Friday, June 29, 2012

Accumulated Stuff

This photo was taken from AOL Images of
the Waldo Fire as it nears homes.
While looking at horrendous photos of the different fires in Colorado, I chatted with a friend on the phone. We could not get over the many acres that were burning, and had been burning for quite a few days.  South (Colorado Springs), west (Boulder) north (Ft. Collins) and a new fire near Grand Junction. Our hot temperatures of over 100 degrees was not helping!

"If you had to evacuate your home," I asked, "what would you grab first." We discussed photos, things that could not be replaced, pets, clothes, important papers like passports, birth certificates, etc. We hung up and I looked around my house.  I began making a mental note of all the stuff in every room and wondered what I would take with me if I ever had to leave in a hurry.

There was no way I could take the many albums of photos that I had collected through the years. Six large plastic bins with ten or more albums in each.  Those I would have to leave though I knew they held many memories. My personal computer, which was also loaded with photos and my lap top would have to be packed. I realized I had better put all my important papers in one central place, in one large envelope,  so I could easily take them. What about my children's art work....paintings on the wall and pottery through out the house.  My cameras -- video and still. Then I saw my genealogy notebooks....I had to take them after all the years of research I had compiled. What about my favorite book collection?  There was also my newest project of making photo album books.  My CD and DVD's, and the many boxes of slides of when my children were young. The more I looked around, the more things I wanted to take.

I realized how much the evacuees were losing.  They did not have a lot of time to decide what they would take because as I read some of the articles, they had minutes to get out of the fire line.  When I saw the areas in Colorado Springs with whole tracts of developments in ashes, I got a sick feeling in my stomach.  So many people were being left without any thing. One lady said all she had was what she was wearing while a man said he had left his medication behind. This morning the news report was that 346 homes had burned in the Colorado Springs area.

The majority of the evacuees commented that they could rebuild and that they were thankful that they were alive.  I guess making it out alive is the most important thing and it made me wonder why I think it is so important to have material things.  I recalled a class at Regis about a group of islanders who built their one room home on stilts, fished for their daily food, picked fruit from the near by jungle, had a mat to sleep on, and when waves would wash their homes down as it happened every year, they did not lose anything and they would just rebuild.  Maybe that is how we should live instead of accumulating so many things!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Unfinished Documentary

A pig and a chicken were on their way to breakfast.
They were trying to decide what to have.
The chicken said, "Let's have ham and eggs."
The pig replied, "That's fine for you,
it's a small donation on your part,
but a total sacrifice for me!"  Unknown

Horrible screaming woke me up.  It sounded as if a woman with a high-pitched voice was screaming for help. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window and saw two men struggling with a large pig.  They were attempting to load it unto the back of a pickup truck.  I quickly dressed, grabbed my camera and rushed out to get a closer look.  The pig was huge and fought the two men.  Two other men came running to help and with eight hands they were able to put the screaming pig into the bed of the pickup. I was surprised at the almost human sounds emitting from the grey pig with dark spots.

I looked for my own photos of this day
but was unable to locate a picture. I
got this picture off the internet.
I took pictures of the pig and noticed that it had small eyes with long, beautiful eyelashes.  I had never been so close to a pig and found that it was a handsome and strong animal.  Its course hair felt wirey as I petted the subdued beast. I asked where the pig was headed and was told that there was to be a big feast later in the day.  Immediately, I thought I would video tape the process from beginning to end and maybe call it, "The Life of a Pig, or a Hog's Life." It would be a documentary like National Geographic is known to film! I followed the truck in my jeep to a mountain retreat about seven miles away.

As they got the pig down from the truck, I noticed it no longer screamed.  Did he know what was in store for him? Was he resigned to his fate?  I followed as the big pig, with a rope around its neck, meekly walked to his execution. I got as far as the area where a large 36" pot of water had been placed over a fire. I noticed a long wooden table with metal instruments that looked liked knives and hooks. A rope, two yards long, had been tied between two trees "What happens next?" I inquired. A large bearded man held a sledge hammer in his hand, "I'm going to kill the pig and cook the meat for a party this afternoon." I asked, "How will you kill it?"  He shook his head as if dealing with an idiot, and replied, "I hit it right on the head. It dies instantly."

That's all it took. His comment ended my video taping.  I could not watch the beautiful pig be slaughtered.  I quickly returned to my jeep and drove away as fast as I could. Tears burst from my eyes as I drove away. This may be a norm for farmers, but it was not my idea of a humane way of killing a pig. At the super market, packages neatly wrapped containing pork ribs, pork chops, etc. have never made me think about animals being killed. I cried most of the morning as I recalled the fate of the large pig.  Later that afternoon, I attended  the party.  I did not enjoy myself. When it came time to eat, everyone filled their plates with meat and some went back for seconds. Every one said how delicious the meat tasted but I never touched or looked at the meat.  During the rest of my stay as a volunteer in Mexico, I stopped eating meat whether it was pork, beef or chicken. Just the thought of the pig's short life became a deterrent.

"After all, God invented pigs too,
although he did not allow His people to eat pork."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Evolution of a Volunteer

The ultimate expression of generosity
is not giving of what you have
but of giving of who you are.
Johnnetta B. Cole

I read somewhere that volunteers are motivated to volunteer for two reasons.  One is ideological, ethical and moral....a sense of helping with needs or problems of others.  The other is a personal reason of feeling useful or living and knowing new experiences.  Either reason ends up helping.

The first time I volunteered was in 1958 while I was a member of the Sodality of Our Lady at Regis College.  We went to help at St. Claire's orphanage located on 32nd Avenue in North Denver.  I entered a white room with twelve white cribs and each crib held a baby dressed in white. I noticed each baby tried to make eye contact but I passed most of the children until I saw a rosy, smiling, healthy looking baby. My job was to feed the babies something that looked like cream of wheat. I remember enjoying feeding the cute babies and resented feeding the homely ones.  To this day, I am ashamed at how selfish I was with my love and time. I know now, they all needed my attention, yet I spent more time with those that appealed to me. I try to excuse my actions by thinking it was my youthful age, that I knew nothing about babies and that I had no experience in volunteering.

Teaching catechism (CCD) in the '60's took me to Cure d Ars in East Denver and to St. Leo's on 10th and Colfax.  What I remember is the difference in the attitude and language of the children as I tried to teach religion to them.  East Denver children were respectful, willing to learn and polite.  The St. Leo's children were rowdy, used vulgar language and had no respect.  Some days I would leave St. Leo's in tears. Wouldn't it be ironic if the St. Leo's children were the ones I did not pay attention to when they were babies?  I know they weren't, but if they were, I was getting my just rewards!

In the late 70's I assisted Fr. Peter Urban in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to Hispanic persons in Brighton, Colorado. The one thing I learned in that year was that you can not mix young and old persons.  Young people will learn and retain much faster than an older person.  It was like having two younger class three or four lessons ahead of the older second class. I noticed that the older people wanted a social hour to chat with their friends while the younger students wanted to learn! 

For two years, around Christmas, I met many other volunteers to wrap gifts for the needy at Fr. Woody's Christmas Party.  Msgr. C.B. Woodrich (Fr. Woody) once said:  We cannot pray to the Lord and reject the ones he loves the most." We were an army of volunteers spending hours wrapping the gifts and then attending the dinner to help distribute the gifts.  I felt such a joy to see homeless children, living in a shelter, so excited with a gift of socks and a toy!

Volunteering at a migrant camp.
Shrine of St. Anne's volunteers
getting ready to go help
Habitat for Humanity.
In the late 1990's, the Shrine of St. Anne's Social Ministry sponsored Habitat For Humanity and Visiting Migrant Camps and I became a volunteer. Self-satisfaction, when I was able to do something to help persons who needed help, was rewarding.  Since I speak Spanish, I enjoyed chatting with the migrant workers, taking photos, interpreting the homily for Archbishop Chaput, and joining the migrant workers and the rest of the volunteers for dinner gave me much pleasure and a happy, content feeling.

Ruben, Angel and Sergio
After eating breakfast
I will take children to classroom.
Volunteering at Santa Maria del Mexicano in Colon, Mexico cinched what volunteering was all about. The first year I taught kindergarten to five year children.  I fell in love with the children, the area, the work, other volunteers, and realized being a volunteer gave me much more than I was able to give! For the next five years, for one week to three month, I returned to the orphanage and watched my little five year old children grow. The last time I visited, one of the boys was eighteen and in the army! Those five years taught me much about volunteering.  Not only did I do what was assigned to me, but anything that needed doing.  I became a taxi, a cook, a tour guide, a babysitter, a supervisor, a mail retriever, a party planner, a teacher, a nurse, a librarian and a cleaning woman.   

Watching the circus!
I had often thought about retiring in Mexico and one time when I was in Puerto Vallarta, I decided to find an orphanage.  My thought was that once I retired and lived in Mexico, I could volunteer at an orphanage.  It took me a while, but I did locate Casa Hogar, a home with children without parents. I found out that when God decides to help out, anything is possible. I was staying at Las Palmas Hotel and the young woman, Emma, who worked in the tourist office decided to help me after I mentioned my idea of taking some children from the orphanage to the circus that was in town. I would buy the tickets and treats but I needed transportation. She miraculously found a bus and she convinced the driver to volunteer his time to pickup the children and bring them to the circus where I would meet them. About twenty children arrived dressed in their best outfits. We bought them chips, peanuts, popcorn,candy and drinks and sat together to watch the different acts.  I spent most of my time watching the awed and amazed children. The excitement and happiness on their faces was wonderful to see! After the show, I went with the driver to return the children to the orphanage.  I got many hugs and "gracias" not only from the children but from the adults in charge of the orphanage. To do something that makes someone happy is a very fulfilling feeling!

Some of the children from
Casa Hogar in Puerto Vallarta

In 2010, I again volunteered through Spirit of Christ to teach ESL in Brighton. This time, we used computerized lessons with Rosetta Stone CD's. With gas prices increasing I could no longer make the long drive to Brighton but I do miss seeing the excited pupils as they learn a new language!

This year, I am volunteering at The Arvada Food Bank.  I am one of six "shoppers" for the day and we help people pick out their groceries. Depending on the size of family, the applicants are given points. Volunteers keep track of the points and help persons "purchase" what they need.  Some days it is not busy but some days I feel as if I am on a Merry Go Round.  I take one person, return and get another person, take that person around and by the time we return, there is someone else ready to shop! I enjoy helping Hispanics who do not speak English because I get to practice my Spanish.  Many persons in line have lost their jobs, others cannot find work, and many are struggling to make ends meet. I overheard a volunteer say, "Consider coming to the food bank as a bump in the road. Soon, I am sure, you will find work and this will just be a memory." As we go through the aisles, some tell me their story, others give me recipes, others love to tell me about their children, one told me how her pregnancy was progressing while others tell me how thankful they are for the food bank. I am grateful for everyone who donates to the food bank and I know I am a better volunteer than when I began in the 50's because I enjoy helping all of the persons asking for help no matter how they look!

My ultimate goal in volunteering is to be like this American proverb:

Actions and words are the windows through which the heart is seen!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Whale Watching

Whale Watching
San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Maine, Boston, Nova Scotia and Puerto Vallarta are names that come to mind when I think of whale watching. Once while in Puerto Vallarta, as we sat at an outdoor cafe, someone pointed and said, "Look, whales!" I looked but the tiny pin point tails of the whales were too far away to even say they were whales.

In San Diego and in Cabo San Lucas, a boat took us out to catch a glimpse of "the most spectacular mammal in these waters!"  We saw nothing, not even a ripple in the water.  The boat Captain said, "Most of the time we are lucky, and we see the whales burst out of the water but it doesn't look like it will happen today." In Cabo, I did see plenty of smelly seals coughing their little hearts out!

A cruise to the eastern part of of the United States which included Maine, Canada, and Nova Scotia had passengers running from one end of the ship to the other when we heard, "Over to the right you will see a magnificent group of whales!"  I never saw a thing.  Some persons would say, "Oh, look, see, over there," as they pointed but I never saw anything.  Sometimes, I wonder if those persons were telling the truth when they said they spotted whales.

Visiting my brother in Boston and when we were out on his boat, I looked for whales though it may not have been the season for them to migrate because I never saw any.

On a whim, when I was visiting friends in Nuevo Vallarta, someone suggested going to Punta de Mita. It was only an hour away and a perfect spot for surfing (which I did not do); scuba diving or snorkeling, (which I do not do); golf (which I don't play); and visiting the Marieta Islands (by boat which I will do), and seeing the many different varieties of birds and fish.

We hired a small boat and went bouncing along toward the islands.  Mist hit my face, the sun was hot on my back, and because of the loud motor, I could not talk to my friends, so I just enjoyed watching the sea and the white, foamy wake behind the boat. Sometimes, a seagull would land on the stern and enjoy a free ride. We saw a school of dolphins gracefully dipping in and out of the water.
Blue Footed Booby

Hector, our "tour guide" mentioned that sometimes during the migration period, whales can be seen in the area. My thought was, sure they can.  The Islands were interesting and we saw seagulls, pelicans, cranes and a Blue footed Booby.  Hector told us that only the male has blue legs and feet. We also got a glimpse of the Pajaro Bobo Cafe, a penguin type bird.  The island is made out of volcanic rock covered with lots of white bird poop!

After admiring the many colored fish in the clear water, observing Lover's Beach (when the tide is up, the only way to get to it is by swimming) and listening to the many squawks and squeals of the birds, we started back to shore.  Not too far from our boat, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge dark body suspended in the air.

Spouting water
On its way back into the ocean
The tail of a humpback whale

 As I rushed to get my camera, the huge sight was gone. Hector was yelling, "Did you see it?  Did you see it?" We said we wanted to see more so he circled back and turned off the motor. The interesting thing about whale watching is that if you look in one direction they will pop up behind you or another way to put it, is that no matter where you look, it is never the right spot!  In total, we saw about four sightings, not as close as the first one, but fairly near.  Well, as near as I had ever been to one! 

I found out that the old saying of:  You'll find a whale when you're not looking for one," (yes, I changed it a bit) is true!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Grave in the Middle of Nowhere

Genealogy: A haystack full of needles.  It's the thread I need! (unknown)

During my genealogy search, I found out that my great-grandfather, Nabor Aragon, was buried in a field somewhere in New Mexico.  His tombstone, I was told, had a lamb and a rope carved into the stone. A cousin of mine, Manuel Gonzales, who had visited the grave and taken pictures did not know where his slides were packed and would be unable to show them to me. Other cousins said they had heard about the tombstone in the middle of nowhere but they had never seen it.  The more I inquired, the more curious I became about the relative who was buried in a field.  Last year, I met a few more cousins and one of them, Fred Aragon, said he had photos of the grave and would send them to me. He mentioned that it was near Vaughn, New Mexico and the person who owned the property was named Koontz.  I got on the Internet and found a Jim Koontz and a phone number.  I called Mr. Koontz and left a message.

That evening, Jim Koontz called me.  He told me that he had always wondered about the grave on the property. "You are the first person to inquire about it and in order to get to it, you have to come by our ranch." I told him that some relatives had visited the grave but they must have gone directly to the grave.  Mr. Koontz told me that in order to get to the grave, a four wheel vehicle is needed because of the rough terrain. He said that from Albuquerque to the grave site it would take about five hours!

When his family moved to the area in 1964 he was a young boy but remembers seeing a house with glass windows and beams on the ceiling.  "Now," he said, "everything is gone."  He mentioned Salado (a place that I have heard my ancestors lived) and which was Nabor's homestead.  He said that some of the buildings, made out of stones and adobe, were in shambles and that there was a windmill called the Aragon Windmill on the property.

Mr. Koontz was kind enough to take photos of the grave site and e-mail them to me. I have heard that a 2nd cousin of mine, by the name of Tito Aragon, and son of Nolasco and Adela Aragon, was the artist who made the tombstone.

Along with the photos, he send me this note:

Linda, I took these pictures today. 
The inscription states:
Two pictures of the homestead that is nearby are included. 
I have an old map done in 1931 listing
different homesteads for Township 4 North Range 23 East
and some of the Aragon names listed are
Manuel A, Eligio, Ensebio,(Eusebio) Doroteia (Dorotea) Lucero de, Pedro N., Escolastica.    
Jim Koontz

He mentioned that there are other graves in the area with crosses but without names. He told me that the adjacent farm had been owned by a Mr. Trujillo, who he suspects directed those cousins who had visited the grave site. I found Mr. Koontz to be helpful, interesting and friendly in relaying what he knew about the grave. He mentioned that he is trying to preserve the grave and tombstone.

It is odd that my great-grandmother, Dorotea is buried in Pastura, New Mexico while her husband is in the middle of nowhere. How wonderful it would be to know all the facts about when my ancestors lived. I mentioned my concern to Mr. Koontz and he remarked, "Nabor probably worked the ranch and when he passed on he was buried on his homestead." I had to agree.

I have placed my great-grandfather's grave site on my bucket list! I hope that some day I will stand on the property that once belonged to my ancestors.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Calm After The Storm

Continuous rain fell on the saturated ground causing rivers to overflow. People gathered on bridges to watch the dirty, swirling water blocking roads to downtown Denver. The city was cut in half from east to west. I was nine months pregnant and luckily, the hospital I would go to was on the west side not too far from where we lived. I've always said that my daughter was born in the year of the flood!

She was born on June 18, 1965 and the day began with me having a pain in my eye every twenty minutes.  A sharp needle like pain would cause my eye to water so I called my eye doctor who was in downtown Denver.  "Someone needs to look at that eye," he said, "but since you cannot get into downtown, I'll give you a name of a doctor on the west side of town. My in-laws were visiting from Peru, and my mother-in-law said, "The baby will be born today." I told her that my eye had nothing to do with my pregnancy and I drove to have my eye checked.  The doctor could find nothing wrong with my eye.  He had no explanation as to why I would get a pain and tears would gush out of one eye. He advised me to go home and rest.

Arriving home I tried to take a nap but suddenly I felt a contraction. Maybe my mother-in-law was right and my baby would make an appearance. My husband arrived home from work around 5:30 p.m and we began our frantic journey to the hospital.  Since it was rush hour, it seemed as if we were stuck in traffic, that he hit every red light and every time I got a contraction I would scream, "hurry up!"  At the hospital the nurses checked me and said, "It's a false labor, you have not dilated and you can go home."  The nurses kidded us and told us that the baby was not as ready as we were!

My husband was looking in the closet for my shoes when I felt a gush of water but this time it was not from my eye!  "Call the nurse," I yelled.  "I can't find your shoes," he said.  I exclaimed, "Forget the damn shoes, call the nurse, my water just broke." When the nurse arrived she was surprised because I was almost ready to give birth. They called my doctor and he was at a car dealership looking at cars for his large family.  There was no time to prep me as I was rolled into the delivery room. A doctor on duty came in and in a few minutes, after a few contractions, I watched in a mirror as my daughter slipped out.  She was placed on my stomach and she felt like a burning cinder. She was a darkish-purple color, had a full head of hair, and seemed to be asleep. I felt a peacefulness and tiredness come over me and I wanted to sink into a deep sleep.  I fought to stay awake for fear that if I dozed off I might never wake up again! Everyone did their part and I was holding my precious daughter within twenty minutes of being born. I was told her coloring was because of the iron in my system!

I couldn't help thinking how different this birth had been compared to when my son was born. She had arrived without much ado in a quick and easy manner. I didn't need any drugs, I was not put to sleep, and I was able to watch the miracle of birth.  My husband was informed that our daughter was born and he went to call my mother. Knowing what a kidder he was, she did not believe him.  "You just left for the hospital a short time ago, how could she have been born already?" she asked.  It took him a few tries before he convinced her that our daughter had arrived.

He looked in through a small window in the door and I held up our baby. In those days, no one outside the medical staff was allowed in the delivery room.

Only a mother knows the feeling of pride and joy when she looks at her new born.  The tiny being is so perfect. My baby weighed 7 lbs. 13 oz. and was 20 inches long.  My daughter was a quiet and peaceful baby. During the time I carried my children, the way they moved inside me sort of showed what their personalities would be. She would gently roll while he jabbed, kicked, and poked. My doctor came rushing in after it was all over, and he said he expected a long birth like my son's had been.  He was the one that made the remark, "You're baby arrived so fast and so quietly, that I would say she is the calm after the storm!" I've always thought he meant that my son was the storm and my daughter was the calm but as I write I wonder if he was just being literal meaning a calmness after the flood!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My World is Changing

All around me, what I used to know is changing.  Berkeley Lake has piles of dirt stacked all around. Not to long ago, the lake had looked liked a desert.  It now has water and is beginning to look like a lake again. Where the doggie park used to be is now a mountain of dirt!  Westminster Mall is now gone except for one lone store which I heard refuses to leave. For blocks, the mall is now one large piece of dirt and weeds. Yesterday I noticed that North Jeffco Recreational area is being torn down and huge mounds of dirt circle the area.  I drove around the north side and not only are the buildings being torn down, but the whole park from Garrison to Carr has been dug up. I hear a new park will go up in its place. 

The first time I saw Berkeley Lake was around 1955 when a group of high school kids drove from Greeley to swim in the lake. In those days the lake was clean!  Through the years, I have taken my children to feed the ducks, watched fireworks and heard the screams from the Lakeside roller coaster.  We have had many picnics under the large trees, watched people fishing, have danced in the rec center, enjoyed sunsets, tromped through yellow and golden leaves in the fall, and walked around the lake for exercise. I would meet my father at Berkeley and we would walk together.  Memories will be all I have of Berkeley until whatever is being done is completed. 

Westminster Mall became the place to shop once Lakeside Mall with the Denver Dry Goods Company and Target closed.  My children would go to movies at the mall, I worked at the mall every Christmas, and even when Joslins and Macy's were gone I still visited J.C. Penny (still there) and the smaller stores. I am curious to see what will be erected in place of all those stores!

The first time I went to North Jeffco was around 1960 to swim.  I remember my friends and I seemed to drive forever through farm lands until we reached a pool in the middle of nowhere. We spent the whole day swimming and sunbathing. Many years later, when we moved to Arvada, the farm lands were gone and residential homes were all around. The pool was now in the middle of a town! It used to be the fun place to swim, ice skate, see hockey tournaments, play racquet ball, gymnastics or use the gym for basketball or volleyball. I would drop my son and daughter at the Center for a bus to take them to their ski lessons at Loveland Ski Basin. There was a clay pottery area where my son practiced using the wheel. My daughter worked there during the summer.  We had picnics, played on the playground, and swam.  Even my grandchildren enjoyed the park.

I know there are many other places being torn down and then rebuilt, but it will never be the same and I will only have my sponge full of thoughts to remind me of what had been!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dogs in My Life

I have never had a dog to call my very own.  All the dogs in my life may have lived in my house but they belonged to another member of my family.

"If you can't decide between a Shepherd, a Setter or a Poodle,
get them all --adopt a mutt!"...ASPCA

Sleepy:  A dark, short-hair, medium sized dog of unknown origins showed up one day and my Mother adopted him. My young brother played doctor with him and would put band aids and bandages all over him and Sleepy allowed it.  One time, no matter how many threats, yells or rocks I threw at him,  he followed me to school and a car struck him.  I was more afraid of being late than of tending to Sleepy and all through my classes I wondered about our dog. When I got home, ready to let everyone in the family know that our dog was gone, Sleepy was in his usual place in front of the heater.  He slowly got up to greet me and my mother said, "I don't know what is wrong with him, he has been sleeping all day."  I told her what had happened and she checked him to make sure he had no broken bones and my father said, "He'll be all right."  In a few days, Sleepy was back to normal. I do not remember what happened to him.

Mickey: A cute little puppy my brother bought for our younger brother.  It was a tan and white puppy and we all loved to play with him. On a hot day, Mickey crawled underneath the car to sleep and when my brother backed up to get out of the driveway, he ran over him and our cute, little puppy was gone.

Mike: A dog with the markings of a collie that my brother again purchased for my younger brother. He was like a grown up Mickey! My Mother was the one that was home so she took care of Mike.  Mike was great with us, but hated mailmen. At spotting the mailman, he became like Cujo, from Stephen King's novel.  Indoors he was fine and played with the neighborhood children. When he was outside, we kept him tied up. One day, as the mailman came up our steps, Mike's lounges broke the chain and he attacked the poor frightened man.  Luckily, all the damage done was the tearing of the man's pants, from his thigh to his ankle. I remember my Mother kneeling beside the mailman, embarrassed and apologetic, pinning the gray pant leg. After a few more attacks and fines we could not pay, Animal Control took him away.

Brownie:  A reddish brown chow who looked mean but was very gentle. He looked like a furry bear.
I remember the neighborhood children playing with him and the smaller children would ride him like a horse. When I got married, Brownie stayed with my parents and he lived a long life until he died.

Skipper: Black and white English Springer Spaniel puppy I bought for my children.  They were too young and I was at work all day, so I know that Skipper must have had a horrible time being alone. I put paper down all over the floor for him and he would find the smallest area not covered to do his business. I ended up giving Skipper to my parents because I did not think it was good to leave him alone for such long periods.  My father told me that Skipper was the smartest dog he had ever had. "I just have to think something, and it's as if he knows what I am thinking." I am sure Skipper was much happier running around the large yard and not cooped up in our basement!

Chico:  Now that my children were older, my daughter wanted to have a dog of her own.  We went
to a pet store and looked at all the puppies they had for sale.  I fell in love with a dark German Shepherd and encouraged her to look at how peppy he was and how he followed us with his eyes. She had her eyes on a mixed Collie/Australian Blue Heeler with beautiful hazel eyes. The pup got up and as he walked around he had a distinct limp. "You don't want a dog that is injured," I told my daughter, "look how he limps." She insisted that she liked the dog.  No matter how I tried to convince her, she had her heart set on the limper. She won the argument and we brought him home and turned him loose in our front room.  He limped around, sniffed a few times and then began walking normal. Chico, as she named him, never limped again.  I often wonder if that was his ploy to make someone have sympathy for him so that he would get a caring home!

When we were in the mountains, he had no fear of heights and loved jumping into the river to play in the water. I can still picture him running over the large, flat rocks at Lake Powell. When we were on the boat, he would take a nap on the floor of the boat.  My neighbors have told me stories on how he would unlatch the front gate with his nose and visit the neighborhood.  When he returned, he would shut the gate and push the latch down locking the gate. Many times Animal Control would come a few minutes after Chico had crawled into his house and Chico would be found curled up and asleep. My neighbor told me that no matter how Animal Control tried, they could never catch Chico outside the yard.  Of course, during that time, I always thought Chico stayed in the yard all day.  Chico and I bonded when my daughter went away to college and then to the Peace Corps.

Poker:  One day my son came home with a white puppy with black spots. The dog had huge paws and if I had known anything about dogs, I would have known that the puppy would grow to become a horse!  Poker was a chewer....clothes on the line, shoes, or the siding on my house. My daughter played soccer and on cold days, Poker would stretch across eight bare legs to keep the girls warm.

Black Sabbath:  Around the same time, my son brought another dog home.  This one was large, black and happy.  Poker and Sabbath played all over the yard while Chico watched. To me, Chico had class and wasn't going to be bothered with two silly rambunctious dogs. Sabbath was weird, because he loved to crawl into dark places.  At the soccer games when Poker was warming up the girls, Sabbath would crawl underneath the bleachers. He was content in a secluded corner.

One day,  the three dogs disappeared.  We looked all over the neighborhood but there was no sign of Chico, Poker or Black Sabbath. After a few days of searching we gave up and decided that our dogs were gone.  About a week later I received a call from a man who lived about eight miles from my house.  He said all three dogs had appeared one morning and he had been feeding them. He thought they had followed the railroad tracks. The man wondered where the three dogs belonged and when he saw Chico's tags. he called us. My daughter and I went to pick them up and two huge dogs and one medium sized dog filled up our car with a horrible smell. I do not know what happened to Black Sabbath.  Poker, I drove to a shelter in hopes that they would find a farm for him where he would have space to run.  Chico lived a full life. He was old, had a growth on his eye and was having problems walking and my daughter had him put to sleep.

Duke: My father loved dogs and he found a black German Shepherd and named him Duke. I was afraid of the dog. He snapped at my older brother.  When I visited my father and the dog was loose in the yard,  I would stand outside the fence and throw rocks at my father's window so he could come out and control the dog. Duke died of old age.

Vanessa: After Duke, Dad got another red Chow. When my Dad passed away, my son took Nessa to live with him. My grandchildren enjoyed playing with her and she liked to play soccer with them. When my granddaughter took Nessa for a walk, it was all she could do to hold Nessa. It always seemed that Nessa was taking my granddaughter for a walk!  Nessa was a good friendly dog and when I visited I liked to brush her. I would fill a grocery bag with her fur. Every year she seemed to get slower and slower until one day she passed away in her sleep. She was buried in the back yard and my grandchildren placed a wooden cross on her grave.

Pablo:  This dog belongs to my family in California.  A white, gentle dog that when I visit, he is told,  "Look, grandma's here."  Every year they bake him a special dog cupcake and celebrate his birthday. On his last birthday he was eleven.

Chewbacca:  A Standard Poodle belonging to my brother and sister in law.  I fell in love with Chewbacca because it was as if he understood everything.  They told me stories of things he does, and I have come to the conclusion that dogs are smart, clever and understand more than they are given credit.  After a visit, I was saying good bye to Chewbacca and as I got his face in my hands and told him how much I had enjoyed meeting him, he stood up.  Standing he was taller than I am and he gently placed his head on my shoulder.

"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself."  Josh Billings

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Took My Children to Mexico with $100

If you read my blog about my month-long visit to Mexico, you will understand why I wanted my children to experience the beautiful people and the country of Mexico! In March of 1972, five months after my return from Mexico, I took my daughter, age six, and my son, age nine, to Mexico.
We flew into Mazatlan because in those days there were no direct flights to our destination of Puerto Vallarta.

I got us lodging at the Siesta Hotel and we walked along the Malecon (boardwalk) to a crowded beach.  At the beach there was a bathroom that had a wet floor, the toilet had no seat, there was no toilet paper and it did not smell very good.  I warned them not to touch anything, to try and not to step on the wet floor with their bare feet, and to try not to breathe! Neither child was happy with all my instructions but they did enjoy the warm, sandy beach and the cool green water.


After spending a pleasant afternoon playing in the ocean, we began walking to our hotel. "I'm tired," cried my daughter.  "Get a taxi," said my son. After about a block of whining I stuck out my thumb.  My budget did not include cabs! A pickup with three men in the cab stopped and told us to get in the rear of the truck.  We gladly jumped in and almost gagged because the men were fishermen and had carried a load of fish.  The fish were gone but the smell lingered!

They dropped us off at the Siesta.  We showered and ate dinner.  I made sure the kids ordered the least expensive items on the menu. In the morning we took a cab to the bus station and since I did not want to wait for a later bus going to Puerto Vallarta, I took the first one leaving.  The bus was so crowded that my son and I stood while a kind gentleman let my daughter sit on the corner of his seat. "I'm thirsty," said my son. "Me too," said my daughter. At the first stop I bought them a pop. "This pop is warm,"said my son. "Mine too," said my daughter.  "I want water," said my daughter.  "Me too,"said my son. No matter how I explained that we could not drink the water, they could not understand why they couldn't have water when they were so thirsty. Water bottles had not yet been invented! The air conditioning on the bus was not working and even with all the windows open we only got small amounts of fresh air. "Mom, I don't like Mexico," said my daughter as her lower lip trembled. "I'm hot and I'm tired," said my son. It was a bit better as passengers got off and we were able to sit. I admit it was a torturous ride between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta but we finally arrived and I checked into the Rosita Hotel.

From then on, we had a wonderful time.  The kids enjoyed playing on the beach, visiting the mercado, and walking along the Malecon. I rented a Safari, a sort of a jeep,  and we drove to a secluded beach called Mismaloya. There were a few huts with palm roofs called Palapas. The ocean was a bluish- green and peaceful. I told them that a movie had been filmed at Mismaloya called The Iguana but they were more interested in playing in the water!

 The kids got a short horseback ride after I bargained with the owner of the horses. "Well, since I am not busy, they can ride a little bit," he said. Instead of the usual hour, he let them ride for about twenty minutes. We spent most of the time playing on a beach. They stopped complaining about not being able to drink the water and we consumed a lot of pop without ice.

After three days of fun, we boarded a bus to Mazatlan. The bus ride was not as bad as our original ride and somehow, I believed that the kids were adjusting to being in a foreign country. I counted out my pesos. I set aside money for the cab to the airport. I had enough to buy them each a hamburger with french fries and I hoped they would leave some left overs so that I could eat. They ate everything on their plate. The room I found was near the Siesta and it was cheap. It had one bed for the three of us. Since we had been in the sun all afternoon, we all got a terrible sun burn. Any movement on the bed was painful while next door, a loud band played until dawn. We did not get much sleep.

In the morning before going to the airport,  we were getting our feet wet in the ocean when a large wave took my son's sandal. We watched it get washed out to sea! When we took a cab to the airport my son went barefooted and the cab driver didn't even blink an eye when I told him I had no tip money! We must have been a sight with our red faces and my son without shoes, as we boarded the plane! When we were on the plane, the stewardess (as they were called back then) ignored our plea for water though she did bring a drink to some well dressed Americans. I immediately switched from Spanish to English and the response was instantaneous.  Water, magazines, newspapers were then offered to us. Somehow, I got the feeling that the Mexican attendants cater to Americans. When we were served our meal, it tasted so good that it made me remember something my Mother used to say, "When you are hungry, everything tastes good!"

                                                               On Our Way Home

Neither child had good memories of their first trip to Mexico.  Even back then, when everything was more economical than now, I learned that $100 was not enough for one adult and two children for a week. We made it but it was hard on all of us. When I returned to work I began saving my money so that we could return to Mexico. I just knew my children, with a few changes, would love Mexico as much as I did! 

A breakdown of costs:

Hotel Siesta in Mazatlan:               $12.00     One night
Meals and Miscellaneous                   9.00     Snacks, dinner and breakfast
Cab to Bus Station                             1.00
Bus to Puerto Vallarta                        6.00
Drinks                                                 1.50
Hotel Rosita in P.V.                          24.00     Two nights
Meals                                                14.00      Two days
Safari Rental                                         9.00      1 day
Horseback Riding                              2.00        1/2 hour
Bus to Mazatlan                                 6.00
Hotel in Mazatlan                              8.00
Meal for kids                                     4.00
Cab to Airport                                   3.50

The same trip today would be over $800 if not more! Even though it was a bare bones budget, and I failed to prove to my children that Mexico was a fun and beautiful place, we still did a lot with one hundred dollars!


Adios, Until Next Time!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Visit to the Zoo

I remember taking my children to the zoo when they were little. I have a picture of my daughter in a stroller and my son chasing the geese. In another photo my son is sporting a halter with a leash because he liked running off and no one could catch him, so I tethered him to me! 

Today, I went to the zoo and the entrance was a mad house with people buying tickets, dragging coolers for picnics, children get smeared or sprayed with sun block, strollers and wagons holding children who didn't seem to know what was going on! I do not remember so much commotion when we went to the zoo in those olden days!

I was surprised at how the zoo had spread out and the different types of animals. I wanted to see the new ten acre Toyota Elephant Passage that was being advertised.  It opened a few weeks ago and is the newest addition to the zoo. I arrived at the crowded zoo entrance around 10:30 a.m. and in order to control visitors to the Toyota Elephant Passage area, I was given the time of 11:45 to enter the new addition. Since I still had time to wander, Ichecked out the different areas of the zoo.

Going left after leaving the entrance I saw the felines and the beautiful King Lion resting on top of a mound of rocks.
King of the mountain.

I passed the Giraffe Meadows and watched the graceful, long necked giraffes move around slowly and eat  hay hanging from tall posts.

A two headed giraffe.

I saw zebras, kudos, wild mustangs, deer, hyraxes, Bonded Mongoose, East African Crowned Cranes, Kangaroos and camels.  The camels looked shaggy because their winter coats were coming off in large patches.

When I reached the Toyota Elephant Passage I was disappointed.  The elephants are up high and behind a wire fence which made it difficult to photograph the huge wrinkled pachyderms. When they do come down to eye level any photos will have the wire fence showing. I glimpsed at a sleeping rhinoceros quite a distance from where I stood. Two long armed monkeys, which I believe are Gibbons,  moved along a rope, hand over hand, and never lost their grip.

In the pachyderm area I saw a huge brown hippopotamus submerged in the water and I heard people asking how long it could hold it's breath. I watched the large animal for about six minutes before it came up for air. The Greeks called the huge beasts, "river horses."

An ugly looking rhinoceros, with stubby horns, was working with a trainer. The trainer said,  "The rhino may ignore me if he is not in the mood." The rhino did come and hit a target with his nose once and then he was given some treats that looked like pieces of orange. The trainer was trying to get the Rhino's ears sprayed with sun block but only manged to get one ear sprayed. I wondered how the wild rhinos manage in the wild without ever getting their ears sprayed.

On Monkey's Island, there were two monkeys.  In the past, I remember there would be many monkeys swinging from the trees and entertaining the viewers. I would laugh at their many antics and they seemed to know what to do to make people laugh!
Sheep Mountain had not changed and the sheep sit or stand on the rugged rocks and gaze down at the people.  I did see a cute baby white goat following its Mother around.

When I heard thunder and it looked like it might storm, I decided to leave the park without seeing the Primate area even though that is one of my favorite places to see the gorillas and orangutans.

Even though I enjoy looking at the different animals, I always feel sad to think that they are in confined areas and not free to roam as they would in their natural habitat. Below are some of the photos I took as I wandered around the Denver Zoo.  The upper right picture of an Okapi has a brown body but its legs and haunches are striped like a Zebra.

The zoo is now bigger than ever, the grounds are well kept and the paths are wide to accomodate the many visitors.  It is a fun place to visit and learn about wild life and the different species found in all parts of the world.