Thursday, August 31, 2017

How High Can I Go

The story begins with a man on his way to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. I read about snow, ice, cold, wind, and a back ache. He does not reach the summit and is forced to return feeling depressed and defeated. The story continues with Scott Parazynski as a young boy dreaming of being an astronaut. Moving from country to country; Africa, Middle East, Egypt, Russia, Poland, Turkey, India, Greece, Iran, Japan plus other countries. Along the travels with his parents, he learns various languages and decides to become a doctor. His schooling has him in Colorado where he mountain climbs many of the 14ers in between his classes.

Through his adventures that are vividly described in the book, his objective is to become an astronaut and go into space. He was born on July 28, 1961, three months after Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin's space flight and at eight years old he was at the Apollo 9 launch in Florida on March 3, 1969. The story continues with his training, mishaps, and his four travels into space. Never being one to pay attention to NASA and what they were doing, the story lets the reader live side by side with the astronauts. It helps that the Kindle version has short videos to watch what is being read.

The excitement of the Challenger completing its work and then lost is traumatic and sad. I remember reading and watching television but somehow the description in the book made it more real.  I did not know that the Challenger had made nine trips safely and on the tenth mission it did not make it and all seven astronauts were killed.

Parazynski made five visits into space and retired in March, 2009.  I had no idea that the space shuttles traveled at 17,000 per hour. He is the only person to fly in space and also reach the top of Mt. Everest. He lists his hometown as Palo Alto, CA and Evergreen, CO. He mentions that one of his greatest moments was when he traveled with famous seventy-seven year old John Glenn (first to orbit earth in 1962). It was a mission to see how "old" people functioned in space. Another great moment for Parazynski was when he reached the summit of Mt. Everest, (on his second attempt) making him the only man to fly in space and to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

The story is written with humor, sadness, joy and knowledge. I not only learned more about the space program, what was happening on the space labs and to whom, what floats around in space, his personal life with friendships, heartaches and happy moments. His description of what he felt at take off and his feelings on the space ship opened my eyes at how frightening it must have been. Well, frightening for someone like me but probably not for the astronauts! A life of a man destined for excitement, love and ups and downs of life. Literally, more ups (space) than downs (scuba diving)!

If it is read on the Kindle, the benefits of short videos gives the reader a feeling of being there with the author. You meet his family, his wife and children, climb ice fields, and see him floating in space. This is truly a story I would recommend because it opened my eyes to the space program and what a person can do when his/her mind is set to do it!

"Everything is possible
until proven impossible,
and then you just need 
to become more creative"
Scott Parazynski

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Never Far From Me

Today a friend told me she had bought a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. She said,  "Can you believe I had never known about St. Francis? I knew about St. Anthony, St. Michael and others, but St. Francis was not a saint I knew anything about, that is, until your son's funeral. Your memorial card for him was a picture and prayer of St. Francis and that is when I became aware of the beautiful saint. When I saw the statue, I had to buy it!"

My eyes filled with tears as she told me about why she bought the statue. The tall statue now sits on her front porch and whenever I go visit her, and I see the statue, my thoughts will be of my son. She told me that she thinks of me and my son when she looks at the statue also. We both believe that my son prompted her to buy the statue because he knows that we are friends!
One of my favorite prayers is the St. Francis Prayer: 

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is darkness, light.
and where there is sadness, joy.

Oh, Divine Master, grant that I 
may not seek to be consoled, as 
to console, to be understood,
as to understand. To be loved
as to love, for it is in giving that
we receive. It is in pardoning
that we are pardoned, and it is in
dying that we are born to eternal life.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Where In the Heck is Erie

A few years ago I accompanied a friend to an appointment in Erie, Colorado. She drove, had her appointment and we ate Mexican food in a local restaurant. I remember how beautiful the mountains looked to the west of Erie. I did not realize I would be in for a surprise today when I tried to find an address in Erie.

Today, I drove to Erie to meet my granddaughter at twelve-thirty for lunch. She recently moved to Erie, and I thought Erie was a small town. The town may be small but I found out Erie spreads out in a large area!  At one o'clock I was still driving on different county line roads and could not find the street. Since my granddaughter has not lived in Erie long she could not give me explicit directions. I told her to be patient and that by hook or by crook I would find the address.

At one point I ended up at a Longmont Walmart and then continued south and passed the town of Fredrick. I felt a big relief when I saw the sign that said Erie.

My phone gave me directions, but when I followed them it was never to where I wanted to go. I finally stopped and showed the attendant at a gas station my phone. He had never heard the name of the street I was looking for in Erie. But, he looked at my phone and fooled around with it and then with a big grin he said, "You are not far." Go to County Line 10 1/2 and follow the instructions.

Easier said than done.  I was on County Line 10 1/2 three separate times and realized I was going in circles. I then began talking to my phone. My favorite question was: Where am I? It amazed me that it knew exactly where I was and as I followed the directions on the map on my phone I knew I was getting closer to my destination! The directions led me right to the house. Even though I was an hour and ten minutes late, I was happy to find the house and see my granddaughter walking down the driveway.

We ate pizza at Echo Brewery and I enjoyed hearing about here first week of school. We went to Sweets where we had dessert.  I had raspberry gelato and she had cookies and cream ice cream. We face-timed with my granddaughter in San Francisco so I felt as if I was with two granddaughters! She then took me by her school and showed me the route the school bus takes to and from school. Her life in Erie is quite different than when she lived in Arvada, yet she seems to have adjusted to the move quite well.

What a wonderful day spending time with my youngest granddaughter!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Sweet Treat

Yesterday I tasted something for the first time. Arriving at a friend's home she pointed to a dish on the table with sort of round green and purple balls or bell shaped fruit. "Have a fig," she said. I told her I had never seen fresh figs before so I took a purple one and began to peel it. "You don't have to peel it," she said, "just eat the whole thing." The inside had lots of soft, mushy seeds in a bed of sweet juicy flesh. I told her I had never seen a fig that looked like those in the dish and the only figs I had ever eaten were the dried, sweet ones.

Later, I popped a green one into my mouth and it was sweeter than the purple one. A delicious succulent snack.  I looked on the Internet and found out that fresh figs are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. They are low in calories and have needed fiber, minerals and vitamins. Dried figs have calcium, copper, potassium, iron and zinc also. Eating figs can control heart rate and blood pressure.

"Where did you buy these?" I asked. 
A friend visiting California had brought these to her because figs cannot be purchased in Colorado  at this time of year. She said that around Christmas time is when we can buy them in stores. She also told me that Persimmons are sold around Christmas time also, so now I am looking forward to tasting that fruit also! After checking a sugar and carb counter book by Jorge Cruise named The Belly Fat Cure I may not try the Persimmon because they are loaded with carbs and sugar!

"A great fig should look like
it's just about to burst its skin.
When squeezed lightly it
should give a little and not
spring back. It must be
unctuously sweet, soft and wet."
Yotam Ottolenghi

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Two Minute Thrill


It seemed to me that everyone I talked with was talking about the eclipse that would happen on August 21, 2017. Some friends were going to Wyoming, others to Oregon, and some to Nebraska. These were places for a full eclipse. I did not get excited until friends told me they were going to go watch the eclipse at Regis University.  I was not sure I wanted to go watch but on the morning of the 21st, as I ate breakfast, I decided to go see the eclipse. After all, I could pick up glasses, park without paying and watch the eclipse on the quad at Regis.

Luckily, when I arrived I found a perfect parking spot and joined about two hundred people in line for eclipse watching glasses. I was told that the glasses would be handed out at ten. I was given a sheet with information pertaining to an eclipse and what to expect. I looked at my watch and realized I would need to wait about forty-five minutes. Everyone in line was friendly and we told stories about our kids when they attended Regis, about different things we had heard about the eclipse, and animal behavior during an eclipse. What I gathered from the conversation was that animals act weird and not at all like they usually act. Someone mentioned that Regis had 1000 glasses to give out!

Once I had my glasses, I got a call letting me know where my friends were sitting. I joined them and had fun taking pictures, catching up on our lives, watching people and eating snacks. One friend made a paper plate and pin hole viewer that she could use, if she did not want to look up at the sun.
Then both friends went to another tent and made bracelets with each bead representing the solar system.

I had read in the information sheet that a partial eclipse funnels through tree leaves to project images of crescents on the ground. I saw the crescents and took a picture and then it was time! Everyone moved out of the shade and into the quad. We had been told how to put on our glasses, so we put them on and looked up. The sun was an orange ball with the moon in front of it making an orange crescent. In Colorado we only got a partial eclipse so the sun was not covered completely. It was neat to see but how long can you look up and see the same orange crescent in the sky above! I never noticed that it got darker or that it got cooler.  On the Internet I saw pictures that a friend had posted from Nebraska where they actually got a full eclipse and it most certainly looked darker, almost like right before it gets dark in the evening. I read where a total eclipse lasts about two minutes and forty seconds.

We folded up our glasses and our chairs and went to have lunch at La Cocinita. Before entering the restaurant we put on our glasses and looked at the sun one more time. We could see more of the orange sun as the moon moved away from it.

I suppose because it is not something we see every day, this was special. Yet, I expected something more. My question was, just like a song by Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is?

"Zeus, the father of Olympic Gods,
turned mid-day into night, hiding
the light of the dazzling sun, and
sore fear came upon men."
Archilochus, Greek Poet

(Today I spoke with a young lady at Costco and she told me she went to the zoo to see how the animals would act during the eclipse. I thought that was a neat idea, especially when she told me that the seals lined up and stood like grey statues. She said they all looked in the same direction and it appeared that they were looking at the eclipse. She said that most of the other animals were pretty normal. What a neat idea to visit the zoo on the day that we had 92% eclipse! We wondered if it had been a total eclipse if the animals would have behaved differently. I guess we will never know!)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Guilt Cost Me $5.76

When I heard that The Glass Castle movie was in town and it had been recommended by an author who came to speak at my Book Club, I knew I wanted to see the movie. I looked it up on the Internet and marked the time down on a tablet so I wouldn't forget. Saturday at 11:45 a.m. when the price is cheaper than if I went in the afternoon.

Arriving at the theater, The Glass Castle was not playing. Somehow, either the Internet was wrong or I copied the wrong time. I asked what movie was available that I might be able to see and the only movie at that time was Wind River. It happened to be about a detective(Jeremy Renner)  trying to find a murder on an Indian reservation and he is joined by an inexperienced FBI agent, (Elizabeth Olsen).  It sounded interesting enough, so I paid my five dollars and seventy-six cents. The theater was full so I figured it must be a good movie, though I had not heard anything about it.

The movie was filmed in the Wyoming mountains and the outdoor shots were beautiful.  The landscape shots were striking, the snow mobiles flying through the snow were fun to watch, I could almost feel the cold in those rugged mountains and felt a sadness to see life on the reservation. There was some humor in the dialogue and that helped during the violent scenes. The movie is probably not a movie I would have picked but it did hold my interest.

After the movie, as I was leaving I noticed that The Glass Castle was playing in another theater and it was beginning in ten minutes. I entered, found a place to sit, and finally got to enjoy the movie I had come to see in the first place. My guilt feeling did not lesson my enjoyment of the movie. A dysfunctional family and how they managed to cope through ups and downs; mostly downs. Woody Harrelson played a great part as the alcoholic father with lots of anger. In some parts it was hard to watch, especially when he took his rages out on the children. The children grow up but the mother and father do not. The parents continue to live their lives as squatters in New York.

Somehow, the movie ends with the children reminiscing about their lives and laughing about the "good" memories with their father.

Once the movie was over and I passed the ticket counter, my guilt made me walk over and confess to a young man about watching a movie without paying. "Oh, you're not the only one, some see five movies without paying!" he told me.  I said, "Well, I wanted to let you know and pay for a ticket because guilt is an awful feeling." He smiled and I thought he was going to say, "That's okay." But instead, he said, "If you want to pay it will be five dollars and seventy-six cents" I paid and my guilt feeling evaporated making me feel better. But, I know I probably would have felt better if he had said that I didn't have to pay!

"I like simple things.
I like to sneak in the theater
and watch movies.
I'm a movie buff."
Justin Timberlake

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

So Happy To Wake Up This Morning

A large fifty-five passenger brown bus pulled up at the designated spot. It was old looking and as forty some persons entered the bus they sat in seats that had springs poking through the upholstery. The floor of the aisle had small pieces of papers and dirt, almost as if it had not been swept in years. The bus started out on a journey to New Mexico and we were well on the way when I realized that one woman was missing. This was a woman who loved going on the trip and she had even baked cookies for us to take; how could I have not realized she was not on the bus when it took off?

The bus not only had my group, traveling but a few unkempt strangers. One man kept trying to flirt with me and I realized he had been drinking. What were these strangers doing on my chartered bus? I was not happy. It was important to get the name tags for our group and when I looked for the box with the name tags, it was no where to be found. I frantically looked through all my belongings and  I did not have them?  How could I have forgotten them? What was I going to do? My heart and my head throbbed at a fast pace, much faster than normal. I hated the way the trip was starting. Nothing was going according to plan. What else could happen?

One man asked for a glass of milk. Some lady had a quart of milk in a glass container and she  poured him a glass. All I could think of was that if he spilled the milk there might be a sour smell wafting through the bus. I felt bad about the lady we had left behind, the condition of the bus, the strangers who did not belong with my group, and thought to myself, do I want to plan another trip?

And then I woke up. I have never been so happy to wake up. I thanked God for the whole thing being a nightmare. Surely, a real life trip could not possibly be this bad, or could it?

"Which is the true nightmare;
the horrific dream that you
have in your sleep or the 
dissatisfied reality that awaits
you when you are awake?"
Justin Alcala

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Gardener's Apprentice

My father always had a large garden in our back yard. I remember him watering, trimming, planting, etc. or whatever gardeners do to make the plants produce tomatoes, corn, zucchini, lettuce, radishes, carrots, rhubarb, and green chili. I had not realized that my friend's husband was also a gardener. One day he showed me all the lush green plants in his garden. His Marisol chili was his pride and joy. When he became ill and knew he would not be around much longer, he began to talk to his son-in-laws about keeping up his garden.

On the day of his funeral, a table had small plants and seeds, and I was told the son-in-laws would be planting a garden. He told them when and how, at what time of the year, when the moon was just right and I wondered who would take up the duties of planting and taking care of the garden. To me it was a tremendous job to try and plant a garden like my friend.

When I visited Greeley,  I would see work being done to prepare the plot but it wasn't until yesterday that I realized how the garden had taken shape. He took me around the garden, pointing at the giant pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, onion, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, and the green chili plants. He said, "The majority of the plants are Marisol, but I have added two rows of New Mexico chili."  The large plot is surrounded by Marigold flowers that he said kept the rabbits and bugs from eating the plants. I remember my friend telling me the same thing when he showed me his garden!

"You must have had some help from heaven to be able to have this beautiful garden," I said. He agreed and said, "I learned so much from my father-in-law."  As we chatted, he told me that his mother also has a large garden and is always giving him vegetables. "We never have to buy vegetables at the store."

"See this chair?" he asked, as he pointed to a plastic chair by the garage. "I come to irrigate, sit in this chair, put some music on, relax, and enjoy watching my garden grow!" I could tell he loves gardening and as he told me what he does, I realized he is not only a gardener but a Jack of All Trades. He has done a variety of jobs; electrical, plumbing, dry walling, and fixing what needs fixing!

I told him that his father-in-law would be very proud of all he has done and especially the garden.
A picture forms in my head of my friend in heaven looking down at the garden and telling the angels,  "I couldn't have done it better myself!"

"The kitchen garden
satisfies both requirements,
a thing of beauty
and a joy for dinner."
Peter Mayle

A Brief History of Greeley's East Side

Growing up in Greeley, I attended Lincoln Elementary School on the East side of the city. A park east of the school I always called Lincoln Park was where a lot of the kids would play. My most vivid recollection about the park were the  "school" fights. Two persons would have a disagreement and the park was where they went to settle their differences. When I moved away I never gave the park another thought.

That is until today, some seventy years later, when I returned to the park. I noticed a swimming pool called Splash Land had been added to the park. It looked different than what I remembered! The park was to be named and dedicated to two friends if mine.  A canopy had been set up under the large shade-giving trees. The grass was thick and green. Friends and family milled around waiting for the ceremony to begin. Music played and a policeman and a young woman danced.  What a surprise I got when I found out that she was my second cousin!

The ceremony began with a welcome and introduction of city employees. One woman gave a short history of the park and I learned some things about the area I never knew. Paraphrasing what she said:

Greeley's Sunrise neighborhood, known historically as the East Side and to some known as "east of the tracks." In 1902 with the completion of the sugar factory the east side working class residents became the primary property owners. The early colonists that settled in the area were Russian, German, Japanese, Hispanic and the area has been referred to as the "Ellis Island of Greeley."

Sunrise park was the third park established in Greeley after Lincoln Park (downtown) and Island Grove on the north side. Voters approved the building of the park on April 6, 1915 and 200 trees were planted. In the past, attempts have been made to name the park but no one could come up with a name that was unanimous. That is until today, when the dedication will take place because when the suggestion to name the park Charlie and Laura Archibeque Park there had been no opposition.

By the speakers from the Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, council members, friends and family it became quite clear why the park was a perfect tribute to the Archibeque family. Charlie was respected, admired and loved by those that knew and worked with him. The one thing I noticed, in what was said, is that he was always willing to help anyone in need. His daughter mentioned that one of his mottos was, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Two of his daughters spoke about growing up and how the swimming pool was visited daily when they were growing up. I got the impression that some may have met their future husbands at the pool! One daughter played the guitar and sang a touching and moving song that brought tears to many. She dedicated the love song to her mother since her father had passed away earlier this year.

The one son  (he has six sisters) helped his mother pull off the cover to reveal the green sign with the words: Charlie and Laura Archibeque Park.  It was a very emotional and exciting moment among the clapping and cheering.

People gathered in clusters to reminisce while others went to the Pavilion for ice cream; Popsicles, paletas and cups. We were invited to the Archibeque home for refreshments and I was one of the many who joined the family at home to continue the celebration.

A granddaughter with the sign about her grandparents.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From Fields to Table

On my trip to Greeley, Colorado today, I saw lots of people roaming among the white tents.  I parked and walked over to join the crowd and found out it was a Farmer's Market. I walked up and down the single aisle and checked out the vegetables, soaps, burrito stand, fresh green chili being roasted, wood carvings, candles, peaches, knit caps, and just about anything I might need. A lady entertained with her violin and I noticed her violin case had quite a few dollars in it! A book mobile was parked for anyone wishing to get a book. I did not know what an Apiary was but I liked the sign: Finding the sacred in the simple. (I looked it up and the dictionary refers to it as a place where bees are kept. Yet, in a blurb on the Internet, there is an antique store called The Apiary so my guess is that the word can be used for a collection of items and not just bees.)

Everything looked so yummy that on my way home from Greeley I stopped at Lulu's Outdoor Roadside Market near Brighton and bought some green roasted chili, four ears of corn, two cucumbers, and four peaches. This place was crowded also and I am beginning to think that Farmer's Markets are where to go to buy fresh food! It certainly seems to be less expensive than grocery stores.

A Wedding Like No Other

I knew that when my girl friend finally got her annulment papers completed that her marriage through the church would be a spectacular wedding. Arriving at the church a bagpiper greeted everyone with Irish music. The  bridesmaids were in red, her husband wore black with a red tie, and she was in a lovely white dress with a short train and a black and white rebozo (shawl).  Her two daughters walked her down the aisle stepping over the rose pedals that had been scattered by the flower girl.

The auxiliary Bishop performed the ceremony with a few wise cracks that made everyone laugh. Because the husband is of Irish descent and my friend is Mexican the ceremony began with two candles being lit; one by the sister who had come from Mexico and the other by his brother. At one point in the ceremony, the flames from the Mexican and Irish candles would be used to light the main candle by the bride and groom to represent unity of the two cultures.

Her sister was the bridesmaid of honor and his brother was best man. Rings were exchanged, a white rope was placed over the two signifying the bringing together of two people, coins were exchanged to represent they would be together through thick or thin (poor or not), while her two daughters sang hymns during mass.

After mass everyone was invited to the reception in the church hall. The room was decorated with  white tablecloths, different colored roses were all around, and paper cut outs were hung from the walls. Corn beef and cabbage was enjoyed as well as Mexican dishes. Aside from the drinks and food we were entertained by an Irish step-dancer, the bag piper and his brother on drums, and a mariachi group consisting of her two daughters and two young men. The singer is not Mexican but was impressive as he belted out the Mexican songs.

The cake was white with berries for decorations. Inside the cake there were more berries making it a berry delicious cake! I believe a small miracle happened with the cake. It was like the story of Jesus on the mount who from three fish and two loafs of bread he was able to feed the multitude. The same thing happened with the cake. Slice after slice was handed out, and at one point the bride said, "Oh my goodness, there is not going to be enough cake." I silently agreed with her but figured those that would not get cake could eat the cookies that were also on the table. When the last person came up to get some cake, there were three plates of cake left. I whispered to the bride, "I think a miracle just happened!"

The hall seemed to radiate love and I was able to see friends I had not seen for many years. A Disc Jockey played music to accompany the two sweet young girls as they sang. (They are the children of two friends who now live on the east coast.) The amazing thing about the young women is that they are bilingual in English and Spanish. The bride's daughters are also bilingual and I admire these kids for being able to speak both languages fluently.

When the groom and bride danced they talked and laughed and I wondered if they were thinking about the honeymoon!

A fun wedding full of entertainment and love!