alaska

On our road trip today we enjoyed a detour to the little town of Talkeetna.
Tourists that we are, we decided that it was a quintessential Alaskan town.
 We walked down the street lined with authentic log cabins...
...whimsical buildings...
...and even a yurt!
I would have liked to try this coffee shop, but it didn't seem to be open when we were there.
We followed the signs to the "river view trail"... past the Mexican Moose where this little girl was selling cinnamon roasted nuts, along with random Mexican-y style gifts under the awning behind her. We never did understand why Mexican. In Alaska. Just to be different maybe. I have no idea.
The river view was well worth the hike.
A photographer was rafting down the river with his collapsible bicycle in the raft with him. In case you didn't recognize it, yes, that is indeed Mount McKinley way off in the distance.
Here. Let me zoom in on it for you.

You know what? I think it just needs its own post. But it's getting late. So I'll post those pictures tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Out and About in Anchorage

Last night we had dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse in downtown Anchorage. This restaurant is just down the street from the convention center, so we walked over. Obviously, brewed drinks are their specialty, but they had some unique beverage choices in the non-alcoholic section of the menu. I chose Blackberry Basil Lemonade. It was delicious! I would have never thought to add the basil, but it was a lovely variation on mint.
We enjoyed the Alaskan ambiance, not the least of which was the wonderful smell of woodsmoke when we stepped in the door. The large fireplace in the center of the dining room had a gas fire, so it was just for looks. The food was cooked over a wood fire.
 I had the salmon. It just seemed like the thing to order when in Alaska. And yes, it was quite as tasty as it looks.
Then we decided we needed dessert. But not much. So we ordered one slice of "crustless chocolate torte" with 5 forks. The waitress laughed at us, but she brought 5 forks. We passed the plate around and around the table savoring the torte one bite at a time. I have to admit I only had a bite about the first 3 times the plate went past me before "crying uncle." I can only handle so much of uber-rich chocolate desserts.
The convention center where we were working featured this stunning artwork in the lobby. I immediately recognized that it was inspired by the northern lights.
I was amazed to read about the hand-work involved and the method the artist used to create this piece.
It was hung to drape down into the lower level and then over into the hall.
When the convention was over this evening, we took a few minutes to walk around downtown and visit some shops.
We encountered a bear. He wasn't real. But he was large.

And thus ends our sojourn in Anchorage. Tomorrow we will be driving to Fairbanks. We are hoping for some great adventures along the way.