Day Trippers

Watching the Mississippi thaw in Dubuque

Christopher and Jesse are on spring break this week. We debated about doing something with them, rather than just spending the week at home with them doing nothing but playing video games. We decided on a day trip to Dubuque, where we went through a cool museum about the Mississippi and saw lots of aquariums full of interesting fish.

A bit of Familiar History

In an exhibit about steamboats, we saw several models of the Delta Queen, the steamboat Kevin and I stayed on in Chattanooga last summer! There was also a logging exhibit, with a nicely painted mural, and logs on the floor which would tumble and sway, and visitors could try out standing on the logs. Kevin’s ancestors were in the logging business. His dad, as a boy, would tie the logs together on the Cumberland River in Tennessee. There, he and other men would ride on hundreds of tied logs as they floated down to Nashville from Celina, TN. This massive, flat hall took days, so a makeshift kitchen, complete with fire, was built in the center of the bumpy “floor” made of logs. There workers sat and slept as they rode the delivery, warmed by a fire.

In one of the ‘hands-on’ exhibits, Kevin mesmerized fish keepers about the mysterious moon fish he caught a few summers ago. It was a species he’d never seen before. We got to see some pretty huge catfish, and I took photos of stingrays which were in a gulf water exhibit.

Kevin explains how his dad, as a young man, used to tie logs together and ride them down river to deliver them days later. Logs would be tied together, and even a fire built in the center for cooking. Workers would sleep and live on the huge log raft for a day or so until delivery.


Scrutinizing Little Things

This trip symbolizes our daily dilemma of how much living to do versus how much regular life do we attend to. Do we hold onto every dime and live the same routine, or do we seize the day figuring we haven’t many left? Do we revel in the comfort of everyday life and time taken for granted, or do we try to cram in as many memories as possible? And finally, do we jinx the whole beating cancer hope by presuming we should make memories while we can? As if we weren’t exhausted enough already, we now add this scrutiny to every decision.

As we walked through the museum we came upon one of those souvenir machines that flattens pennies and embosses an image on them. Even this required a moment of scrutiny – do we create a memory, or do we say no? Everything seems to be a big decision as we slice every moment and count every second. Time is often in slow motion. We try our best to hide these strange dilemmas from everyone. Like doing your absolute favoirite thing while you endure a headache, it is a weird salad of gratitude and accountability, dread and trying to have as much fun as possible. You never know which emotion you’ll get in your spoon.

Should I sew new curtains or not? I have visited fabric stores again and again, and I don’t have an answer. Is it worth our energy to organize the garage? Should we ignore incoming job inquiries for the shop since the shop isn’t there anymore? Should I take an outside job, or continue freelancing to savor every healthy second we have at home? What if things change next week? What will I regret the least? There are hundreds of daily questions which would normally have an obvious answer. But like our carefully chosen day trip, each tiny chore requires major analysis, figured by energy, time and ROI – through the lens of cancer.

I wonder sometimes if the reason we hesitate over little things is because they are all we have control over.

A gorgeous day on the way to Dubuqe! Spring is finally here!


Years ago I watched the series “Thirty Something” – one of my favorite shows in the late 1980s. One of the characters developed breast cancer, and at one point became outraged at the little plastic things that used to come with pizza boxes that prevented the pizza from sticking to the box. “Things like this cause cancer!” she screamed. Everyone with cancer has their outrage moments, and this was hers.

When I was in my 20s this made little sense, but now, as we analyze every tiny detail searching for the culprit of cancer, I understand. Everything from phlatates in shampoos to the lids on Casey’s coffe cups must now pass the litmus test of cancer. 

This was the first day I did not research cancer all night. Instead I completed a hopeful, inspiring book “Angels in My Hair” and started another by that author “A Message of Hope from the Angels”. I am reminded there are angels about constantly, and according to the author who has seen angels since she was born, most of them have nothing to do. So I have put these unemployed angels to work, asking them to descend upon us as numerous and gently as the snowflakes I see falling on the confused, half-frozen half-thawed Mississippi. As it waits for the weather to warn to melt the ice, even that mighty river, like us, doesn’t know whether to move or get going.

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