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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fact Check

I've had the idea for this post in the back of my head for quite some time now, but ideas can be like puffs of smoke. We become aware of them and then they fly away before we notice. It's just that there were a few things that all happened at about the same time and reminded me that this was something that I really wanted to Rave about.

I have come to the conclusion that people will believe anything and everything that they see on the internet. And that despite the widespread knowledge of the various uses and abilities of Photoshop and other photo-editing tools, people still believe that every photo that they see is real. I see people sharing stories and photos on social media every day without verifying if these stories are actually true. I have gotten to the point where I don't want to share any stories without doing some quick research first.

One of the things that reminded me of wanting to write this post was a photograph that I saw posted for the umpteenth time about "purple ladybugs which are only found in Hawaii." The photo shows a number of brilliantly purple ladybugs on a black and white background. My first thought, of course, is of why I have never heard of this before. No, I've never been to Hawaii, but I know lots of folks who have, and they all know how much I love purple. Nor have any nature programs or articles mentioned this intriguing little creature. If you do a few seconds of research, you will not be caught sharing this story and altered picture. Incidentally, the photographer who turned the ladybugs purple also has the exact same photo with them in yellow, green, and red, among other colors. 

I've also seen posts showing purple crested owls or other adorable little critters with descriptions that say things like "whoozywhatsis, REAL." In the case of the whoozywhatsis, it was indeed real. A real toy. Yes, what was being represented as an incredibly cuddle-licious little real animal was a cute and cuddly stuffed toy. One of the latest is a dog who is supposed to be so rare he is the only one of his species. He just happens to be the only one of his species who was either painted with dog-safe hair dye or photoshopped with cheetah markings, right down to the black lines on the face.

Another rumor that won't die, even after more than fifteen years, is the rumor that ramen noodles or the Styrofoam cups that they are often packaged in, or both, are coated with wax that will cause cancer or otherwise kill you. These stories claim to come from the experience of a friend who discovered his stomach was lined with a coating of wax which had to be surgically removed. During the surgery, the patient died. The noodles and cups are not coated with wax, but if they were, food-grade wax will pass through the body, not getting trapped in the stomach. If people want to get excited about ramen, perhaps they should stick with reality - there's a heck of a lot of sodium in the flavor packet. Also, Styrofoam. Do I need to say more?

Another urban legend that won't die is the story about the exposure of the horrific happenings in the McDonald's beef processing facility in (insert name of city or state here). Yes, folks, the story is scandalous. In fact, it's so scandalous that it can't possibly be true. If it were true, McDonald's would be out of business. You've heard the story, haven't you? The one that says that McDuck's beef processing plant was found to contain not just beef but HUMAN MEAT. And not just human meat. The pieces were small, so it was actually CHILD MEAT. (I want to stress that those terms are from the story, not from me. I would never refer to something this dreadful as human meat, but human flesh.) This is even more imaginative than the story that said McDougal's served Grade Z beef. This is pretty amazing, since there is no such designation from the USDA. The grades are: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. 

Yet again I recently saw someone cut and paste a Facebook status saying that Facebook was going to start charging you, the reader of the post and an unsuspecting Facebook user, a monthly service fee unless you shared this message as your status. It also asserted that you would notice after the post was shared that your Facebook icon would turn blue. Mm-hmm. The Facebook icon has always been blue. There is also no plan to ever charge fees on Facebook. They make plenty of money through their advertising. Apparently this one has been flitting about for several years now. I guess people keep falling for it because their icon is blue after they share the post. The fact that it was blue before the post goes unnoticed.

Of course, there's always examples of the special kinds of people who believe that everything in novels or movies or those special newspapers by the checkout stands in the supermarket is The Truth. When I looked at some comments last week on yet another article speculating about the cause of death of Prince, I hit the jackpot. A comment was made that Prince was murdered by Will Smith. I wish that I had copied the comment so that I could have preserved it in all of its glory forever, but I'll just give you the gist of it. The writer asserted that Will Smith was the last person to see Prince alive (not true, Will Smith posted on social media that he spoke with him the night before). The commenter went on to assert that Will Smith was sent to kill Prince because Will Smith is a member of the Illuminati. After all, the Illuminati had already used their power to make Will Smith the Prince of Bel Air. And all of those years I wasted thinking that it was just a tv show!

I hope I haven't bored you senseless with my Ravings about unreality. I just wish that more people would do an occasional fact check. Although I must admit that sometimes these stories can be rather entertaining!


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Monday, April 25, 2016

Spring Dreams

It's late April again, and this time of year is finding me, or perhaps I should say making me, feel nostalgic. It's a time filled with sweet memories and deep yearning. My body may be here in the suburbs of Denver, but my mind strays to travels from my past and wishes for my future. On an early evening in April some years ago, I boarded a plane bound for Europe. My friends Marie and Julie were on the same flight and Liz would be following us in a day.

To say that I was nervous is an understatement. I've flown plenty of times, and it doesn't scare me. Before this trip I had never been outside of the United States. I mean never even to Mexico or Canada. The trip had been in planning since the previous October. Let me tell you that I am not exaggerating when I say that I had barely slept between October and our departure day in April. Ask Trent, he'll tell you it's true. No, really, I'll wait...

There were many reasons for my sleeplessness and nervousness. One was the excitement of actually traveling internationally. I had wanted desperately to go on the school-sponsored and supervised quick tour of Europe when I graduated. I certainly couldn't have afforded to go with my own money, although my guardians could have afforded to send me. Even if I had had the funds, however, Alice would have refused to allow me to go, and I needed her permission since I was not yet eighteen years old. I asked. Heck, I all but begged. But only tramps travel far enough to not be able to get home and sleep in their own bed at night. Ah, well. What's done is done.

I was also nervous because Liz and I didn't know any of our Hungarian relatives. She had been all of three years old when our family fled occupied Hungary and certain death after the failed Hungarian Revolution. She was too young to remember any of the family. I was born in the States and had never known any of my extended family. I think that both Liz and I were worried about showing up in the village where our mother and all of my siblings were born. How would they react to us? Would they want anything to do with the children of the man who brutally killed their sister or cousin or aunt? And we had no pre-arrangements for meetings - we were simply going to show up in the village and ask for our relatives.

I fell in love with Budapest very quickly. The city is full of beauty and scars from the occupied era. Over and over again, we found the kindest and friendliest of people. I still think fondly of the man who introduced himself as Steve when we walked into his shop on our first full day in Budapest. I greeted him by calling him Istvan, and I had a friend forever. This delightful man treated us wonderfully every time we saw him. He even gave us umbrellas when the spring rains were falling. On the last night we were in Budapest and were picking up last-minute souvenirs, one of the sweet ladies who worked there asked where we were going next. Marie mentioned that we had to go to a store to pick up some toilet tissue because we were almost out. The lady politely excused herself and went to the back room, returning with a roll of toilet tissue which she was kind enough to give us.

While we were in Hungary we spent a day in Vienna, and a couple of days with family. After all of the years of being made to feel like outsiders, it was wonderful to hear our Aunt Lizi tell us that they had tried very hard to get us when my mother died. It was good to know that over all of those years and miles, we were remembered and loved. After we had been to the village, Lizi told everyone she spoke to that her lost relatives had found her. This small village of about four hundred residents was full of people who knew of us and considered us family. I wish that I could go back, and take Trent this time. The first photo is Aunt Lizi, who is gone now, the second is The Lunatic, Lizi, cousin Suzi, Liz, and Uncle Jancsi, who is also gone. 

What a wonderful gift it was to find out that they had been wanting to see us and know us all of those years. To finally have a family and a sense of belonging was beyond description. And although we are family, we were treated as honored guests. Lizi and Jancsi slept on their couches, insisting that we spend the night in their bed. I am sure that no Queen has ever been treated with more consideration and courtesy than that provided by the typical Hungarian host or hostess. They truly do insist on sharing their very best. Of course the best thing that they offered us, and the most priceless, was their love.

It was hard to leave the family and head for Paris. I still long to go back, and I am sure that Liz does too. If Trent and I ever had a sudden large windfall, we would definitely go there. We might even build a home there, or buy a flat in Budapest if we had the means. We can always dream, as I do even more now that it's spring. And we can always have hope.

Notes from The Lunatic: I'll likely write some more about Paris in another post, but I'd like to mention a few tidbits about some differences between Hungary/Europe and the United States.

Cold drinks: We in the States really do love our cold drinks. Not so in Europe, at least the parts I have visited. Most beverages are not kept chilled and if one asks for ice, a cube or two might be given. The only icy cold drinks we had were in Paris at the Hard Rock Cafe, which doesn't really count. Even drinks that were bought from a refrigerated case were never as cold as we were accustomed to having. This isn't a bad thing, just a different thing.

Refrigerators: The fridge in the flat we rented in Budapest was smaller than the ones we see regularly here. That is because by European standards we eat old food. They don't shop once a week or so and stock up on tons of food. They are more likely to stop at a market on the way home from work, or go to the market every day for that day's foods unless it is something they have grown or stored themselves. Again, the refrigerators aren't as cold as ours. We routinely kept our soft drinks in the freezer in our flat in Budapest.

Toilets: Yes, I said toilets. Rather than simply describe it, I will share a picture of the commode in our Budapest flat. The parts are in different places than we have them here in the States. 

Water heaters: The water heater in our flat must have been nuclear-powered. On the first night in Budapest, I wanted to have a shower to wash off the hours of travel before I went to bed. Our little shower had body jets and I was the intrepid explorer who discovered that they could easily boil one's breast meat and turn it into cooked chicken tenders. In fact, we had no microwave oven and managed to cook ramen cups with the blazing hot tap water!

Coats: It seems that everyone always wears a sweater or jacket in Europe. When we felt warm because it was over seventy degrees, my aunt was forcing me to wear socks with my sandals so that I didn't catch a cold. And it seemed that everyone was wearing jackets in Budapest, Vienna, and even Paris. Perhaps they just like to be prepared, but just thinking about it makes me feel overheated!


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Friday, April 22, 2016


I think that the way people react to deaths of famous people can be very telling. From person to person, the comments or responses vary wildly. The reactions may range from dismissive to devastated, and everything in between. There are those who will ridicule others' sadness, and those who will respect it. And of course the numerous know-it-alls that declare that Mr. or Ms. X died as a result of drug overdose or HIV/AIDS or because a higher power was punishing them for being a BAD PERSON.

I'm not the kind of person who revels or rails at someone's passing. I love, respect, and honor far more people than it will ever be in my capacity to hate. As far as judgement is concerned, if a person is wildly different than me but has never broken any laws or inflicted any harm on other people or creatures (or encouraged others to do so), why would I feel the need to judge them? There are numerous truly terrible people now and throughout history that we can commiserate about. Why try to bash someone who is just living their life?

What has put me in this frame of mind is the passing yesterday of the musical artist Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson). When I turned my misbehaving computer on yesterday morning, I saw a large picture with a graphic saying "Prince Dead at Age 57." I was so shocked that I gasped. Trent was surprised and frightened by my reaction because he didn't know what I had seen. When I told him, he was shocked as well.

As the day wore on, the rumors began to fly. As with any untimely death, the "I wonders" and "I bets" flew like snow in a blizzard. Let me simply say this: none of us know what happened. Instead of trying to blame him for his own death, let's just let it sink in that a great musical talent is gone from us. I don't want to speculate about what happened. I just want to allow myself the memories of what he and his music meant to me. 

In the early 1980s I am sure that I listened to and enjoyed songs by Prince before I actually put them together with his name. Shortly after the release of the movie Purple Rain I fell in love with the soundtrack, having never seen the film at that point. I made friends who loved his music and introduced me to this artist, a person who I found both talented and intriguing, and very different from what I had known before.

I would listen in my car or my room, or with headphones on as I mowed the lawn. He was the boldest artist I had ever heard sing, and he could play the piano beautifully and make a guitar sing. His voice ranged from bass to falsetto and the sound of it could be vastly different from one song to the next. I was impressed (actually thrilled) by his this-is-who-I-am attitude, especially because it was balanced with you-be-who-you-are as well. And he could pull it all off when I wasn't yet able to do so.

On an evening in the first week of one long ago November, I had my only experience seeing Prince in concert. Many artists sound very different live than they do in the recording studio. Their voices may not be as strong, or the tones may be different. Not Prince - he sounded as good or better performing live. I was also remembering last night that Gram was talking to her son on the phone a day or two before I went to the concert, and they were ridiculing Prince. They had decided for themselves that he chose the name Prince because he was copying Elvis, who was known as the King of rock and roll. I didn't waste my time telling them that Prince was the name on his birth certificate. What difference would it make? They just saw him as a strange little African-American man. Only they didn't use those exact words. Their words had sharp teeth.

I had no idea as I enjoyed the concert (sitting, standing, swaying, dancing, singing along) that my life had hit a turning point. While I was reveling in the music that had given me such enjoyment, an enemy was growing in my body. What at first seemed to be a cold ended up being pneumonia in both of my lungs. I was too ignorant regarding illness to realize how bad off I was, but I soon found out. For the first time ever, I was so sick, and the healing process so slow and debilitating and depressing, that getting well seemed almost too hard to do. I would lay on my bed with tears streaming down the sides of my face, listening to music and trying to let it carry my sadness away.

By Thanksgiving, I was feeling substantially better, and my relatives were shocked to hear that I had had pneumonia in both lungs and hadn't been hospitalized. I simply shrugged. I didn't know yet that I was a tough old
young bird that was too stubborn to succumb to an illness whose magnitude she couldn't comprehend.

As November waned, I came down with a horrendous sinus infection. I remember telling Gram one evening that my legs were so swollen that my thighs were rubbing together and getting red. A few days later, I was convinced that the pneumonia was back. My chest hurt so much that I couldn't sleep all night. I called Doctor Mike on a Sunday and was admitted to the hospital's Cardiac Care Unit by that evening. Within a few days, I knew that I was in kidney failure due to lupus and my life was changed forever.

Through all of the early days when everything was so new and scary, the one thing I could count on to purge or soothe or express my emotions was music. I think that many of us can be transported to times both good and bad, or sometimes a bit of both, when they hear songs that were a significant part of their lives at the time. And this is why we mourn. No, we didn't lose a family member or an actual friend. What we lost is much harder to describe or quantify. We lost the person who could pick us up when we were drowning in our tears. We lost the person who was able to express our happiness in words and music that we could not have created but that spoke directly to and for us. We lost the one who had the words and music to all of our hopes, fears, dreams, and secret desires.

So yes, you might think that when someone is hurt by the passing of a stranger that they are being childish or silly or melodramatic. You never know, though, when the person who has passed is the one who sang their sorrows, their hopes, and their dreams.  

Postscript from The Lunatic: Trent surprised me yesterday when I was talking to him about how much I loved Prince's music from those older days and how I was so shocked and saddened to see him go. Knowing how I feel about another performer, he asked if I liked Prince more than I did Fred Astaire. I thought for a brief moment and said no, but I liked him as much. And while I was thinking the exact same words, Trent replied, "But in a different way." So very true.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Built By Nature

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

- Christina Rosetti, 1830 - 1894

I thought of this piece of poetry, which I first read dozens of years ago, when we were outside today. I love a lot about this time of year. Our apartment complex has numerous trees that celebrate the end of winter by covering themselves with white or pink blossoms. Some of the trees with white blooms look like they are covered with little puffs of popcorn. As the days pass and the blossom petals fall off, they will drift on the wind. When they land they will swirl and be strewn about until they look like miniature late-season snowdrifts.

I have come to the realization that I love trees no matter what the season. They are built by nature and have an incredible beauty at all stages of their development. When the earliest days of spring roll around, the smaller twigs and branches begin to soften and change to various shades of green or yellow or pinkish-red before the first signs of budding leaves even appear. I find myself wandering in awe and delight, declaring my adoration of these lovely trees in their gauzy green dresses.

Suddenly the leaves begin to appear, followed by the gorgeous white and pink (and sometimes other color) blooms. I catch my breath and tell myself that this is the trees' most beautiful time of the year. When the blossoms have fallen or faded away, the leaves grow to their full sizes and the trees are a gorgeous canopy of varied shades of green. Their branches provide cooling shade for birds, squirrels, and humans alike. The oak tree in front of the next building is loaded with tiny acorns which we first notice when they are the size of peppercorns.  It delights me to see them growing larger through the course of the summer. This is a wondrous time, the time when trees are becoming shade, shelter, and sustenance. 

When fall starts to arrive and the nights begin to cool, the trees prepare themselves for their winter sleep. Some of them have leaves that simply turn brown, like the brown nuts now falling from the branches. Others explode into riotous color. Green yields to yellow and red and one of my favorites, trees whose outside leaves still look green while the undersides are gold or dark red. This is the ultimate in the trees' beauty, I find myself thinking. If I am fortunate, I get up to the mountains to see the aspen trees trembling with their golden leaves on hillsides that were once searched for a different type of gold.

Winter comes, or maybe even fire. The once colorful trees are pared down to their very minimal essence, their branches. Their bones. These have a simple beauty that can leave me breathless. Even showing no signs of life, they have a stark grandeur. I look at a tree that has been stripped of its bark by the ravages of weather and time and see something that has passed its life in quiet dignity, gracing my life with its beauty. A tree whose life is over but still stands strong is an inspiration. I see it and draw in my breath. Even as it slowly fades away, it is beautiful. I love it in all of its seasons.

Postscript: The trees in this blog post were all photographed by The Lunatic, right here in Colorado. The last two photos were taken at Mesa Verde and the rest in the suburbs north of Denver, Colorado.


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Friday, April 15, 2016

This Is Not Your Zombie Apocalypse

I just wrote last night and don't typically post two days in a row any more. I did when I first started blogging, but it wore me out mentally and I found myself searching for things to write about rather than just having ideas flow into my head and through my fingers to the keyboard. Some days just seem to come filled with their own material that begs to be written, so here I am, back at the computer again.

Yesterday we realized that we had forgotten to get a few things that we needed at the grocery store and talked about going out to get them before the weekend. We both felt kind of unambitious (call it lazy if you will, but remember that kindness is a lovely and important quality) and decided that we'd get out today, Friday, and pick up the few things that we wanted and needed. As day began to turn into evening, we learned that about a foot of snow is forecast for this weekend. But mama had to write, so we didn't get out to the store last evening. When we got to the store today we found a parking lot so full of cars that we knew people were stocking up because of pre-snowstorm hysteria.

I will be the first to admit that we do sometimes have horrendous storms here. In fact, we had a blizzard just last month. We got lucky with that blizzard because it was full of wet snow and the temperature the next day was 45 degrees, so the snow departed pretty quickly. We have had blizzards during my years living here that dumped so much snow that it was impossible for most people to get anywhere for many days after the snow fell. We had just such a blizzard on Christmas Eve Day in 1982 which dropped two feet of snow (officially 23.8 inches, so I'm calling it two feet, darn it). Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't listen to the storm warnings and were caught completely unprepared. There were many folks struggling on foot through drifts several feet deep just to get basic food supplies for their families.

Since then, many people will panic when a big storm is forecast, blizzard or not. Those of us who have lived here for many years don't get as worried when it's simply a forecast of a heavy storm, especially at this time of year. Unless it's actually a blizzard, a storm at this time of year is usually a wet spring snow. It weighs down branches and makes travel messy for a day or so and makes us cranky because it is supposed to be Spring, after all, but it doesn't bring the city to a standstill.

I guess that the people who were panic shopping today were thinking about the blizzard last month rather than listening to the weather forecasts. When we walked in to the store, we saw that a huge display of 24-packs of bottled water was almost completely empty. We looked at each other, a bit surprised. Yes, when we have a heavy, wet snow it can affect the power stations and we might be without electricity in different areas for various amounts of time. But the water still keeps running, folks. I said to Trent, "It's just a snowstorm, not the Zombie Apocalypse!"

Getting the few things that we wanted was a hair-raising experience. There were so many people in the store that you felt like you needed to clasp your arms tightly to your sides to avoid having them mauled in a drive-by cart accident. People were blasting around with their carts like they'd never been in a supermarket before. They careened through the aisles like they wanted to get their shopping done before the rioting broke out and the flesh-eating hordes descended.

We made the decision to only get the few things we had coupons for at that store and get the remainder at a smaller, less busy market. At the checkout, I was joking with our cashier. She told me that she could tell by our purchases that we just needed a few things and weren't panicking. More than one customer had come through her line and spent five hundred dollars in a pre-snow stocking-up frenzy. She laughed when I commented that the Zombie Apocalypse was not upon us and we didn't need Sheriff Rick to protect us because it's just a heavy spring snow. 

Our next stop was a quieter and less nerve-wracking experience. It still took about an hour after we got home before we could fully shed the jitters we had gotten from being around all of this near hysteria. We will know by this time tomorrow whether the snowstorm materializes and how much snow will dump on us. Whether it's a little or a lot, we will have sufficient supplies of food, drink, and the all-important toilet paper. And most of the city will be fine, too, even if it isn't the Zombie Apocalypse.


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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tales From The Road - Episode II

This is my second road-trip related post. I kept forgetting to get around to it, and you'll learn later why I think the delay may have resulted in great timing.

I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate in a number of ways. I've survived some awful things but have also experienced some wondrous things. One of the greatest fortunes of anyone's life, I think, is to live in a place that they truly love. I live in the state of Colorado, and the beauty and variety of my home state sometimes takes my breath away. On a recent trip to the southwest corner of our state, I was reminded of the amazing variety we have here. We live in the high plains (our city close to Denver has an official elevation of 5,351 feet or about 1,631 meters) and have a wonderful view of our beloved Rocky Mountains. A fairly short drive will take us to these aptly named mountains which stretch the length of our state.

As we drove south and then west on this trip, we saw flat expanses of windblown land that had yet to feel the kiss of springtime. The grasses were brown; most of Colorado is considered semi-arid, AKA nearly a desert. In fact, one of the areas we were close to on our way is Great Sand Dunes National Park. It is nestled in the San Luis Range and has the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising as high as 750 feet. People are known to sled, ski, and snowboard in this shifting high desert.

When we finally turned west, the scenery was incredible. 

This photograph was taken west of Monte Vista, Colorado in a moving car. As we continued west/southwest, there were mountains interspersed with expanses of flat areas like you see in the foreground of this shot.

I will share more photos of the journey in later posts, because I want to get to one of the most amazing parts of our trip. There is another National Park that I had never seen, and I was eager to go there well before we started our trip. Mesa Verde National Park is the former home of ancient indigenous Americans. They built homes in the high cliffs of the southwestern part of our state between 550 AD and 1300 AD. They raised corn, beans, cotton, and various other crops on the high mesas, and likely hunted a wide variety of game.

These people scaled cliffs to build their homes, first on top of the mesas and then on the cliff sides between layers of rock. My first glimpse of their incredible homes took my breath away. This dwelling is known as Spruce Tree House.

The first photo is through the window of a Museum/Gift Shop, and the second is from behind the building. Across a deep ravine, you see the remains of where these incredible people lived some 1600 years ago. Many of the cliff dwellings are in great danger. In these photographs you can see black streaks coming down from the mesa, which suffered from devastating fires (caused by lightning) in recent years. Theses fires were followed by cooling rains which put added stress on the rock. Eventually it will crumble and the ruins will be lost to the ravages of Nature and time forever.

All around are cactus, yucca, and juniper trees, all of which are many hundreds of years old. 

And then, suddenly, this.

I cannot explain the feelings I had as I walked into the building that protects this ancient home. I am glad that it is surrounded by a fence; many of the cliff dwellings have suffered from wear and tear from the numerous modern visitors walking through. I knew that in walking through the areas around these ancient homes I was walking where they had walked and was standing where their children had played. More than a thousand and a half years ago, this dwelling which is now so very quiet was filled with the bustle of family activity. People slept and dreamt here, they ground corn and cooked meals and fashioned clothing and tools here, amidst beauty such as this.

While we were in this park we saw numerous cliff dwellings from across the ravines. I did not want to tour the ruins close up; although I'd love to see them and walk through them, I don't want to hasten their demise. It is enough for me to have seen them in their incredible settings and marvel at the tenacity of the people who lived there. They lived in this amazing setting for hundreds of years and then moved on. Their homes remain all of these years later to amaze and inspire all who are fortunate enough to see them.

I said at the beginning that it was lucky timing that I hadn't gotten around to writing this earlier. Why? National Park Week is almost upon us, and any National Parks that charge entry fees will have free admissions. Actually it's a bit longer than a week, running April 16 through April 24. If you happen to be near a National Park and can take some time to visit, this is a perfect time to do so. Every one of these parks is unique, and they are all treasures. I hope that if you can't visit one during Parks Week, you're able to enjoy their beauty at some other time. 

More road trip adventures to come in the near future!


The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

Thank you for reading! 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Desert Oasis Wedding

When Trent and I became engaged, we knew that we didn't want a large fancy wedding, or even a small one with all of the hullabaloo, for that matter. I had been through enough sister/cousin/friend weddings as a bridesmaid or guest to know that I didn't want to go through all of that stress or expense. So we decided to hop on a plane (well, we walked on, actually, because it's less tiring and much safer to board that way) and go to Las Vegas.

We were walking down a street on the morning of the big day and trying to decide where we should go for our wedding. We had gotten our license to wed the evening before, but just needed to figure out where to go for the formalities. As we were chatting, someone stopped us and asked if we were in Vegas for a special occasion. When we said we were getting married that day, he asked if we had already planned where to have the wedding.  When we said that we hadn't, he told us that if we went to a "presentation," AKA sales pitch, his company would pay for our wedding and send us to a show that evening to boot.

We figured it couldn't hurt, so we hopped on the private bus to a hotel to hear the pitch. Actually, we found it hysterical that they were trying to sell land in Colorado to people from Colorado. I have fairly high sales resistance, having worked in both direct sales and retail, and we didn't take the bait. But we did take advantage of the freebies that we were promised.

That afternoon we went to one of the numerous Vegas wedding chapels for our wedding ceremony. There was no drive-through service, and no Elvis impersonators presided or entertained at our wedding. However, we did see a Beetlejuice bride in a traditionally designed but very red wedding gown as we passed dozens of little wedding chapels. Before we knew it, the wedding was done.

That evening we went to a show, which we probably wouldn't have done otherwise. We were seated at a table with several other couples and sat back to enjoy our time with these strangers while scantily-clad women with magnificent headpieces danced in between performances from a man doing some comedy and juggling and such.

Now, when we got married, cell phones weren't popular like they are now. They were fairly basic in their functions, too. Seriously, in those days they didn't even have the ability to text. Times have changed a great deal, let me tell you. One thing that cell phones have always had the ability to do, however, is make their presence known to everyone because their owner has forgotten to turn off the ringer at a time when it should be silenced. And this is exactly what happened during this show.

The comedian/entertainer was in a rather precarious position when the cell phone started ringing in the audience. He had tied a length of rope to two chairs and was using it as a tightrope. While he was on this shaky and dangerous contraption, he was also juggling. And then the phone went off. Everyone else at our table made disgusted sounds and comments about the phone owner's rudeness. Not me, though. Without even thinking, I said in a loud, clear voice, "Telephone!" The comedian turned in my general direction and said, "Can you get that for me? Tell them I'm on the other line!"

The other people at our table looked at both me and the comedian in surprise and admiration. I had managed to lightheartedly reprimand the owner of the phone and set up a good joke for the performer all in one fell swoop (or is it swell foop?). Our table mates were laughing and giving me various atta-girls and thumbs up. Trent smiled at them all proudly and said, "That's my wife!" Gosh, that was fun!

Later, we went up in the replica Eiffel Tower and looked at the lights of Vegas after dark. Surprisingly, the one who is afraid of heights (me) loved the elevator ride because of the clear plexiglass walls and floor. I didn't know until much later that it bothered Trent. When we got to the top, I was a bit nervous but still looked out the little observation windows while Trent recovered from the disconcerting ride. 

I have to say that for us, going to Vegas to get married was a good idea. We didn't have large families that would felt left out, although a friend was very put out that I cheated her out of the chance to go to a big wedding. After all of these years, I still have my husband, but this friend drifted away pretty quickly after that. Other than that, the whole process of getting married was fairly low on the stress scale, and I liked that a great deal. Merging your life with another's shouldn't make you want to just run away from the world forever, a way I've known some brides and grooms to feel. Everyone should find the road to making a future together on their own terms. For some of us, that means a huge, extravagant affair. In our case, a simple ceremony at an oasis in the desert was just fine. For me the love and happiness (and struggles, too!) that we share mean the most. No, I didn't have a fancy wedding, but I have wonderful memories nonetheless. That's enough for me.


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Monday, April 4, 2016


I recently wrote a post that I called Two Neighbors in which I talked about taking a fall outside and having one neighbor act like he couldn't see me while another helped me out. The fall had me down and out both physically and emotionally; I was unable to get up without any help and I was devastated that someone would ignore another person who was obviously in trouble.

A few days ago we went to visit our friend and optician, Melissa. While she took care of the minor adjustments we needed on our eyeglasses, we caught up on what was going on in our lives. It seems that time slips away so quickly, and so we had a thing or two to catch up on. I told Melissa about my fall on the day after the blizzard and how I still couldn't understand how someone just wouldn't offer some sort of help. If they weren't physically able to help me up, they could have acknowledged my situation and gotten someone else who could help me, I told her.

Melissa said that she was sad to say that it didn't surprise her to hear that I was left to fend for myself. Her daughter (D) and her daughter's boyfriend (DB) had an experience that made her understand how bad the problem can be. D, DB and DB's sister and her boyfriend had arranged to have a double date on New Year's night. D and DB arrived at the wing restaurant early and decided to get themselves on the list for a table since it was a busy night. The restaurant is in one of those little strip malls you see all over the place and the front of the building has windows all the way across, just so you know.

When they headed toward the door, three men wearing scarves over their faces jumped out of some bushes and demanded their wallets. DB told them to forget it, or something like that. They grabbed the cell phone out of his hand and D got as angry as she was scared. She jumped in and told the men to give the cell phone back. That's when they threw the cell phone aside and pulled out their knives. With D fighting them off as best as she could, the men began trying to kill her boyfriend. They attempted to cut his throat on the front, and his arteries on the sides of the neck. They also stabbed him in the back of the head.

Now here's the most horrible part of the story. Not only was this in front of a bunch of plate glass windows, but there were people who walked right by the attack in progress. I would never expect someone to risk their life for a stranger, but just about everyone has a cell phone these days. And the restaurant has a phone as well. Even though they were in clear view of a packed restaurant and no less than four people walked by during the attack, not a single one of them called 911 to help this young couple.

Luckily, DB's sister and her boyfriend showed up just in time to prevent the worst possible ending to the story. A call was placed to 911 and DB was treated for his injuries rather than taken to the morgue. The attackers were not caught. Everyone was eventually all right physically. I have no doubt that the mental and emotional scars will take longer to heal.

Trent and I were once again left to wonder about whether humans are humane any more. Were the people who refused to do so much as make a phone call any better than the attackers themselves? Granted, they didn't wield any weapons or try to take anything that wasn't theirs. But they showed no mercy nonetheless. I simply can't comprehend it.

I have always been a very protective person by nature. On more than one occasion, I have put myself in front of danger in order to preserve another's safety. I have stepped in front of a man almost a foot taller than me who was going to beat up another man who was shorter than me. I didn't know until later that he was possibly on the verge of a violent psychotic break. All I knew was that someone needed help. And when someone made the mistake of letting a disgruntled customer into our secure, restricted-access department, it was me who boldly approached him and told him that he had to leave. Thank goodness it didn't end up being one of those dreadful stories you hear as a lead-in on the evening news. In both cases I may have taken risks that were unwise, but at the time they seemed necessary. I had to make sure that my fellow humans were safe.

And that's what this is all about after all, isn't it? If we have the chance to possibly save lives by taking a minute or two to simply make a phone call, why wouldn't we? And who knows, there may be a time when the life that a call saves may be our own.


The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

Thank you for reading!