Tag Archives: photos

Seasonal Writing

3 Dec

This year I took on a seasonal task that I have avoided for the past few years. No, I never stopped shopping, (though my husband probably wishes I had) nor have I quit baking, decorating, or watching Dr. Seuss’ version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. What I’ve avoided is writing the Christmas Program for my church.

I have written our program a few times in the past, but for the past several years we’ve bought our scripts. Buying a pre-fab script is not a bad thing, but every year we have to tweak it for our particular setting and group of kids and by the time I’m done doing that, I might as well have spent the time writing it from the beginning.

Last year's whole cast.


So this year I did. It was a blast sitting at my keyboard with the list of kids in our church and my page of hand-written notes, taken when inspiration hit one afternoon in October. I laughed out loud as I gave the silliest part to our silliest boy. I grinned as I pictured one girl performing a line I wrote just for her. I was inspired by their personalities.

In the past when I have written programs people have said to me that I ought to try and get them published, but I never have. Maybe this year I will. I’ll see if I can find the other old scripts (since the old computers they were written on are long gone) and I’ll spend a little time looking them over, rewriting, and rethinking.

At least I will if I get my butt in gear to actually pursue this idea. It will take some research into proper style, publishers, etc, but it will be worth it if it pays off in the end, yes? I give you all permission to bug me in a couple months and ask me if I’ve done anything about it yet!


In the mean time, rehearsals are about to begin for our December 22nd performance. I know that my patience will be tried over the next few weeks and I will ask myself yet again why I ever agreed to direct this pageant – the writing is easy compare to directing – but I know that I too, will love, love, love seeing the kids that night, belting out the songs and shouting out their lines.

I adore Christmas pageants. Here’s my favorite photo of my favorite bored little angel a few years back.

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Living Blankets

16 Jul

Cats are less like playthings and more like living blankets. Blankets that shed. And occasionally get grumpy and nip at you.
We got our cat a year and a half ago – someone had dumped her out in the country – at least that’s what we guessed, as she had a collar but was thin, skittish, and hungry beyond belief. Several months later she gave birth to three adorable kittens, and, of the three, we kept one. So now we’re a two-cat family. Copernicus, the calico mama, and Zephyr, her orange son.
It’s funny how quickly these two cats have become part of our family – and when I say “family” I mean that they are part of our collective consciousness, not that we have family photos taken with them – but, it can’t be denied, our lives have changed because of them.
For one thing, the kids are learning responsibility as they care for them. And yes, sometimes that means calling a sibling on an empty cat dish when it is not that particular child’s week to do cat chores. Why is it that brothers and sisters naturally seem to want to get their siblings in trouble? In addition, our checkbook is proving to us that we can only afford the two cats – no more, thanks! We are also in the process of learning that cat food left out on the deck = an open invitation to raccoons. Grrrrrr. Oh, and we’ve learned – the hard way – not to set a plate full of food (or a glass full of milk) out on the deck while running inside to, say, answer the phone – because if you do, the cats will claim it as their own. We have also learned that flowerboxes left unattended turn into litter boxes. Bother.
But, all in all, we have learned that having a living blanket is a nice thing on a cool summer evening, while enjoying the mosquito-free deck with a good book and a cup of tea. We have learned that a little cat hair is worth putting up with in exchange for this living-blanket benefit. And we have learned that boy cats are friendlier than girl cats. Translation: if you come to our house, never assume that Copernicus will want to be cuddled…but if she does deign to allow you to hold her, know that you are one of the chosen few and, for a few minutes at least, you will be blessed.

Mount Saint Helens Exploded 33 Years Ago this Week – My Dad Was There the Next Day – And Here are Some of his Photos

14 May


I remember the boom that Sunday morning, May 18th, 1980 – 33 years ago this week – as we were getting ready for church on Orcas Island, Washington. It was 8:32am – or however long it takes for sound to travel 300 miles. My oldest sister was off at college, my Dad was down in Oregon at work with the Air Force, and my other sister, our Mom, and I were slipping on our Sunday shoes and just about to head out the door when we heard it.

“Oh, they’re dynamiting on Buck Mountain,” Mom said dismissively.

But Jenny and I said, “No! It was Mount Saint Helens!”

“No,” Mom disagreed. “We couldn’t hear it this far away.”

“It was the mountain, Mom,” we said again. “Turn on the radio.”

Sure enough, Mount Saint Helens – which had been steaming and belching and threatening to explode for weeks – had finally blown her top. The mountain – the entire skyline of southern Washington State – was no longer the same. The north face of the mountain was gone.

And so were 57 people with her.

My father, LTC David K. Wendt, was a rescue helicopter pilot for the United States Air Force Reserve, based out of Portland, Oregon. Here’s what Dad had to say about May 18th:

“I was the duty officer that Sunday – in the RCC (Rescue Control Center) which was a madhouse!! We were getting calls from everybody – including the President of the United States (or the White House office, anyway, to set up a visit for President Carter.) I didn’t get to fly until Monday morning – when I found the Moore family. Lienau’s rescue was a week later.” (The following photographs will fill-out the stories of these people a little more.)

These are some of his photographs, taken over the next several days following the event on May 18th.

The cauldron!

The cauldron!

It's like a photo from you-know-where.

It’s like a photo from you-know-where.

These were trees.

These were trees. The explosion – firing at several hundred miles per hour – killed every living thing within a 230 square mile radius. All within a time period of 5-9 minutes. The orange smudge in this photo is a flare. (See links below to verify this information.)

Blasted trees on the surface of Spirit Lake.  Spirit Lake was made famous even before the explosion because of a long-time resident, Harry Truman, who refused to evacuate prior to the explosion they KNEW was coming.  His body was never found.

Blasted trees on the surface of Spirit Lake. Spirit Lake was made famous even before the explosion because of a long-time resident, Harry Truman, who refused to evacuate prior to the explosion they KNEW was coming. His body was never found.

Steam vents - filled with logs from the blast.

Steam vents – filled with logs from the blast.

Steaming waterfall.

Steaming waterfall.

38-StH steam portrait-Dig


Devis Valley

Devis Valley

A 200 foot hover, while a parajumper is hanging on the end of a 200 foot cable as he works to make a rescue.

A 200 foot hover, while a parajumper is hanging on the end of a 200 foot cable as he works to make a rescue.

Flying toward a lake on the mountain.

Flying toward a lake on the mountain.

Micheal Lienau, rescued by Dad and his crew.  They have kept in touch over the years.  He was a photographer for National Geographic.

Micheal Lienau, rescued by Dad and his crew. Several years ago they saw each other again as they were both asked to be a part of an NBC production on “Disaster Survival”. Here’s what Dad had to say about Lienau: “He made a video of the whole ordeal – saying how they looked back up the pass they’d come through and saw a volcano-blasted tree in the shape of a cross – just showing in the narrow slit of overcast volcanic cloud and the pass. He told the others with him – after seeing that cross – that he truly felt they were going to be saved – and a few minutes later we flew over the pass! I was hover-tracking them by their trail left in the ash and mud.” Otto Seiber, another guy rescued by Dad and his crew, was a filmmaker from Seattle, who went with his film crew to document the destruction on May 23rd. Their compasses freaked out in the volcanic atmosphere and they got themselves lost in a hurry. The mountain then erupted again on May 25th, and Dad and his team rescued them. 

Taken from another helicopter.

A helicopter-view of another Huey.

18a-Steam vents-3-Dig

Steam vents

Steam vents

They searched for the Moores - and they found them on the 19th.  Alive.

They searched for the Moores – and they found them. Alive. Mother, father, and two small children.

The Moores.

The Moores.

Heart Lake

Heart Lake

Reid Blackburn's car.  He was a photojournalist for a Washington newspaper as well as for National Geographic magazine.  His body was eventually recovered from his car.

Reid Blackburn’s car. He was a photojournalist for a Washington newspaper as well as for National Geographic magazine. His body was eventually recovered from the car.

Chemically-altered pools.  All sorts of weird stuff in that ash and lava!

Chemically-altered pools. All sorts of weird stuff in that ash and lava!


30-Cold Lake & reflection-Dig


Dad didn't send me this photo - but I wanted to include it!  Details of the rescue of the Moores.  This is the nomination form that was turned in, nominating them for the Helicopter Heroism Award that year.

Dad didn’t send me this photo because he’s not one to brag – but I wanted to include it! Details of the rescue of the Moores. This is the nomination form that was turned in, nominating them for the Helicopter Heroism Award that year.

Amazing what the ash in the air will do to a sunset!

Amazing what the ash in the air will do to a sunset!

Forever changed.

Forever changed.

Here are several interesting links:

A very informative video put out by the USGS – the United States Geological Survey.

The USDA/FS site (United States Department of Agriculture / Forest Service)

Mount Saint Helens.com

A USGS summary of the event, including right before it and several years after it.

There are many, many more sites – I just choose a few which seemed especially good.

My Dad has had his photos used by the USGS, the Mt. St. Helens Interpretive Center, and this book, Fire Mountain. I have many reasons to be proud of my dad. The things he did during his Mount Saint Helens rescues are definitely some of them.

Copyright Notice: Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any material in this blog without written permission from the blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Copyright May 14, 2013 by Gretchen Anne O’Donnell and Col. David K. Wendt, USAFR

Decisions, Decisions…

25 Sep

When I began to blog, almost a year and a half ago, I didn’t have a clear audience in mind. I was torn between several. I could not decide so I kind of…didn’t. I just started blogging and hoped that everyone would like it.

This is not the best way to proceed with anything in life, really. I mean, specifics make for happier audiences, happier students, happier parishioners, friends, directors. This was especially not the best way to proceed with something where one goal was to find lots of people who like reading my stuff!

I began the blog for several reasons, one of which was that I wanted to WRITE – to exercise that need – and to see if people actually liked what I wrote. It appears that people do, which is gratifying. But now I am faced with a focus issue…which is – even after 17 months – still not a decision I want to make.

You see, I’m a people pleaser. I like making everyone happy even though I know, intellectually, that this is impossible. I wanted my blog to make everyone happy. I wanted men, women, writers, moms, grandmas, aunts, uncles and cousins to find my posts irresistible. I wanted travelers, photographers, locals, internationals, liberals, conservatives, sports fanatics (okay, I knew I’d never please the sports fanatics!), dreamers, friends, theologians, to like me.

Yes. I ought to have known better.

I think that my resistance to “box myself in” to one particular audience all boils down to this: I am 42 years old, the holder of a master’s degree, the dreamer of extravagant dreams…and I am a stay-at-home mom.

Don’t get me wrong: I honestly love my life. I do not regret my decisions, I love my children, I do not WANT a 9-5 job.

It’s just that I don’t enjoy washing laundry and dusting. I do not embrace the house-wifely things that I feel like I ought to embrace. I don’t get all hot and bothered over sentimental mommy things. Yes, I keep tons of their drawings and I write down all the cute things they say.

But that doesn’t mean I adore the PTA.

It is hard for me to JUST be a mom.

And so I began writing a book.

I always imagined that I’d be a writer.

And yet, the things that I know, the things that I, apparently, write about the best, are mom things. But I fight tooth and nail against writing a Mommy Blog. WHY? Because I always thought I’d be more than that. And, to claim that title makes me feel like I’m giving up. Giving up on all of the potential – and real – audience members out there who don’t fit that category.

And yet, I’ve been told – by a person who knows this stuff – that I write a good “mommy blog”. And, I admit, the most feedback I get is from moms and grandmas who can relate to the things I post. And this is not a bad thing – I mean, I LOVE THAT FEEDBACK, AND I LOVE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE GIVEN IT TO ME.

So why is it so hard to admit that that is where I belong? Because I don’t want to lose readers. I don’t want to displease anyone. UGH. Just make a decision already.

I envy those of you who have strong, focused blogs – cooking blogs, sewing blogs, travel blogs, local blogs – I envy your ability to be specific, your readers who look to you BECAUSE they want those specifics. I also admire the hard work you’ve done to gather those readers. And it is work, I know.

So why am I writing about this? What is my purpose? Well, I suppose that I’m alerting you that there may be a few changes around here. Not huge changes, but, as I learn to accept this role in my life, I probably will write about it more.

However, in this process, I have discovered something that I didn’t realize before: it appears that, as a mom of elementary and middle-school aged children, it is impossible for me to ignore that in my blogging. I hadn’t thought about the fact that writing a post about walking with the Girl Scouts in a local parade was a mommy post – I just thought it was something kinda fun to write about. But, it turns out, the very fact that I was in the parade at all is because I’m a Girl Scout leader, which I wouldn’t be if I wasn’t a mommy trying to help out with something my daughter loves. So, what I took to be just a random post…is actually a mommy post.

This is actually encouraging to me because it means that I don’t have to change my posts all that much! I suppose what it proves is that I’ve been writing a mommy blog all along even if I didn’t realize it. That I can’t escape who I am, where my focus is in life. I am not a reluctant mommy, per se…even if I’m a reluctant mommy blogger.

So what does this all come down to? I guess it means that I need to accept who and where I am in life. I need to be okay with the fact that I don’t have some marvelous job that defines me. Yes…I know what some of you are thinking: “Being a mother is the most wonderful and fulfilling job you will ever have.” Or, similarly, “Mommies don’t get paid in money, they get paid in kisses and hugs.” Okay, whatever. I’m not schmaltzy. And, while I may agree in principle with those ideas, I’m not going to start being all sentimental and adoring diaper bags.

Because, after all, I may be a mommy…

…but I’m still me.

Friends, Photos, and Fine Days

26 Jun

Everyone is busy right about now. Busy gardening, busy vacationing, busy running kids from place to place, busy relaxing.

Between the running around and the rehearsing (more on that in days to come) I’ve been busy reading. And washing my windows (thanks, Norwex) and throwing birthday parties that are only six months late. “Happy birthday,” Meep’s friends said to her, and she, very properly, replied, “Thanks”…rather than saying, “Acutally I’ve been ten for half a year already, it’s just that my mom is kinda behind the times.”

I’ve also been busy taking photos…and realizing that I really ought to read my camera’s instruction book…but that’s boring, so I haven’t yet.

So I give you today some photos and the memories that go with them from the past few weeks. The days have indeed been fine…though the epiphanies mostly center around the all-important question: “What’s for dinner?” as opposed to deeper things.

But that’s okay. It’s all good.

Most of the photos are self-explanatory, but let me explain the first two.

I may be wrong when I say this, but as far as I can remember, I’ve never made a point of meeting a “virtual friend” in the bright lights of reality…as opposed to the muted tones of the on-line world. All that changed early this month when I e-mailed my blogging friend, Audrey, at Minnesota Prairie Roots that I’d be visiting her town for a play and could we possibly meet up like at a park or something where the kids could play and she’d have ample oppotunity to cut our visit as short as she wanted…if she wanted!

Instead we got a warm invitation to their home, a delicious dinner, and made some “real-life” friends as opposed to merely virtual ones. Audrey and her husband Randy were lovely hosts. And, happily, our husbands hit it off and had plenty of things to talk about as opposed to standing around awkwardly and wishing that their wives would be a little less verbose.

Audrey’s hospitality extended to having games and sidewalk chalk ready for the kids, bandaides available for skinned knees, wild black raspberries ready for watering mouths, and freshly-picked strawberries and angel food cake for dessert. Does it get any better than that?!

How good it is to make a new friend.

PS – Audrey was recently “Freshly Pressed” (for the second time in her blogging life) here on WordPress – isn’t that cool? Please check out her blog if you haven’t before. (Being “Freshly Pressed” means that she was chosen out of thousands of bloggers to be featured on WordPress’s homepage. Neat, eh?!)

Randy and Audrey! Such gracious hosts and lovely friends.

The two bloggers – I’m the one in pink! So glad that I thought to myself last fall, “I need to look up some other Minnesota bloggers.” Serendipity for sure.

My house is hiding in there somewhere.

What is wrong with this picture?!

A typical view around here…

Cormorants and cranes…

So on our way to Audrey’s house we passed The Blue Angels!!

My neighborly “vulture”.

A small dish of deliciousness!

How random is this?

…a little closer! See her friends behind her?

…and here she is, a few days later!

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