Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Quest for Grandpa's Butterflies

My grandpa passed away about nine years ago.
It is his wife that just passed away last week.

My Grandpa and Grandma are together again in heaven.

When the family gets together and talks about Grandpa and Grandma, there are a few things that always come up...

1. The house.
Grandpa built their house. It was amazing. Cathedral ceiling in the living room. Massive stone fireplace and chimney. It was a really cool house.

2. The Greenhouse.
Grandpa built the Greenhouse business as well and most of us in the family worked there at one time or another.

3. Camping and canoeing.
One of my favorite memories is going on a backpacking and canoeing trip in Canada with Grandma, Grandpa, my sister and my cousin. A week in the wilderness, carrying everything we needed.

4. Butterflies.
Always butterflies. Grandpa collected them. He caught many of them himself. His collection is beautiful. Stunning. It was in his office at home and always drew us there. I don't think there was a time that we visited and didn't look at the butterflies. Even after he passed away... I started taking Liza and Jason to see the butterflies. Grandpa taught us how to catch them and handle them so we didn't hurt the wings. Grandpa is the reason me, and many of his other grandkids, love butterflies.

Eventually, Grandma needed to get rid of the collection. She was selling the house and moving into a smaller one. The collection had to go.

It ended up at Genesee Environmental Center in Genesee, PA... two hours from my hometown.

I always said it would be nice to have a few of the butterflies in the family... but they had been given away.

With Grandma passing last week and all the family coming together and conversations of the butterflies happening... I knew it was time to go see them. It is what is left of Grandpa and Grandma. The house has been sold, the business is gone (literally an empty lot), and they are no longer here to take us on outdoor adventures.

But the butterflies remain.

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Enter spontaneous weekend adventure...

I got home from visiting with family Friday afternoon and ran my idea by my sidekick.

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I needed to go see Grandpa's Butterflies and I needed to ask the owners if I could take a case home.

Mike was in, so we called up his mom and asked if she could watch the kids overnight. She was in too! So I mapped it all out on mapquest, booked a hotel and repacked for the weekend.

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On Saturday we dropped the kids off and headed out for the 3 1/2 hour drive. We drove to the middle of nowhere... and then we drove some more. We left Pennsylvania and stayed in Wellsville, NY for the night. We ate dinner at Beef Haus and I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in this nice little town!

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This morning we headed back to PA to see Grandpa's butterflies.

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Genesee Environmental Center is in the middle of nowhere... but every Sunday they serve breakfast/brunch from 8-1... so we went for breakfast.

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I wasn't sure how I would feel when I saw Grandpa's butterflies, but I didn't expect that I would cry before I even went in. We had to sit in the van for a few minutes so I could get myself together. Finally, we went in... and there were Grandpa's butterflies. All of them.

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And I started crying again.

After looking at the butterflies for a while we sat down to eat some breakfast. I told the waitress who I was... and cried again.

I think the realization that a generation of my family is gone finally really hit me... and I realized that the butterflies were all that was left... and I was going to ask them for a case and I counted on them saying no. They had a right to... the butterflies are theirs now.

The owners came out and introduced themselves and let us know that our breakfast would be free. They told me how much they love having the butterflies and how much people talk about them and enjoy looking at them.

I finally got myself together... again... and enjoyed my breakfast. (The food was really great!) And then I took some pictures of the butterflies and walked around the grounds for a bit.

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I was nervous. I had gone with a mission and I didn't know if I could actually ask for one of those cases of butterflies.

Just before leaving I asked to speak with the owners. I told them the importance of the butterflies to the family... the memories. And then I asked. I said, "I'm going to ask you a question, and I realize it's a big thing to ask, so please take some time to think about it before answering. I was hoping that I would be able to have one of the cases of butterflies. I would like to take them home and see if I can split them up and share them with all of Grandpa's grandkids."

I had hardly even finished when the owner said "SURE! Which one? How about one of these?"

And I got my case of butterflies to bring home!!!

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I am SOOOOO incredibly grateful for the kindness and generosity and understanding of those who are now fortunate enough to have Grandpa's butterfly collection.

I HOPE that I am able to split them up without damaging the wings and put them in frames and share them with my generation of the Undercoffer family... the cousins.

I love that I was able to bring a case of Grandpa's butterflies back to the family! As for the rest of the butterflies... I think they are in the perfect place! If you find yourself in a drive-able distance from Genesee, PA on a Sunday, please go check them out! And if you are family... let them know. :)

As for me... I'm going to enjoy having the family's case of butterflies in my home until I can learn how to properly do what needs done.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

A Eulogy for Grandma Jean

My grandma passed away on Saturday. It's been a bittersweet week as we said our final goodbyes but also got to enjoy visiting with family that we don't see often enough.

I had the privilege of giving the eulogy at Grandma's funeral and just wanted to share that with you all today... a small piece of who Grandma was.


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Some of you called her mom.
Most of you called her Jean.
I always called her Grandma... that is, until the great grandkids came along. Then, all of a sudden, she was Grandma Jean.

There are many of us in this room today and we all had a different relationship and connection with Grandma Jean. But there is one thing we all know to be true about her... Grandma Jean knew everyone.

When she met someone, she wanted to know their name and where they live and what they did... and then she would tell them about how she knew their mom or uncle or sister or neighbor.

Grandma Jean knew everyone.

One time she told me she wanted to be one of those Walmart greeters. I thought no way! People would never be able to get their shopping done because when they walked past Grandma Jean they would have to stop and talk for a while... because Grandma Jean knows everyone and she wants to know how their mom or uncle or sister or neighbor is doing. Eventually people would have tried to learn her schedule so they wouldn't shop when she was there... just so they could get in the store... or out before all their frozen groceries thawed. And if they happened to show up one day to find her working they would likely turn around and use the other door or try to dodge past her while she had someone else cornered.

Grandma Jean liked people and she liked to talk to them.

One day I was at a gathering with Grandma Jean. We were at the same table and talking. She brought up wanting to be a Walmart greeter again and that time I shared my thoughts with her about how I didn't think it would go as well as she thought.

She laughed and laughed. She thought it was hysterical... because I was right.

Then she said she also thought she would like to be the person who answered 911 calls. I said, “Oh no! That would be worse! You would answer a call and find out their name. They would say their name and you would get off track and say OH! I know your family! And then start talking about how you know who they know while someone really had an emergency!”

Again, she laughed and laughed.

The following day she told me I needed to share those stories at her funeral and tell people how she would do certain jobs.

So here I am.
Telling you about the jobs that Grandma Jean should never do.

I hope at least in your heart you chuckled a little as you pictured yourself trying to sneak your way into Walmart because you were in a hurry and just knew that if Grandma Jean stopped you, you would be there for a while... talking about all your connections and learning new things about all the people she knew that you knew.

Because that's what Grandma Jean did.

She's no longer here to do that.
But I imagine she went to heaven the other day, met Jesus and then her husband.

And then she started finding and meeting other people.

I imagine she's up there asking their names and where they are from.

And then she's telling them about us.
She's telling them about their loved ones that they too left behind. Their mothers and uncles and sisters and neighbors. She is telling them about you and how she knows you and what you have been up to.

I imagine that Grandma Jean is still being Grandma Jean and doing what she does.
She's just doing it in a far better place.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Maximum Ride - Book Review

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I have always enjoyed books by James Patterson, so when I saw these ones at the thrift store I picked them up out of curiosity. I wanted to know what his young adult books were like.

I didn't hate the books... but I didn't love them either. Part of that may be because I felt like I was getting a lecture on global warming throughout the entire first book. Kind of ruined it for me. But I kept reading.

I'm not sure I'll pick up another James Patterson young adult book because it just felt REALLY young to me. I'm thinking that if I was 14 and reading it... I might have thought it was great.

Perhaps my kids will read them some day... but me... I think I'll stick with his books for adults.


And that's what I've been reading lately.
How about you?
Have you read any James Patterson young adult fiction?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Waterfalls of McConnell's Mill State Park

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There is the waterfall at the end of Hell's Hollow. That's the one we usually go to.

But recently me and Mike took a hike to find the other three. They are marked on the park map and you can pick a map up at the restrooms.

We started by walking down the road, because I just love the massive rocks and we only ever take that road in the car. I wanted to be able to take the time to really take it all in.

When we got to the covered bridge we crossed it and picked up the trail that follows the creek. We walked that until we came to the next bridge that crosses the creek, crossed it, and worked our way back to the covered bridge. It was along this part of the trail that we found two waterfalls.

We then continued on the Alpha Pass trail, because the map said there was another waterfall that I didn't know was there... even though I've been going to McConnell's Mill State Park for about 15 years now. I should have checked the map out more closely much sooner than I did!

Alpha Falls was my favorite! It's at the very end (or beginning) of the trail. Part way up the hill we found a trail that went off to the side and I could hear the waterfall. It was beautiful! I loved it. I want to go back with the kids and show them all the waterfalls. Of course, we haven't had much rain so the falls are likely more of a trickle right now... so I'll wait until we get some good rain... or perhaps the spring after the snow melts. I want my kids to be able to enjoy the beauty of nature like I was able to. A trickle just won't do when it is supposed to be a waterfall. :)

Overall, we hiked about 4 miles that day.

We love McConnell's Mill... and that's where we've been hiking lately.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer Bowling

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At the end of the school year, the kids came home with a paper that said they could bowl one free game per day in the summer at our local bowling alley.

For real!!!

It's a three minute drive from our house so you can believe that we were there several times a week. Sometimes we went alone. Sometimes we met friends there. I always sat and crocheted... because I would have had to pay to bowl.

At first I thought it was too good to be true... but we checked it out and found that there were no strings attached. Any school-aged kid could get shoes and one game free... every. day. they were open.

Today was supposed to be the last day but the extended it until August 28th since school is starting so late for us this year.

What a great program to give kids something to do in the summer and put in them a love for bowling!!!... which is something they can continue to do all of their lives.

Family Bowlaway rocks our socks off!!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Niagara Falls, NY - At Night... with Fireworks

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On the Friday of our trip to Niagara Falls we spent 13 hours at the state park. It's the day that started with Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds and rides on the trolley. We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe and then stayed until the lights came on. We had also found out that there were fireworks at 10:00... so we made our way to the observation deck, watched the lights on the falls, tried not to freeze because the breeze was strong, and talked with some strangers as we waited for the fireworks.

The fireworks started at 10pm sharp... and they were over six minutes later. We laughed. It was so short... but we are glad we stayed because we only get to see fireworks over the falls once in a blue moon. Literally. Because it was the night of the full blue moon.

We loved seeing the falls at night! And it was my favorite time to photograph them. During the day it was too bright and I couldn't get my shutter speed slow enough for the milky looking water photos. As the sun went down though, I was able to get the settings I needed and the photos I wanted. I had my monopod with me for when the sun fully went down and the lights came on. (I definitely recommend a monopod over a tripod simply because of the crowds. I tripod would have been difficult to set up.)

So the fireworks were short, but it was a great way to finish off a long day of exploring Niagara Falls State Park.

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