Archive for Friendship

Ohio Road Trip-Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad engine.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad engine.

This past weekend our family of four traveled to the Cleveland area to visit some dear friends. This was the longest driving trip that the four of us have made together—and it was successful! So that’s encouraging news. We hope to travel the country more as the kids get older, but they have not been the best of travelers up to this point. They were entertained with movies on our portable dvd player on this trip, along with occasional playing on the iPod and our new iPad. I also bought them each a little tablet of construction and drawing paper for Valentine’s Day which kept them occupied from time to time. No naps were taken—to my surprise—although I think Ken was ready to doze off a few times {and yes, he WAS the driver, so I made sure that didn’t happen}. Of course the great thing about the kids not napping  was that they were both out like lights once they were in bed. And that’s nothing to complain about!

This was our fourth visit to our friends’ home, according to our best calculations. Ken and I are always so impressed with the great things they plan for us to do.  Maybe it’s just because it is a new area that we are unfamiliar with, but it seems that there are many free or low-cost activities to partake in. We have been to a kiddie amusement park and walked on beautiful forest paths, spent a day at the beach and the zoo and visited a very kid-friendly nature center, to name a few.

Our kids are so easily entertained just playing with toys inside, or outside in the back yard, so we don’t over-plan our visit. This time, we went cosmic bowling Saturday afternoon, followed by dinner at Chick-Fil-A, where the kids had a blast in the play area while we adults chatted. On Sunday we headed to the Rockside Station where we boarded the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad passenger train for a lovely 45 minute ride into Peninsula. We practically had the train car to ourselves each way. The kids enjoyed hot chocolate and popcorn while watching the snow-covered landscape go by. The snow had just fallen on Saturday, so everything looked fresh and clean against the bright blue sky—it could not have been more beautiful. The Conductor even said that he thought it was the most peaceful day of the season so far. We saw several groups of deer, along with an eagle on her nest while another was perched in a nearby tree. Awesome!

We had a couple of hours in Peninsula to eat lunch and stroll around. My kids had $10 of their own money that was burning a hole in their pockets, so they each bought a stuffed animal—one raccoon and one skunk. They played hide and seek with them and each other on the train ride back and really got to move around and enjoy the trip in a way that would never have been possible if it had been during the busy summertime. The day was nearly perfect.

The crew was so friendly and full of interesting information. They even let the kids punch their own tickets.

The crew was so friendly and full of interesting information. They even let the kids punch their own tickets.

 

 

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The four of us adults originally met each other in the Marriott Tverskaya hotel in Moscow in December of 2005 and had no idea that our lives would become so intertwined and what a bond would form between us. In short, both of us couples were in Russia for adoption purposes. Our first attempts in the city of Ulyanovsk ended in heartache and we each lost the children that we hoped to adopt. After much striving and paperwork, we were all able to return to Russia twice in 2007. We stayed for an entire month on the second trip and finally completed our adoptions in Astrakhan, Russia. Their daughter and our son are two months apart and have been the best of friends. We introduced our daughter into the mix in 2011 and fortunately, the three of them play and get along with each other great. We all wish we lived closer to each other, but that will probably never happen. Our son announced last night, as we were pulling into our driveway, home from the trip, that if we ever tell him we’re going to be driving to visit them again, he will be very excited. So again, this road trip was a huge success. Now, maybe we can someday make it all the way to New York to visit my sister and her family! That might be our next driving goal!

Remembering a Friend

Last week I received word that a dear friend of mine from years gone by had passed away one month ago to the day. I was shocked, to say the least.  And very sad. I still am.

Jan and I worked together for 4 years, spending countless hours in the same office. We had so many similar interests, yet two very different world views, which we discussed in great length. She was 20 years my senior, but I loved and respected her as a comrade and we truly were buddies. We made each other laugh, hard. Oh man, she was a riot. I still can’t believe she is gone.

Jan had an incredible sparkle about her. She had a passion for the outdoors and exploring. She loved art, photography and animals. She owned horses and a Harley. She loved her family and she loved to laugh. One summer we took a watercolor painting class together at the college at which we both worked. We were the only two in the class—it was an early morning summer school course. We had a blast! She inspired me to be creative and take chances. Her husband took me for a (ridiculously fast) ride on his Harley after work one day. What a rush! They both enjoyed life and tried to live it to the fullest. My parents still have a couch which they purchased from them second-hand. How I wish Jan could join me for a visit on that couch now.

After I moved away, we kept in touch for a while. We actually wrote long-hand letters to each other. Then there were occasional e-mails and then for some reason, even those stopped.

I still thought of her and always thought that someday we’d meet up again and greet each other warmly with a huge hug and then laughing and reminiscing would ensue. We would catch up on the last couple of decades. I’d introduce her to my husband and children and she’d show me pictures of her grandkids. We would share with each other the fabulous adventures and heartaches that we had experienced. I’d tell her about my blog and she would follow me and we’d re-establish our friendship for many years to come. But that didn’t happen. She suffered a massive stroke and her life ended.

I am sad for my loss and my heart aches for her family. But, just as I learned from her during her life, I will also learn from her death. I am now the same age that she was when we worked together. May I live my life with such passion. I will take chances, be bold and reach out to others. I don’t want to live with regrets. I have lost other friends and am often reminded that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Personally, I trust God for my life and my eternity and will always encourage others to do the same. But I have to leave their decision in God’s hands.  I am thankful for the person that He created Jan to be and will always be so thankful that our paths crossed for a season. My life was greatly enriched because of her.