Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chasing Sunsets

This summer I’ve traveled the Midwest, ate lots of great food, and visited one too many gifts shops. But the highlight of summer in Minnesota and Wisconsin is the amazing sunsets. Here are some jaw-dropping shots of God’s handiwork. Feel free to steal these and use them on your website or just for fun . . .


Sunset on the mighty Mississippi River.
The day ends in St. Paul.
Historic Fort Snelling, Minneapolis.
Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis.
The St. Croix River, bordering Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Amherst, Wisconsin
Lake Michigan
Near Green Bay
On the road to Door County. 
Green Bay
And hey, good news . . . summer isn't quite over yet. Grab your camera and head outside around 8:15'ish to snap your own sunset pix!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Celebrate with Cake

Celebrations are more fun when cake is involved. My creations are simplistic yet yummy, such as this zebra cake for our fashionista.

Quirky and bright themes please Grand-girl # 2. 
The mustache on this Lorax cake was a favorite,

One year, Smurf Chef had a cupcake just for her.

My grandson's eyes lit up when he saw this campfire cake with toasted marshmallows. The flames were made by cracking cooled, melted cinnamon hard candies. 

Carmello candies served as bullets for this gun cake, which he declared "cool". 
I did in fact, chill the cake and used Smuckers Magic Shell to give the gun its metal sheen.

Cakes I've made include a Candyland gameboard, a raccoon from a Wilton lamb pan, a pirate ship (that's a story all its own), an ice cream sandwich train, an impressive dragon with wings (my favorite), and this bird's nest cake.

Although my cakes are amateurish, I've refused to be intimidated by bakery cakes. Someday I may have to take a cake decorating class. Until then, I'll have fun planning, creating, and eating. Pass the fork please.

Mary Allen wishes a sincere happy birthday to all you August babies! May you have creative birthdays.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What is a Week at Camp American Legion?

At the end of July, I was blessed with an experience I'll never forget. I spent a week at Camp American Legion. Situated in beautiful northern Wisconsin near Minocqua, Camp American Legion is the only rehabilitation camp of it's kind offering its facilities free to veterans and their families. (You can find out who is eligible to attend here.) While there are other AL camps scattered throughout the country, Camp AL in Wisconsin gives veterans, and now their families, the opportunity to attend camp, be refreshed, and find fellowship and healing without any cost to the veteran. As the staff explains, it's a place that seeks to provide healing for the mind, body, and spirit.

This year, Camp AL began a new program that allows for the wives and children of those deployed to come to a week of camp for support and encouragement. I, myself, am not a veteran, but with my son currently deployed, I was able to attend camp with my daughter-in-law and lend a hand with my 11 month old grandson.

Our first day at camp, we discovered the service attitude of all the staff and volunteers at camp. They made us feel like royalty. We stayed in a lovely cabin on the edge of gorgeous Big Carr Lake, and they stuffed us with three huge meals a day, all served in the elegant dining hall, and we availed ourselves of the opportunities to swim, canoe, hike, play ping-pong and pool in the health and wellness center, relax in the activity lounge, peruse the library, rest, eat s'mores around the campfire, and even feed the chipmunks that liked to gather at "Chipmunk Crossing" where they were able to get free handouts from a big can full of peanuts. You could also take out the motor boats and paddle boats, or even go on the pontoons for fishing and relaxation cruises, though we opted out of those activities.

Most of all, we enjoyed meeting the people there. We will never forget the many staff who made our stay comfortable and entertaining, but also the other campers. We especially enjoyed the opportunity to get acquainted with 92 year-old, WWII veteran Gordon and his lovely wife Martha. My grandson became a favorite, and they agreed to become pen pals.

If you know a veteran who could benefit from a week at Camp American Legion, encourage them to take a look at the AL website and consider attending. Next year my son and his family will have the opportunity to spend a reintegration week at camp, where they can relax, re-bond, and be refreshed. I so hope they are able to go.  

With gratefulness and appreciation for our veterans, those deployed, and their families,

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pony Express National Historic Trail

Yes, the Pony Express trail starts in the Midwest! I didn't realize it, but when we set out this summer on our vacation, we were following along this short-lived but significant piece of history. I have no personal photos to show you, I'm sorry to say. We were in a long line at Farson's Mercantile in Fremont to get a bucket of ice cream they called a cone on a hot day. The maps were all over the store, and one of the Pony Express historic stops had been preserved across the highway, but we didn't mosey over lest our ice cream melt.

Welcome to Farson Mercantile

You can find great information here at the National Historic website, EyeWitness History, and here at the PonyExpress site.

The Trail celebrated the 155th anniversary in April of 2015. St. Joseph, MO, claims the fame as the national headquarters and has a museum.

In a nutshell, after gold was discovered in California and more and more settlers moved west, people wanted a convenient and efficient way to stay connected to family and businesses across the country. In 1853 two gentlemen formed an express shipping company to deliver military supplies around the west. A year later one of their employees has a conversation with US Senator Gwin from California who proposes a bill in Congress to establish a fast horse route for mail delivery to California. It took a few years, but in the early months of 1860, that employee, Benjamin Ficklin, was in charge of setting up the route from St. Joseph through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, and California, about 2,000 miles altogether with station houses 10-15 miles apart on the Overland Route. Stationmaster quarters were set up every 100 miles or so. Ficklin hired the stationmasters, bought 400 horses and was all set to go with the first rider on April 3, 1860. However, a slow train held up the first ride until that evening when John Fry (below) and his horse Sylph left to cheering crowds about seven p.m. on the first leg to the eventual terminus in Sacramento, California. Eventually the route was tweaked until the entire ride could be accomplished in a week.

The Express was doomed to be short-lived. On June 16, 1860, Congress voted to establish a transcontinental telegraph line, and December 2, South Carolina seceded from the Union.In October of 1861 the telegraph is completed and the Pony Express is officially discontinued on October 24.

And yes, Wild Bill Hickock was a stock tender for one of the stations and involved in a murder trial which you can read about, and Mark Twain used his experience with the Pony Express in Nebraska in one of his books, Roughing It.

Monday, August 10, 2015


They are known as the dog days. Hot and humid they feel longer even though they aren’t.
The frantic pace of parades, picnics and family vacations begins to slow. A symphony of summer sounds reaches a crescendo with the rhythm of the cicadas. The trees, so laden with leaves, they seem weary from holding them up with hot August breezes so gentle, they are no help to them at all.

Mornings are drenched with heavy dew that clings to everything it touches. The sun’s rays at dawn reveal how it coats even silken strands of a spider web. Heat comes early and tries to claim each droplet as the cool earth pulls it back into white waves of fog before letting go. As the sun climbs higher the fragrances of the wet grasses and musty soil give way to ripening fruit and the earthy smell of mushrooms and nuts.

Evening comes with a cool breeze, still laden with moisture, that seems to envelope and caress the skin. The cool clamminess is a welcome exchange for the stifling heat and humidity of the days. The hums of the crickets and frogs join together to rise and fall like the chords of an organ, soothing and peaceful.

August is not the end of summer it is the peak of summer. It is God’s nature on joyous display before the harvest and a time to rest in the fullness of His creation.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

New Journey and a New Book

Shelley Wilburn

This past spring I embarked on a new journey; Published Author.  It’s difficult to call myself that, but in another sense I’ve been waiting seemingly my entire life to become one!  In March, my first official book was released in both eBook and paperback titled, "Walking Healed, A Journey of Forgiveness, Grace, and Hope."

"Sometimes... we have to get to a certain point in our lives where we are actually ready for God to use us. And God has to get us to that certain point in our lives when the clay is ready for the Master's hands. I was at that point the night God healed me." ~Shelley Wilburn, excerpt from Walking Healed 

Walking Healed is a journey of healing that I take my readers on. For over two years I wrote on my blog about the healing that the Lord did in my life when He healed me of over forty years of depression, intimidation, and mental and emotional abuse. Last fall it occurred to me that maybe my story could help others who are suffering the same things. So I began compiling some of my blog posts, ideas, and other things into a book to help others find not only healing, but encouragement and hope along with forgiveness in their lives.

With the help of some good writer friends, including editing by my friend-I’ve-never-met, Lisa Lickel and a beautiful book cover created by my sweet, dear friend, Patty Wysong, Walking Healed became a reality within a few short months. When I got to plan and attend my first ever book launch and signing, I was stunned.

But what I’m really trying hard to learn is how to promote this book and myself. I’ve never been one to bring attention to myself, which is a byproduct of some of the mental and emotional abuse I endured growing up. However, I’m working on it. Having said that, I also know that Walking Healed is a good tool for people who want to learn to walk healed, or learn how to handle confrontation, set boundaries, stop making excuses, or even start a prayer journal to become closer to the Lord.

In Walking Healed I have become very transparent in the things I went through and experienced in the hopes that those who may be suffering the same things will see that they are not alone. They can survive and they can live the abundant life that Jesus died so that we can have.

When someone asks me what Walking Healed is about I simply tell them that it’s about how the Lord healed me of over forty years of depression and mental and emotional abuse. But I really think it’s about more than that. Because once you’re healed you begin a journey. This journey is one of finding your purpose. You find that through forgiveness. When you find forgiveness you find grace. When you find grace, you find hope.

It doesn’t happen overnight. I was blessed in that God healed me in one evening. That started my journey. I’ve written about it for more than three years. I learn something new every day. I often have setbacks. But those also teach me. My book is just like that. I tried to spell things out in a clear way that those who may be suffering now will be encouraged. My hope and prayer is that people will be blessed.

Walking Healed is available in eBook and paperback and can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Kobo, and iTunes. Or… for a review I would be happy to email an e-copy (PDF, mobi, or epub) of the book to anyone who asks, or I'll sign and mail a paperback to the first ten responders. You can contact me via email at shelley@shelleywilburn.org.

Take a look at Walking Healed on the Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Healed-Journey-Forgiveness-Grace/dp/0986431109/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438994496&sr=8-1&keywords=walking+healed+shelley+wilburn 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Community, Small and Large

A few weeks ago we headed down I-35 toward Des Moines, and passed a lot of white vehicles. I snapped this photo when I realized they were electric company folks en route to aid Southern Iowa flood victims.

They reminded me of all the times someone has needed help here in our small town, and voila! Someone comes on the run. That happens all the time with our volunteer ambulance--there's always someone committed to respond to "the call." 
If we spread out all the concern like lights over our town of 1,000 on a clear summer night, there'd be a whole lot of glints and glimmers. We've lived in larger places, too, and the same concept applies. Maybe it's because so few live here that it seems more integrated…not a series of neighborhoods, but three or four in the whole town. 

On the Fourth of July, we hosted a birthday picnic for my husband, a Stars and Stripes guy, and one of the families we invited couldn't come. They were already committed to a neighborhood picnic. That's pretty cool. 

I'm not sure where these electric trucks originated, probably Minnesota or the Dakotas  … but the time, energy, and finances they expended to help out Iowans in need had to be considerable. This unexpected expression of goodwill cheered me. At the time, I was deep in research and writing about the horrendous World War II atrocities in Southern France, and realized that in the same way, NATIONS came to aid the French people. The Resistance camps swarmed with Spanish, Polish, Russian, Belgian, American, British, Canadian, and other volunteers. 

Sure hope our old world never has to go through anything like that again, but it's good to know people everywhere reach out to help. 


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