A Memorable Family Vacation

This is what holidays, travels, vacations are about.  It is not really rest or even leisure we chase.  We strain to renew our capacity for wonder, to shock ourselves into astonishment once again.”

–Shana Alexander, “The Roman Astonishment,” in Life (1967)

Shana Alexander has named something so essential to not only travel but to life itself: our capacity for wonder and astonishment.  How much of life would we miss if we looked, but did not see, the amazement right before our eyes?  What would our lives be if we lost our capacity for wonder and astonishment? 

My family and I just completed an opportunity to enrich these capacities within ourselves. Rick, our son Brendon, and I traveled together to the northeastern states of Pennsylvania and New York and then crossed the border into Ontario, Canada.  We traveled along the rolling hills and mountains of Pennsylvania, witnessed past accomplishments  of talented baseball players at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, visited the home of one I have long admired, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who tirelessly pursued justice for women, and experienced the life-force, and yes wonder, of Niagara Falls in Ontario.

Of course, the best part is that we traveled as family, which for me increased the depth, meaning, and joy of all that we experienced.  How could I not return home full of gratitude for this venture?

Here is a photo journey that outlines the points and pleasures of our travel together:

Hershey, Pennsylvania


Our first stop was to “the sweetest place on earth,” Hershey, Pennsylvania, where Milton Hershey perfected the process of producing milk chocolate.  A great story of innovation and vision.



Flytes of chocolate, from dark bitter to milk chocolate sweet!  My favorite?  Always dark chocolate.  We were told there’s a little over 1,000 calories in these six flytes!




Cooperstown, New York — Baseball Hall of Fame



I was taken by this quote because of my family history.  On many an evening my parents sat on their front porch, listening to a Cubs game on the radio.  I am certain they “saw” every play!



One of the Twins great players honored in the Hall of Fame.


Brendon at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.

Seneca Falls, New York — The Home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton





The home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton


A statue of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton being introduced by a mutual friend.  It was a lifelong friendship, based on a passion for women’s rights, especially the right to vote.  The nineteenth amendment to allow women the vote was passed in 1920.  Neither woman lived to see it happen.


Niagara Falls–Ontario, Canada





Niagara Falls, where we shocked ourselves “into astonishment once again.”


We spent our last evening in Canada at a casino, where a delicious buffet meal of various ethnic dishes was served.  Rick won eleven Canadian dollars!

A Visit to McLeod Plantation Historic Site

Anyone who has had surgery knows that recovery takes a while.  During any rehabilitation period, lives change dramatically, requiring a change in how we spend our time.

This is exactly what my husband and I experienced after his shoulder surgery.   No more trips to the beach; no long walks in Charleston’s summer heat.  Instead, we found ourselves engaged in everyday activities that kept his shoulder safe from harm and, at the same time, promoted healing.  We attended physical therapy sessions, iced the surgical site, and adjusted the sling—many times over!  And six weeks later, we’re not done yet.

A few weeks ago, though, we made a slight turning point.  It was a Sunday afternoon. The temperature and humidity had dropped somewhat while a slight breeze brushed against us as we ventured outdoors and did something besides rehabilitate and give care to the rehabilitator!  We visited one of many of Charleston’s plantations: McLeod Plantation Historic Site, a place that was turned into a museum only a little over a year ago.

The history of McLeod Plantation goes back to the mid-1800s.   William Wallace McLeod acquired this property in 1851 and constructed a home there.  While the McLeod family sought to defend their advantageous way of life, enslaved men and women worked hard cultivating sea island cotton.  It was a place of hard work, struggle, and complex relationships during a time of war and pestilence. Today, states the plantation’s website, “It is a living tribute to the men and women and their descendants that persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality, and justice.”

This historic site is a testament to the living presence of the past.  For more information about and to see photos, go to:




Get in Gear Race: A Rite of Spring

The Get in Gear finish line.  Photo Jan Stanton
                         The Get in Gear finish line.   Photo Jan Stanton

Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Get in Gear race got off to a great start this morning!  This annual “Rite of Spring” sets the official start of the racing season.  And what a great start it was!  Even the weather worked on our behalf.  We were expecting the possibility of a lingering cool rain from yesterday, but by the time the 5K began the sun was shining.

Jan before the Get in Gear 2015.  Photo Rick Stanton.
Jan before the Get in Gear 2015.  Photo Rick Stanton.

This Get in Gear event holds 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon races, with a 2K race for kids held last night. This year there was something new:  Brass Players from the acclaimed Minnesota Orchestra. They led us in the national anthem and provided appropriate music (the “Lone Ranger” theme) at the start of the Half-Marathon/10K!

I ran a better 5K race than I expected.  I’ve been running slowly all spring and didn’t expect to match my record from last year.  As it turned out, I beat it by over one minute.  I felt like I was working really hard to do so, but I felt great when I crossed the finish line.

After I finished, I helped myself to the provided snacks and then watched the 10K and Half-Marathon runners come in to finish.  I was lucky enough to catch the first place male and female half-marathoners as they crossed the finish line!

This is always a great well-organized race, with lots of people (7,000 registered) and excitement.  I was glad to be part of it on this beautiful Saturday morning!

A Great 10K!

It’s been twenty-nine years since I ran my last 10K race.

I’ve been running frequent 5K races since I took up running again several years ago.  But today was the day I chose to stretch myself.  I would double my distance in this popular women’s race, known as Women Run the Cities.  In addition to the one-mile girls race (sometimes accompanied by moms), this popular, annual event offered a 5K, 10K, and 10-mile race.

The course itself was challenging, with a fair amount of elevation along its 6.2 mile route.  I ran this course a few weeks ago, reassured that I could finish, but as race day approached, I felt a bit anxious, wondering if I was really up to this challenge.

Thankfully, I felt entirely different when I awoke this morning.  I had had a restful sleep, and I felt strong, eager to run, and unafraid.  I had lots of energy and genuinely looked forward to the race’s start.  And what surprised me was that I continued to feel strong as I ran.  I can’t say this about all of my runs, but this one seemed to ‘click.’

I really did enjoy it!


Jan, on far right, running a 10K in 1985
Jan, on far right, running a 10K in 1985
Waiting to start! (2014)
Waiting to start! (2014)
And we're off!
And we’re off!


The Uninvited Guest

Getting ready for the Get in Gear Race, April 2013.

It happened November 9, 2013.

It was a Saturday morning and I was out for a run—a longer one, I’d hoped.  Clouds settled over the Twin Cities region, with temperatures in the mid-forties.  No, it was not winter yet, no snow or ice.  I could still run on a clean, paved track along River Road.  It was good to be outdoors, doing what I loved to do.

And then it happened.  I’d covered four and a half miles when suddenly my right leg began to hurt—a lot.  Far more intense than simple soreness or fatigue, this pain was like I’d never experienced before, shooting down my leg with each step.  I wondered how I’d ever get back home, a mile and a half away.

Though concerned, I tried putting on a little optimism, if not downright denial, by clinging to an unlikely hope that the pain would subside all by itself, and soon I’d resume my comfortable run.  That never happened.

Somehow I made it home, every step on the way a throbbing one, until at last I was home, so glad to be off my feet.  Though I usually run every other day, I knew this time would be different. “I won’t be able to run Monday,” I thought.  “I’ll need more rest.  I’ll probably have to wait until Tuesday.”  That never happened either.

By Tuesday, I realized that this injury would need some help to heal.   Diagnosed with an injury to my adductor muscle, I underwent a series of chiropractic treatments, along with rest and frequent periods of icing, hoping I’d be pain-free in a week, maybe two.  After all, I’d registered for the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K with my family, and time was getting close. Surely I’d be ready by then. But as time grew nearer, a healthy sense of realism told me that I would not run in this race.  With sadness, I wrote to my son, “I won’t be able to run with you on Thanksgiving, but I’ll be on the sidelines cheering you and Dad on.”  And so it was.

It’s now been two months since my injury, and I’m well on the path to healing.  Chiropractic adjustments, laser treatments, ice, rest, and appropriate exercises have helped me rebound.  I’m now in the “rehab” portion of my recovery.  I’m even running a little, and I’m optimistic that another run is in my future.

During this time of recovery, I’ve thought of the poem “The Guesthouse” by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet.  Many of us are familiar with this poem, a beautiful piece of writing that encourages us to welcome everything that greets us in lifeeven illness, injury, and disappointment—because everything that life brings to us has something to teach us.  Here’s the poem:

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

 Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing.

And invite them to come in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.

Frankly, I did not welcome this injury.  It was an uninvited guest, an unwelcome intruder that stole my joy of a regular running practice.   It brought with it many fears that lingered in my mind while I was healing.  I worried that the damage I incurred would take too long to heal, that I would no longer run distances again or even run at all.   I wanted it to go away.

But if I seriously reflect on the words of Rumi (and maybe it’s easier now that I’m on the path to healing), and ask if this guest taught me anything, I’d have to say yes, I’ve learned some things.

These past two months have deepened my appreciation for running. When I run, my life is enriched.  And perhaps I have also grown in my empathy toward others who, upon being injured, are prevented from doing that which brings them life.  After all, an injury is a loss and all losses, no matter how minor or uneventful we deem them, affect us.  They deserve our respectful attention.

And so I continue the work of strengthening and healing.  And for those who also wait for healing and a return to what they love to do, I wish them well.

Good healing to all.

The Great Grape Race near Baltimore, MD., August 2013.
The Great Grape Race near Baltimore, MD., August 2013.

Picking Up Where We Left Off

Ruth and Ray Hobson Photo JStanton
Ruth and Ray Hobson
Photo JStanton

Not all relationships are capable of picking up where they left off, especially after a long absence.

But Rick and I experienced this dynamic when my sister, Ruth Ann, and brother-in-law, Ray, traveled from Arizona to visit us last week.

Due to geographical distance and work schedules, frequent visits had been difficult.  Trips to see one another were postponed.  But this was the year that a get-together would take place, and the excitement of their anticipated visit merged with a gratifying experience of wonderful memories.

At the final twins game.
At the final twins game of the season.

We felt comfortable with one another instantly.  We shared openly about our lives and the lives of our children.  We laughed over games. We (tried to) cheer at the final game of the Twins hapless baseball season.  We relaxed as we took a cruise down the Mississippi River.   During these precious few  days together, we bonded more closely.

Families don’t always experience this kind of get-together, I know.  Sometimes fear and defensiveness characterize family visits, making it difficult for intimacy and love to surface.  These are painful times indeed.

But this visit with these two dear people was entirely different.  Our time together “clicked,” and Rick and I are grateful for this family connection.  Our memories will carry us until the next get-together, which I hope will be soon.

What a great thing: to simply pick up where we left off.

Ruth Ann & Jan Photo RStanton
Ruth Ann & Jan
Photo RStanton

A Rite of Autumn: An Arena Sale

It happens every year.

Minnehaha Academy holds a huge arena sale in their…well, arena. Only a few short blocks from my home, this sale draws a large community of people each September.   On the first day of the sale, neighbors line up at least one hour before doors open and pay an entrance fee of $3 to take advantage of those great buys!  And there are plenty.  Here are some examples:

People lined up on an early Friday morning to pay $3 and take advantage of our neighborhood’s Rite of Autumn.
Photo: JStanton

The Furniture department, selling things like end tables, dressers, sofas, love seats, lamps, and porch furniture, seems to be popular right from the start.

The Household department offers items like bread machines, coffee pots, irons, mugs, water bottles, dishes, glasses, pictures and picture frames.

The Clothing departments for women, men, and children, display tops, active wear, suits, blazers, nightwear, t-shirts, pants, capris, coats and loads of ties for men.  There’s even a special section of women’s clothing called The Round Room that holds an inventory of the most exquisite labels in women’s clothing.  A nearby department hosts a big variety of children’s games and toys.

Then there is the Jewelry table with the likes of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, sunglasses, headbands.

The Accessories department sports baseball caps, belts, purses, and scarves.

The Tool department sells everything a handyman or handywoman needs:  hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and…who knows what else?  (I haven’t spent much time in this one.)

The Sporting Goods department is fun for all ages.  A variety of soft balls, baseballs, soccer balls, basketballs, weights, skis, and exercise mats attract an array of customers.

The Antiques department sells old dishes, glasses, knick-knacks, and furniture.

The Electronics department displays computers, stereos, boom boxes, alarm clocks and, interestingly enough, pencils, pens, stationary, calendars, journals, and three-ring notebooks.

The Book department is always popular, hosting cookbooks, fiction, non-fiction, CDs, videos.  Always popular!

The Linen department has shelves stocked with tablecloths, cloth napkins, dish towels, bath towels, rugs, sheets, quilts, pillows, bedspreads, and bath accessories like toothbrush holders and mirrors.

Last but not least, the Trim department displays artificial flowers, pots, and lots and lots and lots of Christmas décor.

I went over there Friday morning and when I found two large items that I could not carry to the check-out table, I called Rick for help.  We had lots of fun finishing up our shopping, purchasing a photo frame, coffee pot, beautiful new wine glasses, and bath and dish towels.

Rick with our new rake–only 50 cents!
Photo: JStanton

In addition to this huge sale, neighbors take advantage of this sale by having sales of their own.  Almost every nearby street has at least one sale.  We benefitted from one of them, where we bought a great rake (it is autumn) and three new decorative pillows for our sunroom (it really did need more color.)

This arena sale, it seems it me, is about more than great bargains.  It is a time when the community comes together, supports a good cause, and enjoys one another’s company on a beautiful fall day.  It truly is the Rite of Autumn in our neighborhood.

And it happens every year!