February 2008 Greetings from the Blooms!

When my Christmas letter got too long Gary suggested I put it on line so as not to overwhelm those who receive it.  This way it is an option, not an “Oh, no!  ANOTHER long letter!”  So, to our Christmas card readers and anyone else, Hello!  Our peripatetic life continues to be exciting, fulfilling, and BUSY.  Thanks to all who sent lovely cards and letters at the RIGHT time.  We love reading family epistles and seeing the smiling faces of friends and relatives.


 2007 was another year of travel for BooksBloom.  We were “on the road” 240 nights.  Here’s what our year looked like:

January: First we did a seminar in Indialantic, FL with the Willers, then enjoyed the sixth annual Living Books Retreat in Lake Wales, FL at the home of Bob and Tina Farewell.  We took our first trip to Miami, FL, where we had a boat tour of the Miami Harbor courtesy of Shirley Solis’s mom.  img_0522.jpg  

Then we headed north, to the Midwinter Conference in Grand Rapids, MI with Zan Tyler, followed by a day of sightseeing at the Gerald Ford Museum and frolicking with the Prewitts. img_0535.jpg

February took us back to Minnesota and Jenni asking, “Were you serious when you asked us to move into your house?”  I had three weeks to dejunk, unclutter, babyproof, and catproof our house for the imminent arrival of Jenni, Jason, Mikey, and Charlie, who had just been born January 13th.  img_0563.jpg  We still think it’s hilarious that we are the grandparents of THREE boys

We left MN in March to attend an amazing marriage retreat in the mountains northwest of Colorado Springs.  Almost 10 years ago we had participated in a 10 day marriage counseling program and this was the first alumni retreat for those who had gone through this program.  (stonegateresources.com)  We had a great time learning and growing in the Lord along with climbing mountains, catching mice in our cabin (3!), and having deep, meaningful discussions with the others. 


We did a seminar in Colorado Springs in the art studio of our friends, the Hopkins.  Then on to Loveland where our darling niece, Katie, helped us at a conference.  We buzzed over to Indianapolis, then back to Nebraska where we always enjoy the rousing ruckus at the Gage household.  We were home for Easter and enjoyed the moving Easter service at the High School.  The drama group from our little church does SUCH a magnificent job.


April was the MN conference in Rochester. It was a joy to have Jenni, Jason, and the boys help us at our booth.  We LOVE introducing family members to the friends we have made on the vendor trail.  Our kids are so much a part of who we are and it is odd that so many of our good friends don’t know that important part of us. 

Following MN was one of the highlights of our year: we went to ALASKA!!!  I was asked to be the speaker for four conferences and I cleverly suggested that Gary come along since he is also a speaker.  So off we went for a whirlwind two week visit!  We landed in Anchorage to learn that the flight to Juneau had left 15 minutes early and we had missed it.  We were told that we should have called ahead.  We responded that we were in the air and flights NEVER leave early in the REAL world!  We waited on stand-by through 3 flights before we finally got on the plane for Juneau almost 24 hours later.  We had a quick tour of Juneau and a fun pot-luck with about 15 homeschooling families.  The next day we did a conference for the Juneau homeschoolers.  Wednesday we flew back to Anchorage and on to Fairbanks.  It was still WINTER in Fairbanks but the midnight sun phenomena had begun – it stayed light until almost 11 P.M. and dawn began about 4 A.M.  The conference was held Thursday and Friday and was interesting and well-attended.  Since we could not bring our trailer full of books, we had mailed boxes of books and had those for sale.  It was a challenge to have only 200 books available instead of the usual 4,000! 

For our day off after the Fairbanks conference we rented a car, added a new friend, Brian, to it, and drove about 2 hours to Cheyna Hot Springs, where we lounged about in HOT water for a few hours.  It was great! 


On Sunday we took the train from Fairbanks to Anchorage.  What is normally an 8 hour drive took 12 hours by train.  There was only one passenger car with 12 of us on board.  The conductor had the train stop for our viewing pleasure – MANY times!!!  We got great photos of Mt. McKinley, moose, and Dall sheep.  img_0627.jpg

During this off-season the train also stops when it is flagged by back country residents, with 4 or 5 climbing aboard along the way. Monday we set up for the Anchorage conference- by far the largest of the four conferences.  The whole Alaska situation is unique – vendors come up to do 3 or 4 of the conferences, so we are together for many days instead of the 2 or 3 days of a regular conference. 

img_0644.jpg It was such fun to form new friendships over meals, late night coffee breaks, and sightseeing.  After Tuesday’s close we rented a car and drove to Soldotna, on the Kenai Peninsula, for the last conference on Wednesday.  While there we enjoyed dinner with the nephew of our friends, the Korkkis, and heard about salmon fishing on the Kenai River.  (Jim and Cindy Nelson, www.kenairiverfront.comWe stayed an extra day and drove to Homer, but it was not the tourist season yet so most of the shops were closed.  All of Alaska was still locked in winter while we were there, with piles of snow, icy rivers, and bare-branched trees.  There were no flowers yet and it was COLD.  Yet we could see the beauty that is there and would someday love to return in the summer to enjoy it even more.

Though we had a magnificent time in Alaska, we were caught between a rock and a hard place – the conference organizers had realized that my book, Who Should We Then Read? was a bit “too Christian” for this group, which was under the auspices of an Alaskan school district.  Since we could not sell it we chose to give it away (with a gentle suggestion that a donation be mailed if possible.)  When I was asked to speak I was asked if I could moderate my talks to not include direct references to Jesus Christ and Christianity.  No problem since most of my talks were about books and all direct references to the Bible could be omitted.  The ONE talk I said I could NOT modify I was asked to give at all four conferences for the opening session which was also a breakfast.  People had to buy TICKETS for the breakfast and each of the breakfast sessions was sold-out!  I was able to share TRUTH about life and homeschooling and encourage many parents to LOVE their children as they also instruct them.  It is an emotional challenge for me to give this “Help!  I’m a Failure!” talk but the Lord always blesses my willingness to share some of the hard lessons we’ve had to learn. 

We got home from Alaska late Sunday night and left the next day for Oklahoma.  May already?  We visited my aunt and uncle near Branson on the way there.  It’s always a joy to be with them.  After Oklahoma we had the awesome privilege of spending 3 days and nights at a fancy cabin, courtesy of our friends, the Knapps.  These cabins are tucked away in the mountains and hills of east Oklahoma and are beautiful!!!  img_0655.jpg  (Tim and Suzy Knapp, www.riversedgecottages.comIt’s always fun to chat with their 3 kids.  I met one of my new favorite authors this year when Nate, the eldest, and a budding author, gave me a book he had gotten at a writer’s conference.  I LOVED the book, BOO, by Renee Gutteridge, bought the sequel, and am eagerly awaiting the 3rd book in the series.

 From Oklahoma we went to Arlington, Texas and then on to Nashville, Tennessee.  After Nashville we drove as fast as possible to get to Winston-Salem to drop off the trailer so we could dash to Norfolk to see JJ.  img_0684.jpg  Here’s Gary, JJ, and Blaizen splashing in the surf at Virginia Beach.

We spent 2 days with him and met his pastor, Angus.  Now THIS is a God story…in November of 2006 we had flown to Norfolk for JJ’s homecoming from a deployment.  Before we left MN I had googled E.Free churches in the Norfolk area.  I wrote down the 1 I found and gave that information to JJ at that time.  The Sunday after we left him to come home (Thanksgiving Sunday) JJ drove to the church for Sunday School.  There was no Sunday School that day.  HOWEVER, the pastor, Angus, and his wife, Sue, were at the church already and had all that time to get to know JJ.  They invited him home for dinner and JJ soon discovered he had a church home and a strong, supportive church family.  We thank God for putting Angus MacDonald at Great Bridge Evangelical Free Church!!!img_1235.jpg

After Winston-Salem we tootled on over to Wichita, Kansas.  We get to stay with the Haydens there, which is always a joy, and then go on to the Ruebkes place in Newton, which is always the greatest lark of them all!  June came and it was time for Des Moines where we stay with our dearest friends, Bob and Cathy Sorensen, img_0199.jpg  and then went on to Denver.  After Denver we did a new show (for us) in Salt Lake City.  Yes, it was a Mormon conference, but the people were VERY nice and obliging.  We had to replace a radiator there, which was quite the task for Gary.  Portland was next.  We hadn’t made a hotel reservation and the ones surrounding the conference center were full, so we stayed a mile or so away in a VERY interesting part of town. 

We had two weeks off after Portland and were able to spend a few days with our old friends, the Fletchalls, near Junction City.  Marlon had planned to paint their Swiss Chalet style house so Gary got involved with that and ended up doing much of the work. img_0721.jpg

This was great for Marlon, since he has a few physical limitations.  We were blessed to see Marlon’s mom, Ruby, rise from her bed of illness and take on the world again.  We met Ruby in 1984 when we visited the Fletchalls the first time.  What a godly example she was.  Her prayer was to live to see the birth of her first great-grandchild.  God granted her extra days and though she didn’t get to see the new baby, born in England where her daddy is serving in the Air Force, she got to see pictures before going home to heaven in early Autumn.

Is it July already?  We spent a few days with my aunt, Elna, in Rancho Cucamonga.  Her ministry in MY life is felt daily.  Then we did the L.A. conference in Long Beach.  The Sunday after that conference we took the ferry out to Catalina Island with our friends, Bob and Shelley Noonan.  img_0734.jpg

What a beautiful place!  We loved wandering the streets and shops of Avalon and hope to return this year for a longer time.  We bopped on over to Phoenix and a visit with Keith and Kathy, and then went back to California, stopping to visit our friends in La Quinta.  Modesto is always a fun conference with our friend, Dan Glaeser.  We did an extra conference in Santa Rosa and got to see our pastor’s daughter, Tina, there.    From Santa Rosa we went to Mission Viejo and our friends, The Halcombs, img_0765.jpg and then on to Vista to visit new friends from Alaska, the Guffantis.  After a few days with Gary’s aunts and uncle in San Diego, we headed east to Houston.

By now it is August and VERY hot.  Sleeping in our van is NOT an option when it is still 98 degrees at midnight!  We got to Houston and were pleased and delighted to stay with my nephew, his wife, and their 4 delightful sons.  On the way north we stopped to see his mom, my cousin, who lives south of Dallas.

Though our life is strenuous when we are doing conferences, there are the days between conferences when we are refreshed and invigorated by friendships and fun times.  We really are NOT retired we just live our lives at a totally different pace than most people!

We ambled on home to Minnesota, visiting friends in Dallas, img_0798.jpg

Rolla, Missouri, img_0809.jpg  and Des Moines. 

We got home in time to attend the Minnesota State Fair img_0830.jpg and be home for Labor Day, when Gary ran a 5 mile race in the next town. 

We were only home 2 weeks in September before leaving for a fall seminar tour.  We returned to Des Moines where Gary did projects for Bob and Cathy and Jan began to work on volume 2 of Who Should We Then Read?  From Des Moines we drove right by Niagara Falls img_0885.jpg in order to get to New Hampshire for a family camp.  While in New Hampshire we visited my cousin, Mark, whom I haven’t seen for YEARS.  We did a small conference in Boston, another one in Connecticut, and a third in Pennsylvania.  While in Lititz, Pennsylvania we attended an Amish Flea Market with Steve Demme and his wife, Sandy, which was really fun, though VERY rainy and wet. img_0915.jpg Gary enjoyed playing ping pong with Steve and his son, Jonny.  Our other friends in Lititz, the Eippers, are soon moving to Delaware and we look forward to seeing them there! 

img_0943.jpg  We got to spend time with Gary’s sister in the D.C. area – after spending an evening with Gary’s sister’s former neighbor and her family, the Bechtels, in Pennsylvania.  I marvel at the interconnectedness of our world!

Our final seminar was in Abingdon, Virginia.  We have never experienced such success book selling!  Our host family, the Cottrills, have established a homeschool library there in the Southern Virginia Highlands.  img_0957.jpg  The families who came to the seminar already knew the power of a Living Book and they were ready to add to or begin their own home libraries.  Oh!  To have Emily Cottrill with us all the time to lead people to the perfect books!

After a brief visit with our friends, the Baughns, img_0962.jpg we headed home.

We arrived in Cokato at the end of October.  Gary quickly finished a room off on the second floor of our garage so I could have a place to work on my next book.  The house was inhabited by 2 little boys now so I needed a quiet, set-apart place.  It was lovely to awaken each morning to the loving hugs of these future men – Gary loves being grandpa to these rowdy underlings!  I worked diligently on the book, finishing the author biographies at the end of November. 

img_0990.jpg  Our house is old – built in 1897, and added onto in the 1930’s.  Right before Thanksgiving we decided to do insulation, siding, and new windows.  We should have done this 11 years ago when we moved in, but now is better than never, so a new project began.  Whew!  WHAT a project.  If not for the help of Jenni and Jason’s church friends, a few of our friends, and a fabulous worker, Jesse, it could not have been done. copy-of-img_1109.jpg We actually left home before it was done and have not seen the finished house with new siding.

We left Minnesota on December 12.  We drove to Norfolk, Virginia and dropped our van and trailer at Angus’s house.  We rented a car and drove to Jacksonville, Florida.  We met JJ out at Mayport Naval Base, where the USS Enterprise had just arrived home from a 6 month deployment.  This was a very hard deployment for everyone since the ship had left Norfolk in July – only 7 months after their last deployment ended.img_1195.jpg

Also meeting us there were Stottler and Judy Starr.  Judy, who is Gary’s sister Cindy’s husband’s sister, was accompanying us on a Tiger Cruise.  A Tiger Cruise is scheduled at the end of a deployment.  It is an opportunity for civilians to see what happens on a Navy ship.  At Mayport 1200 sailors debarked to be replaced by 1200 civilians.  The ship was at its usual 6000, but 25% were Tigers.  Last year (2006) Jodi, our second daughter, and Gary’s 81 year mother, Ruth, did a Tiger Cruise from Lisbon, Portugal to Norfolk – a 9 day voyage.  We did a 3 day trip from Mayport to Norfolk.  WHAT an adventure this was!  Judy and I were berthed in different parts of the ship.  Gary got to be in JJ’s room.  JJ had recently been promoted to a First Class Petty Officer, so he was in a room with only 6 beds, one of which became Gary’s.  I was in a berthing unit with 150 (?) gals who shared 4 toilets, 4 showers, and 3 sinks.  AY YI YI!!!

We boarded the ship Sunday.  img_1140.jpg On Monday we got to see an air show from the flight deck!  Imagine, we were less than 50 feet from the FA-18 Hornets as they were catapulted into the air or captured on the #3 wire coming in.  Awesome!  As we stood on the deck 2 of the planes flew past and broke the sound barrier in front of the ship.  Again, AWESOME!!!!

The sailors and officers both were extremely kind and helpful on the ship.  It was entirely too easy to get lost on this, the world’s largest aircraft carrier.  The flight deck is the size of 5 football fields!  It is about 20 stories from top to bottom.  Everywhere we went, if we were with JJ, we were stopped and told how wonderful our son was.  img_1152.jpg  It was pretty wonderful.  Many times I was asked if I had been on the Tiger Cruise last year – were they mistaking me for Jodi or for Gary’s mom??!!!

When we landed in Norfolk on December 19th, JJ got to see his son, Blaizen, immediately.  img_1218.jpg  Blaizen’s aunt, Heather, brought him to the homecoming on the pier.  Pastor Angus was also there as well as another family from JJ’s church.  We spent Christmas in Norfolk.  It was good.  We were hosted by Pastor Angus and Sue and then by Mike and Judy Dingman.  We are becoming very good at this professional houseguest thing! 

After the New Year we’ve been busy traveling again …Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and North Carolina again.  We kept thinking about a Christmas letter but haven’t taken the time to write it.  Life on the road is NOT conducive to typing, printing, and copying letters.  But now we have a few days in Des Moines and I’ve decided to “Git’r dun”.

We are looking forward to another conference year.  Our schedule is on our website (www.booksbloom.com).  We still love traveling, buying great old books, teaching about the great old books, selling the great, old books, and each other.  Mighty Whitey is 377,000 miles strong – which amazes us.  We’ve had her seven years!!!

If you’ve read this far, I commend you!  Reading through this chronicle might be a bit dull for anyone who hasn’t LIVED it!  As I wrote it I had so many great memories of special times with those who have shared their lives with us this past year.  What stands out is how IMPORTANT we are to each other.  The refreshment and revitalization we receive along the road from our dear brothers and sisters in Christ is vital to our continued success as traveling gypsies.  God has woven the lives of so many others into the tapestry of our lives – all beautiful threads, to be sure!  We’ve provided Him with all the dark threads that He needs!

If you are reading this you are already aware of our blog and newsletter.  Just in case you’re reading it another way, our blog is:www.booksbloom.wordpress.comOur newsletter is at www.yahoogroups.com with booksbloom in the search bar.Our website is www.booksbloom.com 

We appreciate prayer on our behalf as we travel:

*For journeying mercies and safety on the road

*For good conferences that will pay the bills and allow us to print our books

*For our families since we don’t get to be with them often (maybe this is good??!!)

*For our walk with Christ- that it will be always real, true, and stable 

Thanks for traveling with us as we retrace our steps in 2007.   

Gary and Jan Bloom img_1222.jpg  (That’s us celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary December 20 in Virginia!)


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