Tag Archives: Family

Fire, Flashback, and Fever

On Tuesday, while my phone was silenced for work, I received numerous texts.  I retrieved them as I was leaving my office in Denver for home in Colorado Springs.  Fire.  Fire in the Black Forest.

As I made the long drive home, I could see the huge plume of white and gray smoke climbing in a massive column into the sky off in the distance.

Probably shouldn't have been taking pictures while driving....

Probably shouldn’t have been taking pictures while driving….

Closer to home and farther off into the distance I could see the smoke from yet another fire in the Royal Gorge creeping its way across the horizon from behind Cheyenne Mountain.

Different fire, different smoke.

Different fire, different smoke.

When I reached the exit for New Life Church, I headed that direction.  I parked on the side of the road and watched the fire.  The nearest edge was only a mile or so away.  Chinook helicopters were already chugging their way back and forth dangling Bambi buckets filled with water beneath them to, and empty from, the fire.  They looked like mosquitoes dropping trickles of water into hell.

Not again.  These fires are only supposed to happen once in a couple of lifetimes.

But last year at almost this exact time, there was a fire burning in the mountains behind my own house.  It started in Waldo Canyon, one of my favorite hiking spots.  I had been out shopping when I looked up into the mountains and saw smoke rising.  By the time I got home a short time later, it had doubled in size.

Almost home, the Waldo Canyon fire had been burning for an hour.

Almost home, the Waldo Canyon fire had been burning for an hour.

It seemed like it was far enough away that it wouldn’t threaten my neighborhood.  As it burned, I had to keep my house sealed up as the smell of smoke was so strong.  It was so hot.  No air conditioning, no breeze through open windows.  I would go to sleep (fitfully at best) at night with those fires burning “back there” praying none would be caught unawares in the middle of the night.  I would wake up in the morning with a lurch because of the smell, and I’d check the news and look around outside in search of fire.  Always with the smell of smoke in the air.  No one thought the fires would reach as far as the city, but I evacuated my dad who was on vacation and staying with me, just in case.  I didn’t want to have to try to have any future evacuation any more complicated than need be.  And a couple days later, devil winds picked up and blew that fire like a river down into the beautiful Mountain Shadows neighborhood just a couple of miles from my own neighborhood.

I had been taking photographs at a local school that looked down into a number of the canyons that were on fire when the winds inexplicably “collapsed” over the mountains and tripled in velocity.  I watched in horror as the fire began to run out of the canyons and around the mountains seemingly directly toward my home.  As I rushed to my vehicle and to home, I could feel my heart racing.  When I reached home, I could see the flames not too far in the distance.

The view from my window as the fire entered the city.

The view from my window as the fire entered the city.

As I was taking pictures of the fire from my bedroom window, I all of the sudden realized, I needed to leave.  The smoke and flames were getting awfully close very quickly.

Not too much later and the smoke was just down the street.

Not too much later and the smoke was just down the street.

I had already packed up in “pre-evacuation”, so I took a quick video tape of all the things in my house rapidly explaining in a very shaking voice what it was I owned, and what I thought things might be worth…for insurance purposes, and to remember.  Smoke was blocking out the sunshine and burning my throat.

Within moments the smoke was filling my neighborhood.

Within moments the smoke was filling my neighborhood.

I caught and loaded up my cats and picked up a few last minute items and headed out as the smoke and embers blew into my own little neighborhood in a toxic choking cloud.  I said good-bye to my neighbors as they also evacuated and thanked my next door neighbor as he watered down our building one last time before he and his family left.  As I was leaving, I got an electronic reverse 911 call instructing me it was time to get out NOW.  I had already resigned myself to losing nearly everything I owned and was at peace about that.   By the time I reached safety, everything I had evacuated with, including my cats, smelled like forest fire.  I thought watching from a distance as the fire consumed everything in its path, that all of Colorado Springs was going to be ashes by morning.  But it wasn’t.  Miraculously, the fire was contained to, and stopped in, Mountain Shadows.  The fire had been traveling a half a mile an hour, and the nearest burn to my house was only a mile away, but I lost nothing.  Not true for so many.  I thanked God for graciously sparing me.  But 346 families’ homes were a total loss, quite a few those of friends.  That fire was declared the worst in Colorado history.

But that record was not to stand for long.  On Tuesday, less than a year later, the hellish quadrad of high winds, high temperatures, near zero humidity, and a longstanding drought lead to a another fire of epic proportions raging out of control through one of the most lovely areas in all of Colorado Springs.  As I watched from New Life Church, I saw pops of black smoke rising out of the gray.  That was homes burning.  So awful to watch, even from a safe distance.

For the past five days, I have been experiencing that same sick and uncomfortable feeling remembering my own experiences a year ago.  This fire was 10 miles away.  I could see the smoke out the same bedroom window, only looking in the opposite direction.  Across town, thousands and thousands and thousands more new evacuees were experiencing the same emotions and fears that we on this side of town experienced last year.  I could feel it again like it was happening to me.  There was one morning in particular, when I was awakened early to the smell of smoke, that I felt that shaky uncertain sort of scared feeling in my chest again.  I quickly got up and looked out all of my windows, went outside to look for evidence of fire, and checked the news to see if there was a new fire, perhaps nearby.  I had this feeling I should be packing up and going somewhere, just to be sure.  I didn’t like it.

I had put the word out that my home was open for fire refugees, but no one took me up on my offer.  Which turned out to be a good thing as a few nights ago my phone rang at 1:30.  Those early morning phone calls are never good news.  It was my friend Abner.  And he was calling to tell me he was very sick.  He was in Casper, Wyoming for work, and it sounded like he had malaria.  I told him my house was available and to get here as soon as he could.  What a weird thing to have happen in the middle of a totally different kind of crisis.  So, as Abner, a malaria refugee, was getting over the worst of his fever and other symptoms, the heat lifted, the humidity rose, we got some rain, the fire abated, and evacuees started to return to their homes.  Those who still had them.

As of tonight, 483 homes are a total loss.  The death toll is two.  Two souls trying desperately to evacuate who were captured by the flames.  And, just like that, less than a year later, we have a new worst fire in Colorado history.

Things eventually begin to return to some normalcy.  My windows are open and I don’t smell smoke.  Abner was well enough to get to his parents’ home to spend Fathers Day with his pop.   My mother, two sisters, nephew, and their cats, who were all evacuated the evening the fire broke out, have returned to an undamaged house.  And that jittery feeling is abating for me.

Colorado Springs is an amazing city.  For the second time in a year, the community absorbed 10’s of thousands of evacuees.  Lines for donating food, water, and other supplies stretched for miles at various drop off locations.  By basic standards, it’s a large city, but it acts like a small town.  People line the streets cheering the firefolks who run in when others run out.  When I had to evacuate last year, I had a dozen people offer a place in their home to me.  I imagine that this is the same story many others would tell.  It is likely that last year’s evacuees returned the favor to the exact same folks who took them in.

I am blessed to live in such a great place.  I am blessed that all I have had to endure with these fires is some temporary inconvenience and a ongoing sense of  uncertainty about future fire.  When I lived in Southern California there would be times when it seemed more quiet than usual…more still than usual…warmer than usual.  The birds would be quiet.  There was no rustling of ocean breeze through the vegetation.  Even the bugs were silent.  We called it “earthquake weather”.  Now, when it gets hot here, when the humidity dips into single digits, and when the winds kick up, it will be “fire weather”.  And I will pray that epic firestorms are a thing of the past.  I pray that lightening does not strike my wonderful community three times.

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Forever 39

My best friend, Connie, died a few months before her 40th birthday.  Today would have been her 47th birthday.

I think she would have disliked getting older, and eventually old.

She would have loved seeing her oldest son becoming homecoming king at his college, and having even more fun in college than she did.  She would have loved seeing her oldest daughter get married, and loved having a son-in-law.  She would have loved seeing her youngest son working along side her dad making and fixing stuff.  And she would have loved seeing her youngest daughter become the quintessential young lady.  She would have loved hearing her kids laugh together as nearly grown ups.  She would have loved looking forward to grandchildren.  She would have loved being able to celebrate all the wedding anniversaries she has missed.  I and her husband (my brother) have toasted to her with a bottle of Dom on their anniversary every year since she left.  She would have loved all that great champagne that I got drink instead.

But she would have hated having to wear reading glasses just to be able to read her watch.  She would have been frustrated with her hands losing strength and her fingers getting crooked and stiff.  She would have hated that sometimes hopping out of bed would be more like groaning and rolling out.  She would NOT have been on board with the whole “the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” thing that happens with age.  She would have not liked anything about aging that would have slowed her down.

She’s missed all that good stuff and will miss a lot more…but she has missed the bad stuff, too, including the creaky parts of aging.  I know that she is likely laughing at me wearing readers and pushing ever closer to 50 every time her birthday rolls around and she still gets to be 39…forever 39.


Familial Vocabulary

Every family has its own special vocabulary.  Over the years, words are added that have meaning sometimes only to the family who created them.  Some of my family vocabulary includes “girts” (skirts), “the oceanbath” (the ocean), “whydidyoudothistomes” (needles and pins), and “yogs” (those chemical fireplace logs).

This is the story of how one of our family’s words came into being…..

A few Christmases ago, because he was new to Colorado, I bought my little nephew (he’s not quite so little anymore) a pair of insulated overalls for playing in the snow.

I called them snowveralls.  I thought I made the word up, but I have since found that I am not the original I thought I was!  🙂

When Mitchell opened them up, he was quite excited!  His mother (my sister) asked him “Do you know what those are??”.

He nodded in the affirmative and replied…..”ovaries”.

So, we now call those slickery insulated winter clothing items…..”snovaries”.

True story.


God has responded…

Prayer.

There was a time, a handful of years ago, that I sat in my car with my little brother discussing our frustrating and failing romantic relationships.  I purposed in my heart to begin to regularly ask God to bring my brother a life mate and to bless him with the children he so very much wanted to bring into this world with that life mate.  At that time, it seemed like his “getting” these things was so terribly far in the future.  He had invested much time and energy and love into a relationship he thought would be the one.  But it wasn’t.  He would have to end that relationship, grieve the loss of that relationship, evaluate the changes he need to make in his life, meet and date and woo a new woman, and THEN finally get married.  This is not a process that generally happens overnight!

Heck, I’d been praying for a life mate for myself since I was 16 and hadn’t gotten a “yes” answer from God yet, and I am ten years older than my little brother!  But God answers prayers in many different ways.  Sometimes the answer is “no”, but it is wrapped in a million gifts we never thought to ask for.

God answered my prayer for Low (my “baby” brother) with a resounding “YES!”.  God has answered my own prayer for me with “<silence> “, and with those million gifts I never even thought to ask for, as I wouldn’t have had any idea that they were things I’d even want.

Two years ago, after being introduced by a mutual friend on facebook, my brother married Kristine.  Two weeks ago, they were blessed with a beautiful baby girl.  Her name, Elianna, means “God has responded”.  He most certainly has.

I can’t even look at Elianna’s picture without tears coming to my eyes.  She is amazingly tangible and living proof of God’s love for my brother.  But she is also the same thing for me.  I. LOVE. my. nieces. and. nephews.  They are each God’s special gift to me, not just to their parents.  It has been ten years since one of my siblings had a child and I’d forgotten, just a little bit, how wonderful it is to have a new baby in the family.  I have another niece to love.  🙂

Over the past six years I have slowly come to the place where I realize that the best thing for me, the most generous thing that God could do for me, is to give me other people’s children to love.

And I am looking forward to loving this new niece of mine with all of my heart.  My baby brother has a baby.  God has responded…


SEAL

Those Navy SEALS are something else.  Wherever you stand on the military, this or that war or conflict, the take down of OBL, etc., you gotta admit that the SEALS are pretty amazing.  Kindalike superheroes actually.  As proof of this I refer you to two  missions…the 2009 rescue of captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the recent OBL takedown (p.s.  Both missions were run by the same elite group of SEALs, Team 6).

I just learned a few days ago that I have a relative who was not only a Navy SEAL, but is also a Medal of Honor recipient.

Thomas R. Norris

Apparently Thomas R. Norris is the son of my dad’s father’s cousin.  I haven’t figured out what that makes him to me.  Other than a hero, that is.

Read his bio HERE.

Apparently the story of what lead to his being awarded this medal is told in the 1988 movie BAT*21.  I don’t know if he’s mentioned by name, but I’ve added the movie to my Netflix queue.  In a nutshell, while serving in Viet Nam, Norris volunteered to go deep behind enemy lines to rescue downed pilots.  This involved disguises, sampans, fierce fire fights, and unbelievable bravery.  I’m interested to learn more about this average-looking-far-from-average relative of mine.  An interesting part of his story is that after the actions that would ultimately earn him a MOH, he was severely injured and subsequently rescued by a fellow SEAL who was then awarded the MOH for HIS actions.  The only time a MOH winner was rescued by another MOH winner!  They received their medals in the same ceremony.  This link takes you to a page where his story is told in brief and a long interview with my “cousin”.

Pritzker Military Library | Medal of Honor with Ed Tracy.

Norris wasn’t alone on his mission to save downed pilots in Viet Nam.  He was accompanied by a brave South Vietnamese volunteer (read about him HERE).

After his service in the Navy, Norris went on to serve for 20 years with FBI.  He was an original member of the HRT, Hostage Rescue Team and an assault team leader.  This is one fascinating guy!  Maybe I’ll get to meet him some day!  He lives in Idaho.  I’ve never been to Idaho…


The List of Fifty – White Water Rafting

“Go white water rafting” has been on The List of Fifty since its inception.  And finally this past week, I was able to check it off!  Woo Hoooo!  And it was a Woo Hoo adventure!  My brother Phil is in town with his kids and we decided to take the two oldest up to Buena Vista for a little WW Rafting on the Arkansas.

We went with an outfit called “Noah’s Ark” and it was GREAT!  Having never gone before I really had no idea what to expect.  We chose to go on the kind of raft where the guide does the lion’s share of the rowing and steering and to do a half day trip on a class II and III stretch of the river.

Once an item on “The List” has been checked off, a new item needs to be added to keep the list at fifty.  After this little adventure, I’m putting “go white water rafting” BACK on the list, only this time it will be to go on a trip that includes class IV rapids.  AND next time I want to do more of the rowing and maybe make it an all day sort of trip.  Good times.  If you are keeping your own “list”, and it doesn’t have “go white water rafting” on it, may I recommend that you add it????

Here we are, going through the “Seven Steps” rapids!  (I’m in the far back where you can’t really see me!)


Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

Eighteen years ago today I was at work.  I called to check on my best friend/sister-in-law who was ready to give birth to her first child any day.  She was doing great but was experiencing an uncontrollable urge to, well, to put it as delicately as possible, have a bowel movement.  “DON’T PUSH, and get to the hospital!!” I told her.  Not long after that Richard arrived.  WHAT a cutie.  He was named in honor of his two grandfathers, Richard and Daniel.  A first grandchild and grandson for the both of them.  I was a very excited and proud first-time auntie.

Four years ago today I was working my last, and for the most part, rather uneventful shift in the ER.  I had turned in my resignation and was planning my move from Los Angeles to Colorado which was to take place in just a month.  I was excited about the new life which awaited me and all the adventures I was to have.  And I was thinking of my oldest nephew, Richard, who was on vacation with friends but was turning 14.

Just a couple of hours before my last shift was to end I got the phone call that didn’t change any of that, but changed absolutely everything.

Instead of long and tearful good-byes with my co-workers, I started the longest and most tearful good-bye of my life.  One that, as of today, has lasted four years.

I no longer count the time Connie has been gone in minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks, or even in months, but in years.  It’s still surreal to me.  I miss her every minute.

Congratulations on your 18th birthday Dicky Dan.  Your mother would have loved to see you and the man you have become.

I love you both, to the ends of the earth and to the highest heaven.


Congratulations Are In Order…

This is my little brother Low and his brand new fiancee, Kristine! 

Low and Kristine

It’s been a banner year for Low and the bannerness of it just continues.  And now, with the soon-to-be addition of Kristine to our family, it’s a banner year for us, too.  Kristine is a charming, sweet, intelligent, God-fearing and serving/missions minded young woman and we are blessed that she is choosing my brother as her partner in life.  You can tell how much they love each other in the first minute you spend with them.  He’s a lucky boy, that Low, a lucky boy.

Looking forward to having Kristine as my new sister-in-law!

(credit my Pops on the photo)


Mothers’ Day

My Mom is in town visiting for Mothers’ Day.  This has become a tradition since the migration to Colorado started.

Kayla (from my Zambia team) wanted to see what my Mom looks like, so, Kayla, here’s me and my Mom, Cheryl, at a Mother’s Day luncheon yesterday.

So glad to have you here, Mom!

My Mom and Me, Mothers' Day 2009 by you.

My Mom doesn’t know how to use a computer, maybe her friend Ruth will come on by here and print up this picture for her!)


Trail Canyon Trail

A redunant name for a beautiful hiking trail in the foothills of Los Angeles.  “A place so beautiful, they named it twice”.  I went back “home” to the L.A. area for the Easter weekend.  Phil and the kids and I headed out on Monday morning to find the trailhead.  The trail we were seeking leads to a waterfall, as all of the hikes I go on with them do.  This waterfall was along the Gold Creek.

The book we were using as our guide was published in the 80’s, so sometimes the directions are hit or miss.  This one was a HIT!  The only “glitch” was that the sign we were looking for which would lead to the trailhead was missing on the way.  When we turned around to look from the other direction, there it was, and once we found it the directions were spot on.

We hiked in about 2 1/2 miles up (and 2 1/2 miles back, which is good, it’s always good to hike out as far as you’ve hiked in!) on a well maintained trail which completely lacked any evidence of human presence…no trash, no graffiti, no dog poop….barely even shoeprints in the softer areas.

We forded the stream a number of the times on the way there, but didn’t even get our feet wet.  I was a bit worried to be hiking since I jacked my right knee up back in December, but it held up nicely.  I was very careful about foot placement and avoiding any pivoting on it.  I tell you this just to show that the hike, though not totally easy, was doable even for the gimp in the group.  (So you could do it, too!)  The hike took us through lush green woods along paths liberally decorated with itty bitty wildflowers.  This purple beauty measured less than an inch across.  Didn’t even see the teensy weensy red bugs crawling around until I uploaded my pictures!

Purple Flower, Red Bugs by you.

And it took us through more poison oak than any of us had ever seen in our lives!  Phil and at least a couple of his kids are really prone to getting horrific rashes from it and warnings rang out frequently about avoiding touching it!  (And upon arriving home, all clothes were stripped and washed, and showers were taken, it was that bad!)  I haven’t heard if any of them broke out or not, but Richard was already sporting some nasty rashes from his LAST excursion into the wilderness.

Back to the hike.  We came around one bend and found ourselves in a manzanita forest.  Manzanita is a bush that is found in the chaparrel biome.  Manzanita is spanish for “little apple”, I guess because the seeds look alot like little apples.  The trunk and branches are a deep rosey red, and they are smooooooooth and satiny.  Any way, these were huge TREES!  Never seen anything like it.  Phil shows how tall the bushes usually are.  The trunks were so thick you couldn’t get your arms around them.

Phil and the Manzanitas by you.

The trail led us to something I can only describe as a CLIFF.  Rocks jutting out high over a small canyon.  Richard loves to rock climb.  I am afraid of heights.  He decided to pick his way down to the canyon.  I wanted to take a picture of him doing it, but couldn’t get close enough to the edge to do that, so I took a picture of him disappearing through a crack in the CLIFF.  Bye Richard.  I hope I see you again!

Richard Gives Me the Heebies By Rock Climbing... by you.

He took the short way down, we took the long way down, and we met back up at the bottom.

The last bit of the hike was a little steep and the dirt a bit loose, but when when we rounded the last corner before the waterfall, we entered a little bitty paradise!  The cataract measured about 50 feet tall and tumbled into a small, clear pool.

The Gold Creek Falls (Real name?  Dunno!) by you.

There was a large sycamore tree at the edge of the pool which had a high green and lacy canopy.  The canopy provided shade and showed off a brilliant blue sky above it.  Off came shoes and socks!  The bottom of the pool was firm and sandy/pebbly.  But boy oh, the water was cold!  Of course I orchestrated one of my famous foot pictures, but I couldn’t stand being in the water for more than a minute or so.

Foot Picture in the Basin Pool by you.

My feet are wimpy because they have spent all winter in shoes (and I just got a pedicure further removing any protective toughened skin!).  But Jonathan’s feet suffered no such wimpiness.  This kid was swimming in that cold water!

Jonathan Braves the Cold Water and Gets Soaked Through! by you.

Head to toe wet.  Brrrrr.

Alaska and Avie Get Cold by you.

We played and laughed for a time and decided this would be a great place for a picnic.  Plenty of large flat rocks to serve as a picnic table. I don’t know if we got lucky that day having the place to ourselves, or if it is a little visited place.  I wonder if we went back in the summer for that picnic if there would be a horde of people vying for the best seats on the rocks!

Time to put our shoes back on and go.

Playing in the Basin by you.

A hidden place which seemed to have been created, at least for that day, just for us!

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills…Deuteronomy 8:7 (NIV)

Some of the best times of my life are spent exploring God’s creation with my big brother and his kids.


Photo Friday – “Unlucky”

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all” – George Jetson

In “honor” of the second of three Friday the Thirteenths we will have this year, today’s Photo Friday topic is “unlucky”.

Recently my friend Donna visited me from California.  It was her first time out here.  We had a GREAT time!  This visit, though five days long, was about a month too short.  We never have enough time, no matter how much time we have!

A reasonable and lovely drive’s distance away from where I live is a delightful little Victorian mining town called “Cripple Creek”.  They have legalized gambling there.  It’s like a little Las Vegas, really.  All the lights, and bells, and clangings of Vegas, but at about a millionth the size.  Donna loves her some Vegas, so we, along with my sister Whitney, decided to make a day of it and go throw some money down a rathole.

I say throw money down a rathole, because I never, NEVER, EVER win at gambling.  So I try to make my 20 or 30 bucks last as long as possible while I watch other people win!  🙂   BITTER!!!!  Donna in the end didn’t lose too much, but she did win during the course of the day.  Whitney it seems won at every machine she played.  I think she won the most on the penny slots, which is crazy, but true.

Here are Donna (left) and Whitney (right) in fronto of the Brass Ass…

The Brass Ass by you.

If you’re playing, don’t forget to add your link to Mr. Linky.  If you’re not, please visit the other players and drop a comment!

Coming up on Photo Friday:

Friday 20th March 2009: Author’s choice: Photo Gadgets (back by popular demand! Author herself!) Photos you’ve gadgetised or photo-shopped etc!

Friday 27th March: Author’s choice: FRIENDS, I HAZ ‘EM! (a  selection of photos of friends – you could use a mosaic maker if you choose – or any other photo gadget if they don’t want recognisable pics of themselves on the internet)


Certain Things Just Make You Feel Old

I feel old when I walk down the stairs and I can HEAR my left knee cap grinding.  (And that’s my GOOD knee!)

I feel old when I realize that I have been a nurse for TWENTY YEARS.

I feel old knowing that my 30th high school reunion is in only four years…if we have one, that is.

I feel old when clerks at stores and waitresses and such call me m’am, and they’ve never been in the military.

But the thing that is making me feel old (but very excited and proud!) today, is that my oldest nephew will be going off to college in August.  I just heard that he got into Hillsdale College in Michigan.   Way to go Richie!!!!  Well done. 

Yeah, I’ll be up to see you, you know it!  🙂


Photo Friday – “Grandparents”

I haven’t posted for Photo Friday in some time.  I picked a “bad” Friday to get back to it as I have not a single picture that I myself took of any of my grandparents.  All of my grandparents have passed away.  I never knew either of my grandfathers.  I was blessed to have had my grandmothers in my life until I was in my 20’s and 30’s.  But they, too, are now gone.

Some years ago my dad went through tremendous time and untold expense to put together large binders for all of us filled with our family tree, important documents, photographs, etc.  Since I have no pictures of my own, I took a picture of one of the photocopied pictures in the binder.  My parents and all my grandparents at my parents’ wedding.

Parents, Grandparents by you.

L to R:  “Tex” and Marcile (my maternal grandparents), my mother Cheryl, my father Richard, Edith and A.J. (my paternal grandparents)

My mother’s mother was an amazingly gifted seamstress.  My father’s mother, a fabulous baker.  I loved both of my grandmothers very much.  I wish so very much I had known my grandfathers.

When I was little, I thought my mother’s mother was mean.  She kind of was back then.  She would make me wear barrettes in my hair when she would come over to babysit and I hated barrettes.  I would take them out and get in trouble for it.  Once, when I was maybe four, she’d had it with me taking the barrettes out and sternly warned me about keeping my hands off of them or else.  So I rubbed them out in the carpet, without touching them with my hands.  She was not amused!!! 

I was one of many grandchildren.  As each of the grandchildren grew up and married, she would give them a wedding gift of handmade items – sewn and crocheted.  GORGEOUS things.  She developed OBS (Organic Brain Syndrome) and knew she was losing her ability to remember how to sew and crochet, so she made wedding gifts for all the as unyet to wed grandchildren and put them away for when the time would come.  She wanted to make sure that none of us were left out.

If you are playing, don’t forget to put the link to your entry into Mr. Linky.  If you aren’t playing, please check out the other players’ work by clicking on Mr. Linky to get to those links!

Coming up on Photo Friday:

13th February 2009: Author’s choice: Valentine Special

20th February 2009: Author’s choice: Men at Work

27th February 2009: Author’s choice: My favourite photo(s) (and a few words on why!)


Hot Pots (Not To Be Confused With Hot Pockets Or With Mongolian Hot Pots)

This past weekend I did something that was one part rock, one part water, one part mist, one part heat, one part cold, one part darkness, one part light, and 1/100th part creepy.  There were some other parts in their, too, but I think these reflect the most important ones.

I spent the holiday weekend in Utah, in the Heber Valley area.  Dotting the landscape were columns of whispy steam rising in the crisp winter cold.  These whisps were emanating from rounded mounds of what appeared to be snow covered earth.  But which turned out to be rock. 

Homestead Hot Pot by you.

BAD picture quality, but its the best one I got! 

These mounds are Hot Pots.  Formed over the eons by heated water bubbling up from underground lakes, as the water would overflow the minerals within it would eventually form a mounded “crust”.  The visible mounds surrounded small bodies of this heated water.  One local entrepreneur blasted a hole in a rather large mound which was located on his property.  This hole was blasted at the base of the mound and extended hundreds of feet through the rock into the interior of the mound.  This provided easy access to the fresh smelling mineral rich waters within. 

Hot Pot Entrance by you.

Becky and Bill entering the mound…

Inside the mound there is a place to remove outer clothing and to don a life jacket.  Down the tunnel all you can see is mist.  In warmer weather the air is clear, but the mist adds a wonderful and ethereal quality to the space!  As you enter the mist the water comes into view.  Dimly lit from below by a few lights, it dances green and warm.  A small hazy shaft of light comes down from above through a small natural vent at the top of the mound. 

Hot Pot Vent Hole by you.

The water  below is 45 feet across in each direction, and extends 65 feet deep.  Though it is 20 degrees outside, it is warm inside.  The water remains fairly constantly 94-97 degrees.  And it gets warmer the deeper you swim.

 Soaking in the Hot Pot by you.

Becky, Susi, and Bill warming in the seated area before entering the swimming area

We shared our swim with scuba divers who come to get their certification, usually for a winter vacation to somewhere warm.  What a great place to get excellent diving experience.  I will admit that the when these divers swim underneath you that the bubbles which arise from the bottom of the little warm lake can be a bit disconcerting, and creepy feeling when you aren’t expecting them.  It is mostly dark down in the water and it’s easy to imagine monsters and slimy things reaching up from the deep to grab unsuspecting bathers!  We were assured however, that these waters do not support any life.  🙂

There are some of these warm lakes which haven’t formed the mound yet and are open and free to the public.  When we first decided to get warm and wet, we weighed the option of using one of these random free ponds or pay to go in the big hot pot.  “Free is good” was my initial response.  But when we arrived at the location, we had to drive through mud to get there, and the pond was filled with what looked like possibly naked, maybe beer swilling local types with the requisite hound running around.  And since it was outside and not surrounded by the mound, it looked wicked cold!!!  “Free is good, but sometimes paying is better” became the new mantra.

It was worth the $10 bucks admission, that’s for sure.

A dreamy little vacation within a vacation! 

I attempted to find more information on the pots to share here, but there is very little to be found.  Not even a Wikipedia entry, which surprised me! 

In the end, if you ever find yourself in the Heber Valley part of Utah, make sure you add this to your list of things you must do.  The pay to enter Hot Pot is at the Homestead Resort.  Check out the website.  Click on “The Crater” for more info and a few more pics.  Call and ask for the activities desk to make reservations.  You won’t be sorry!  And you should stay at the Invited Inn while you are there.  It’s a fabulous little swiss style B&B with the most delightful proprieters (Bill and Susie, pictured above in the hot pot.)  More on this lovely Inn in a post to follow.


22 X 2

It’s an odd favorite number, but it’s mine.  Been mine for a looooong time, but not as long as it’s been Hollister’s favorite number, in that Hollister was “established” in 1922. 

I have a bunch of original “22” pictures, but they are all still stuck on my old computer with most of my picture files.  So I borrowed one!

Today was my 44th birthday!  (More technically, it’s the 22nd anniversary of my 22nd birthday!)  It was a great day from start to finish!

My little bro (Low, in from out of town) and nephew Mitchell drove up to the mountains to spend the day.  To the spectacular ski resort of Breckenridge to be precise.  Our goal?  Find snow to play in and take pictures.  We succeeded at both of those, and also I got to see Sarah from my Zambia 2006 team!!!  She was also in from out of town working as a nanny of sorts for a family who were there for the holidays.  I was so excited to see her (our visit lasted about 20 minutes!) that I forgot to take a picture!  BUT I do have some pictures of playing in the snow!

Low Airborne by you.

Mitchell Airborne by you. 

We found a baseball field that was, at least until we got to it, untouched!  It was about 18 inches deep in fluffy white snow.  Low took a few flying leaps into it, and he also tossed Mitchell into it a few times.  I of course had to take one of my world famous (hahahahaha) foot pictures which was actually more of a leg picture!

Snow Feet by you.

During our drive up to the slopes my car hit a paricularly slick spot in the road.  I couldn’t get past it and I had to break out my chains for the very first time since moving to Colorado!  And on a beautiful warm and sunny day of all times!  My sweet brother Low slapped them on my tires and we made it the last 100 feet up the hill!

Back at home we met up with family and friends for a great Mexican dinner with my favorite cake for dessert (chocolate chocolate chip with powdered sugar) and presents!  One of my best birthdays ever.  Only I ate too much, and now I think I should go to bed and sleep off too much fun and too much food!  Thanks to everyone who helped make this a most memorable birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!


Chico and Grass Valley

Kari and Michael are Ian and Colin’s parents.  Ian was “one of my kids” on my mission trip to Sicily in 2007.  Colin is Ian’s little brother.  I love the boys and they let me, which is pretty cool, cuz I’m just an old lady.

This week I got to meet their parents, who live in Chico.  The ladies on my mom’s side of the family get together every December for a shopping trip.  This year we met up in Grass Valley.  Kari and I, who have become friends without actually meeting in person, have been wanting to meet, and they live “sort of close” to Grass Valley, so I extended the trip a bit and planned on making that happen.

I flew into Sacramento and was very glad that I hadn’t checked any bags because I don’t think I would have been able to find it in piles of luggage in the baggage claim area!  🙂

Sacramento Lost Luggage by you.

I retrieved my rental car (a Ford Focus which got nearly 34 mpg, btw) and had the most lovely and serene drive from the airport there to Chico.  This sunset was happening out my driver’s side window.  The smell of freshly turned earth was in my nose.  The mist was settling into the valleys and around the hills.  Geese, swans, and heron were settling in for the night in various water filled rice fields.  The grass was emerald green between the groves of fruit and nut trees.  It was one of the most nearly perfect drives I have ever taken.  It was too dark for pictures, but the sunset made it all magical.

99 Sunsets by you.

Kari and Michael?  Love them.  I stayed with them before going to Grass Valley for the weekend.  I drove out to Grass Valley and pulled up to where I would spend the next two days…a beautifully restored victorian home, A Victorian Rose.  There I met up with my mom, my aunt Leslie, my aunt Lynne, my cousins Jane and Jeannie, Jane’s mother-in-law Norma, and an old family friend Susie.  We spent time together, laughed together, dined together, and shopped together.  We had the house to ourselves and we made ourselves at home.

A Victorian Rose Breakfast by you.

My Mom, Jeannie, Jane, Norma, Leslie, Susie and Lynne enjoying dinner together

We left there on Sunday morning with a light snow falling.  Perfect.  I returned to Michael and Kari’s to spend more time getting to know them and fellowshipping with them.

Michael, (Lou), and KARI!!!! by you.

 Michael, Me, and Kari in Bidwell Park by the redwoods

Good times with family.  Good times with new friends.  But it’s always good to get back home, isn’t it?

Thanks to all for making this trip a wonderful one.  And thanks to Vickie for taking care of “my girls”, Mew Ling and Lu Na, once again.


New Gadget – “Unpaid Product Endorsement”

I have loads of negatives and slides that have been lying fallow in boxes.  Many of the prints for the negatives are long gone – given away.  Some are in this or that scrap book.  The prints don’t scan well, at least not with my scanner, which I thought was pretty good, but not so much for photos.  My slides are fewer, but the majority of them are from the summer I spent with Teen Missions in the Philippines.  The summer I met my best friend Connie.  They are pictures and slides that I wish I had access to.  Pictures I’d like to share with family and friends…

And now I can.

Many years ago I looked into buying a system which would transfer these negatives and slides to a digital format.  At the time, the technology was uber expensive and I shelved the idea.  On a plane a few years or so ago in the “Sky Mall” magazine, I saw a device that was much more compact and much less expensive, but still a bit spendy.

On “Cyber Monday” I found a 5 megapixel number for $79 bucks that had excellent reviews and was even smaller than the ones I had looked at before.  I typed, clicked, and bought.  And yesterday, it arrived.  So cool.  Pop the negatives or slides into special trays, run them into the machine, and presto, JPGs!!!!

It’s called the Ion Slides 2 PC.  It’s so easy to use it’s almost a crime.  The quality of the end result isn’t spectacular, but I’m thrilled with it, nonetheless.  My slides are grubby and have particles adhered to them.  I need to look into how to safely clean them.  This is one of the scanned negatives:

Mitchell's Filas by you.

This is my nephew, Mitchell, when he was just learning to walk, wearing a pair of Filas I bought for him when he was still a wee baby.  Watching him walking in these (I believe this might be the first time he was in shoes at all) was soooo funny!

And this is one of the scanned slides, complete with specks of dust or whatever:

Connie and Panda by you.

This one is of Connie.  We were on a bus somewhere in China, and she fell asleep with this panda on her lap.  I love this picture.  I’m excited to have it not in a box somewhere.

Because of the cheap price, ease of use, and pretty darn good JPGs it creates from old negatives and slides, the Ion Slides 2 PC gets “Unpaid Product Endorsement” status.


Photo Friday – “Thanksgiving”

If you are reading this post, you will know that I was unable to access my computer to update it and have scheduled an automatic posting of this. 

I headed to Aspen yesterday morning with my cousin, Julie, and her kids to spend the holiday with another of our cousins, Jean, and her family.  I took my computer in hopes of gaining internet access, but haven’t.  I will update this with a true PF post upon my return.

As of this writing, there is snow in the forecast, so the roads might be messy and our plans might have changed due to that at any point going or coming home!

Thanks to my friends Vickie and Carmen for taking prodigious care of my kitties in my absence!

Check back!


Readers, Insects, and Super-Powers

Last week my nephew Mitchell spent Saturday evening through Sunday morning with me.  One of the things I love most about him is the very funny things he says.

He found this pair of 1$ reading glasses I picked up at Target and decided he just had to wear them.

Mitchell's Readers by you.

He’d been wearing them for a few minutes and I told them he needed to take them off.  But then he told me he needed to put them back on because now “everything’s blurry”!

I took him to a park in the evening on Saturday.  I noticed that the the zipper on his camo cargo shorts was down…

Me – “Your fly is open.”

Him – “Wha???”

Me – “Your FLY is open.” I repeated, and pointed to his zipper.

On the way to the grocery store to pick up a few things after the park, I smelled something less than fresh emanating from the back seat.

Me – “Did you fart?”  (I have given up trying to get my nieces and nephews to use some other term for gaseous emissions)

Him – “No.”

Me – “Yes you did.  I think you farted!  (Smiling back at him)  I think that if you had a super power it would be farting.  Yes, I’m pretty sure you would be Fart Boy!”

HIm – “Nope.  My super power is love.”

Good grief.  🙂

 

Later, as we got out of my car at the store, we were chatting.  He looked down at the front of his shorts and then smiled up at me and said…

“Uh oh!  My bug is open again!

AND finally, when we got back in the car, I told him I could still smell his super power in there. 

Him – “What?  It smells like love?”

He’s six.

My sister is in trouble.


Mitchell’s New “Nintendo DS”

Click HERE to read my sister’s latest blog entry and see what a six-year-old kid does who wants a DS but isn’t going to get one!


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