Saturday, July 23, 2011

Family Week

It is always such a joy to have all our kids and grandkids together.  This past week was a special time for us.  Monday was a day of relaxation and spending time together with no agenda.  Those are very nice days to enjoy every once in a while.

On Tuesday, we got up early and took Jace and Kylee to the local Krispy Kreme for hot doughnuts and chocolate milk for breakfast.  Then we were on our way to Legoland in Carlsbad (near Oceanside and San  Diego).  It was great weather and a fun time at this theme park.  All the sculptures and  buildings and rides were naturally done with the theme of Legos.  There were some incredible Lego structures built with thousands and thousands of Legos!

That evening we took Jace and Kylee to the campground at Mission Bay where Shawn and Crystal had rented a space for their fifth-wheel trailer.  They took their boat for going around the bay as well.  For three nights, all the kids and grandkids (Jason and family, Crystal and family, and Evan) stayed at the campground and had a wonderful time of beach, campfires, barbecues and boating.  Evan had brought his tent down so he had a place to stay with them as well.  I booked a room through Priceline and so Sondra and I were able to get a very decent price for a nice room at the Hyatt Regency near Mission Beach.  (We took care of Macyn on Wednesday and she had fun at the hotel pool with Grandma G!)

On Thursday evening, we returned home.  The kids and grandkids came back Friday (yesterday) morning, as Jason and his family left late in the afternoon to go back to Oklahoma.  It was sad to see them go home, but such a joy to have spent the week sharing good times together.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Joy and Sorrow

This past Saturday morning at 2:30 am, Jason and his family pulled into our driveway.  They are here for a week's vacation, so we have all our kids and grandkids here this week.  We put everyone down in their places to sleep and got to bed quickly, so it was around 3 am when we fell asleep.  We were so excited and happy!

Then a  couple of hours later on Saturday morning as we woke up, we got the news that Uncle Johnie died in a fire at his home in Earlsboro, Oklahoma (not too far from Shawnee).  Uncle Johnie was 92 years old, lived alone but was active in every facet of life.  He farmed his land, raised cattle and a llama and some Missouri Trotter horses.  He drove his tractor and baled the hay, always keeping busy.  He was a pillar of his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher and former treasurer.  He was a friend to all his neighbors and well liked by all.  He was a tower of strength in his beliefs and lifestyle.  He was slow to speak, and he was careful and measured in his words and conversation.  He was a highly decorated veteran of World War II.  He had a wry sense of humor and loved people.  The three words I would use to describe him would be humble, kind and wise.

His funeral is this Friday, with his casket riding in a horse-drawn wagon to the cemetery at 8 am, with a brief graveside service.  Immediately after that, family and friends will go to Fairview Baptist Church (where he worshiped and served for many years) for the funeral service, with a fellowship and potluck to follow.

I feel fortunate to have seen him just a few weeks ago while we were on vacation.  We sat in his living room and talked about many things.  Later, he was with us at the Pow Wow grounds for the festivities there in Shawnee.  It is a precious memory for me.

Also later on this past Saturday morning, I was privileged to attend a Men's Breakfast that was planned for our church and the La Sierra Baptist Church in Riverside.  It was to bring the men together that had attended the Men's Retreat several weeks ago.  It was a wonderful time of fellowship and food.  John Paniagua, who God is using in special ways with starting a new congregation and working with homeless brought the morning devotion.

Sunday was a wonderful day of seeing old friends show up for church, ones who had moved on and were serving in other churches by God's leading.  It was just a great day of worship and singing and fellowship.

This coming Wednesday is Shawn's birthday, so after church we went out to celebrate early.  We went to the Red Lobster close by and enjoyed a special meal together.

We took a quick nap and then headed out to a park for pictures and photographs of the entire family being together.  We had fun, but we felt sorry for Bailey as she was not feeling good.  The doctor has said that she has a viral infection which has led to an ear infection.  She did very well for not being at her best.  It was a hot day, but we stayed in the shade and enjoyed the cool breeze blowing.

Jason, Shelly, Jace, Kylee and Macyn Greenwalt

Evan Greenwalt and his girlfriend, Callie Czarnecki

Shawn, Crystal and Bailey Marcum

Galen and Sondra Greenwalt

The Greenwalt Tribe

Right now it is Monday night.  Sondra and I head out in the morning with Jace and Kylee to take them to Legoland in San Diego for the day!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gall Stones

Last Thursday morning, I woke up with severe pain in my abdomen.  It caused extreme discomfort, and I could not get any relief by laying down or sitting still or standing briefly.  Nothing helped.

So, Sondra took me over to the VA hospital in nearby Loma Linda, where I spent the better part of five hours.  With my heart issues in the past, they were concerned that this might be a heart-related problem.  As I explained my symptoms, they began to do some other procedures.

I went up to X-ray and had about 8 x-rays done on my chest and abdomen areas.  Then, I was sent to the Lab for blood tests to be done.  I think they took 6 vials to complete the various testing.

Then, they called me early Friday morning to let me know they had scheduled an emergency CAT scan that afternoon at 2 pm.  So my day was taken up with preparation and then waiting at the hospital for the scan.  They took the scan but did not have any immediate results.  From the previous day's tests, they said they were considering the possiblity that I had a small kidney stone.  The nurse said they would call me immediately when the results were back on Monday.

So, this morning about 8:30 am, I received a call from the nurse who works closely with my primary physician.  She said the results show that I have multiple gall stones (but she wasn't sure how many at this time).  They wanted to know my pain level right now, and I told them the pain had subsided last Thursday evening and I had not had any pain since.

I was told if I have another "gall stone flare-up," I would need to come in for gall bladder surgery.  I told her I was feeling fine.....ha ha.  Seriously, the pain has not come back.  The nurse told me I am to be on a low-fat diet.  I am not to eat fried foods, spicy foods, fast foods, greasy foods, cheesy foods, donuts or other baked goods.  I looked at Sondra and teased, "What is there left to eat?"  I had a small bowl of oatmeal and one piece of toast for breakfast.  Life is tough.....ha.

So, that was my news this morning.  Life has many changes along the way, that's for sure.

Last Saturday, Shawn and Crystal and Bailey were over for a barbecue dinner.  It was good to share with them about our vacation trip to Oklahoma and Missouri.  We were really going into "withdrawal" by not seeing little Bailey for about three weeks.  She is so precious and fun.

I had a good day at church yesterday.  We had a good service and we baptized four, a young girl and three adults.  What a blessed day.  At the end of the service, a man who was baptized came up to me and indicated that he wanted to buy my book (Don't Say You Can't) to help him read through the Bible.  He remembered that I mentioned that church members and those attending the worship service could have the book for a discounted price of $10 apiece.  He said, "I want to buy two for me and eight for anyone else who wants one but cannot afford it."  He pulled out his wallet and handed me a $100 to cover the cost.  I thought, "Wow, it is amazing how God touches hearts and lives!  What a blessing!"

Then, a lady who was visiting our church for the first time (to see one of the individuals follow through in believer's baptism) came up to me after everyone else had left.  She said, "Is your church doing renovation in the bathrooms here?"  We have tried to expand and renovate our restooms for a couple of years, so it shows the beginning stages of construction inside.  I told her, "Yes, but we just have not had the funds."  She replied, "Do you have a plumber in your church?"  "Nope."  She then offered, "Well, I have a son who is a plumber.  Let me talk to him to see if he has some time to help.  I want you to get me a list of all the things you need to complete that."  I don't know what will come of this, but it was a blessing just to hear a first-time guest feel the desire to help us!

Yesterday evening, Sondra and I were taken to dinner by a couple in the church.  We love to spend time with them in fellowship and friendship.  There are some things that are happening in their lives that they wanted to share with us.  It was a great evening and we felt great joy about the day.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Road Trip, Part Three

This is the final installment about our two-week vacation trip.

On Sunday afternoon, June 26, we (Sondra, me and David) left Shawnee and headed to Springfield, Missouri, to see Noel and Janice and Mark.  We also wanted to see Janice's dad, Bailey Hill, as he is such a great friend and special person to us.  We spent Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday there in Springfield.  Noel had his good moments and some bad episodes of chest and heart pain, as is usual now.  He is waiting for the Cleveland Clinic to review all the data from his recent heart monitor recordings.  But, Noel is always optiimistic and cheerful and fun to be with.

We went to the original Bass Pro shop and had their buffet breakfast one morning.  It was fitting that the restaurant at Bass Pro was named Hemingway's, as David and I are now published authors (ha ha).

Since Mark's birthday was less than a week away (July 4), we had an evening of special food, gifts, cake and candles and an early birthday celebration for Mark on Tuesday (June 28).

One evening, Sondra had asked Bailey Hill to bring his guitar and sing some songs he had written.  They were poignant and meaningful songs after the deaths of a son and then recently his wife.  He also shared some poems and other songs.  It was an emotional and touching time.

We left Springfield Tuesday evening, returning to Shawnee quite late.  We were tired, but we knew we had enjoyed a wonderful visit to Noel and his family.  Wednesday was a day with the grandkids.  Jace and Kylee love playing Yahtzee, Clue, Mexican dominoes and Zilch.  Macyn was her usual busy self, walking everywhere and getting into anything she could (and she was so cute doing it!).

Early Thursday morning, David and I drove over to Norman to see cousin Joanna Storm and her husband Gary.  It is always a treat to spend time with them, as they are so gracious and caring.  David tried to think of the last time he had seen Joanna, and it seemed to be at least 50 years since they last saw each other!  We sat and talked at length and then had lunch there.  David and I were thrilled to have some old-fashioned Grape soda with our sandwiches!  (It doesn't take much to entertain us...chuckle chuckle!)  We left after lunch and headed back to Shawnee, so I could spend some more time with mom, as well as Bill and Marti in Tecumseh.

On Friday, I got the chance of a lifetime.  At least, for me it was.  Jason invited me to accompany him to watch the cage fights (Extreme Fighting League) at the River Spirit Casino in Tulsa.  Jason is a certified judge for matches for boxing and cage fighting through the Potawatomi Athletic Commission.  So, we got into a car early Friday evening and headed to Tulsa with the Potawatomi Athletic Commissioner (Joey, whose day job is working as an agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics) and his co-worker (another agent for the Bureau who is a trained and certified to examine the fighters and their equipment prior to the bouts).  They had very interesting stories to tell about drug busts and such.  Prior to the bouts, I was introduced to Tim Tallchief, an Osage who is the announcer at our annual Pow Wows and is now the new director for our Potawatomi Health Clinics.

I am not into Extreme Fighting, but I wanted to go to this event at least once with Jason.  It really was not as brutal as I thought it would be.  The majority of the fighters were amateurs, trying to earn their way to the big time.  So, it was actually an interesting and fun experience, sitting at "cage side" with Jason and the other VIPs surrounding the small arena.  It was a late evening, getting home about 1 am Saturday morning.

Saturday was a day to relax and enjoy the grandkids again, as our plans were to leave the next day (Sunday) to head home.  One of the special things we try to do every trip to Shawnee is take Jace and Kylee to Pop's.  Pop's is a hamburger diner, gas station, Route 66 memorabilia store and a place where you can find a bottle of almost any soda pop which has been sold (Grapette, Orange Crush, Frostie's Root Beer, Bubble Up and so much more).  This place has a whole wall (a refrigerated cooler) with hundreds and hundreds of various brands of soda pop. 

So, we got ready and set out for Pop's, which is just outside Oklahoma City in Acadia.  Since it was Fourth of July weekend, it was packed with tourists and so we didn't stay to eat like we usually do.  We bought our sodas and went to the Brickyard in Oklahoma City to eat at Zio's (an Italian restaurant).  Then, we went back to Jason's house and enjoyed our "pop."

We said our "good-byes" to the kids on Saturday night as we were ready to leave very early Sunday morning (July 3) at about 5:30 am.  We picked up David around 6 am at mom's house and set out for home.  As a side trip, we decided to stop at Glorieta for the night, staying at the Chaparral Inn on the grounds of the Baptist Conference Center there.  On Sunday evening, we spent some time walking around Santa Fe and then eating at the restaurant of the La Fonda Hotel there.  The Mexican food was delicious, but the real treat was being able to have the sopapillas (with butter and honey, naturally) for dessert.  I left there with my taste buds satisfied.....ha ha.

We drove all day Monday (July 4) to return home.  We hit some rain in the upper desert, just north of Rialto.  We arrived at the house around 10 pm, tired and happy and filled with memories of a wonderful trip.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Road Trip, Part Two

Well, here is the next installment of our journeys to Oklahoma and Missouri for vacation.

On Friday evening, June 24, the Family Festival 2011 of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation started.  There were games and vendors and eating and getting together with relatives.  During that evening, Roger entered the checkers tournament and won second place ($100).  On Saturday, the entire day was filled with activities and arts/crafts and more tournaments.  Jason entered the pool tournament and won second place ($100).

It was a hot day but very relaxing as we sat and had much time with family and relatives  Cousin George Godfrey and his wife Pat were in town, staying at Uncle Johnie's.  George and Pat live in Springfield, Illinois, not too far from where I was born in Petersburg.  Cousin Susan (Bergeron) Boyes and her husband, Stuart, came for the afternoon with four of their children (Dawn, Jennifer, Tricia and Scotland).  Stuart and Susan and their family live in Oklahoma City.  Mom stayed at the house because of the heat, but everyone went over and spent time talking with her.  So, it was a lot of wonderful family time again.

That evening (Saturday), the stands in the arena at the Pow Wow grounds were filled for the annual gathering for the presentation of honored families and the dance competitions.  We enjoyed the pageantry and color of the formal entrance and the drum circle and the dancers.  George won second place ($400) in the men's dance competition.

The next day (Sunday), I taught mom's Sunday School class at First Baptist Church, Tecumseh.  I love those senior adult women and we had a fantastic time of sharing and talking about what the Bible has to say about giving from a heart of love. 

Mom wasn't at church, but it was for a very special reason.  David had requested to be named at the naming ceremony during this Pow Wow weekend.  There is a special ceremony that is held to give a Potawatomi name to all who desire to be named, and there were about 27 individuals total for this year's ceremony.  David's two sponsors, one male and one female, were required to be there to accept the responsibility to assist in guiding and keeping him accountable to remain on the "Red Road," the right path of life that leads to heaven.  David asked mom and cousin George to be his sponsors, and they accepted and attended.

David was given the Potawatomi name of "Gishek M'nisono." It is pronounced "Gee-Zhuk Mu-Neece-No." It translates to the meaning of "Sky Warrior."  It is a spiritual ceremony with much symbolism.  The ceremony lasted much of morning, so that's why mom was not able to be at church in Tecumseh.  The family members attending this ceremony were David, mom, cousin George and his wife Pat, Sondra and our son Jason.

I must stop here and write another chapter to this account of our trip.  Part Three is the last installment, I think!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Road Trip, Part One

We arrived back home at 10 pm on Monday evening, July 4.  What a way to celebrate the Fourth of July, driving all day!  But it was worth it, as we did so much and saw so many relatives.  It was a wonderful two weeks of vacation.

Our trip started late on Sunday, June 19.  That was Father's Day.  We had a good worship service, recognizing all the dads in the congregation.  That afternoon, the kids (Evan and Shawn/Crystal/Bailey) took me (and Sondra) to lunch at the Market Broiler restaurant for a Father's Day celebration.  I was given some gifts and we had a relaxing, enjoyable afternoon together.

So we left late on the evening of June 19, headed to Oklahoma.  We had rented a 2011 Ford Fusion to have more room, as there were three of us adults -- me, Sondra and David.  It was a comfortable ride with good gas mileage as well.  We drove through the night, arriving in Shawnee on Monday, June 20, around 8 pm.  Actually, we stopped for a bite to eat in El Reno, Oklahoma (about 30 miles west of OKC) at a place called Sid's Diner.  It has been featured on the TV show "Man vs. Food" and has been listed in food magazine articles for having one of the best burgers in America.  It has a famous burger piled high with cooked onions.  Their milkshakes were absolutely delicious too. 

Arriving in Shawnee, we dropped David off at mom's house, and then Sondra and I headed over to Jason's house to stay.  Before I continue describing some of our visits and activities and such, here's a quick summary of our trip by mileage, gas prices and MPG:

     Total miles driven:     4,258.8
     Gas prices by state:       $3.49 in Flagstaff, AZ
                                              3.29 in Albuquerque, NM
                                              3.43 in Amarillo, TX
                                              3.27 in Del City (OKC area), OK
                                              3.19 in Springfield, MO
                                              3.63 in Rancho Cucamonga, CA
     MPG on the trip:        Highest was 38.9 mpg from Gallup, NM to Amarillo, TX
                                       Lowest was 30.7 mpg from Oklahoma City, OK to Amarillo, TX
                                       Average mpg for the entire trip was 34.1

On Tuesday, June 21, we helped celebrate Macyn's first birthday.  Jason and Shelly had a lot of friends and family over for a barbecue and outdoor games.  In those first few days there, Macyn was taking 3-5 steps and then plopping down.  During the days we were there, she began walking without need of help.  It was great fun to see that milestone in her development!  Sometimes those are some of the things we miss, being in California.  So, it was special to be there as she gained her confidence and began to walk everywhere!

Wednesday was a day to visit with mom and family. Sondra and I took Jace and Kylee to Denny's for breakfast. While there, the waitress found out I was a pastor and she talked about her involvement with prison ministry there in Shawnee. We talked at length and I gave her a copy of my book, which she will share with some inmates she ministers to.

At noon, I went to a Kiwanis meeting with Jason at the local Golden Corral restaurant.  My brother Roger and his son, Daniel, had flown in to stay with Marti and Bill on Tuesday night.  So, Wednesday night we all gathered at Bill and Marti's for dinner and pictures and a "talkfest."  We caught up on the news of the family.  Some friends of Bill and Marti came over for dessert and joined in the good time of sharing.

Thursday was a special day.  First, we took David to Cracker Barrel.  We had told him so much about this place for their good breakfast menu.  It lived up to our expectations again.

We went to see our good friend Patricia Murcray that afternoon.  Patty was in the middle of packing and getting ready to move from Oklahoma to Tennessee.  We reminisced and cried and hugged.  She is very special to us.  Her husband, Jim Murcray, was my best friend ever since college, seminary and ministry days.  I miss him greatly.

Thursday evening was tremendous fun.  Our grandkids had not been to a circus, and we heard that the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus was to be in town in Oklahoma City.  We got tickets for that night and sat close to the floor to enjoy the evening.  Sondra and I had not been to a circus since our kids were little, so it was fun for us too.

On Friday, David and Roger and Daniel and I went out to see our Uncle Johnie (and,yes, that is how it is spelled on his birth certificate) in nearby Earlsboro.  He lives in a modest house on 40 acres and still takes care of his cattle, horses and llama.  He is 92 years old!  He has fascinating stories to tell and it was such an interesting time with him.  As we pulled in, our cousin Buddy (Vic) and wife Ruth were at the gate also.  They had driven down from South Dakota, without letting anyone know they were coming.  We had a fun morning together there.

That afternoon, we went over to our Potawatomi headquarters to see Jason and get a tour of the building.  Jason is the Gaming Commissioner for the tribe, and he took some time to take us around.  In the bottom photo, the Vice Chairman of the tribe (Linda Capps) is standing in the middle.  She has become a good friend to the family.

That evening was the beginning of the annual Family Festival on the Pow Wow grounds.

I will be writing a Part Two, so come back again.....I am tired and will get back to this later!