Wednesday, August 11, 2010

People Watching....& Listening

Because Tommy works for an airline, we have been able to travel frequently. What a blessing! However, we always fly standby, which can make for some interesting trips and LOTS of time in airports. Still a blessing and the fodder for LOTS of funny family stories.

Like the time we were in an airport elevator and Matt (who was about 8 at the time) gave a stranger complete directions on how and where to check his luggage, get his boarding pass, and make it through security easily. Or listening to Matt and Lindsay recite from memory the recorded message about which side of the moving sidewalk to stand on. Or the time we held our annual family "Christmas Eve dinner and open one package" tradition at the SLC airport, because Tommy had a layover there between flights. (This was before 9/11 when you could go through security without a boarding pass.) Or the time the kids and I got stuck in Dallas and had to spend the night. We got up early the next morning just to allow time to ride the airport train the entire circuit, because they wanted to see where it went.

But perhaps one of the nicest blessings of spending time in an airport is people watching--and listening. God definitely made all kinds! Here are a few examples:

Attitude - Once I saw a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) storm to the front of a line at the gate and demand to be helped because he was a first-class passenger. The flight was delayed due to thunderstorms, and there were about half a dozen people ahead of him worried about possibly missing connections. The gate agent patiently assured him she'd get to him when she finished with those who were already in line. He was NOT a happy camper and went to the back of the line muttering a few words I dare not print!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I overhead a woman talking to her mother about missing her flight. She and her husband got to the airport and had dinner before going to their gate. Unfortunately, they arrived at the gate five minutes before takeoff; and the jetway door was already closed. This is another example of a newbie. (see below) Evidently her mom asked why they didn't get to the gate sooner. She told her mom, "because we're just hillbillies, Mom." And they had a good laugh over it. What a difference between the two.

Children - always a joy to watch! And to watch adults interact with them. I love to watch toddlers pull their own suitcase or push their own strollers. And what wisdom of airport directors to install play areas, although I've seen children play just as happily without them. When Matt was little, I carried a small tape measure with me, which kept him entertained for hours measuring the height of the chairs from the floor, the size of his suitcase, etc. Unfortunatley, I've also encountered a few of Bill Cosby's "Jeffry's." I feel sorry for the harried parents of tired and cranky children, and the children who cry during takeoff and landing because their ears hurt.

Dress - It's amazing to see how differently people dress to fly. I've seen everything from pajamas to suits. Flip flops to stiletto heels. Perfectly made up to just rolled out of bed. Elegant and classy to downright questionable for public viewing.

Luggage - There is a reason the airports have those devices to measure your suitcase to see if it will fit in the overhead compartment. But, people tend to think, "I can make this fit." Fishing poles, musical instruments, wedding dresses, stuffed Shamus--just a few of the things I've seen carried on--some successfully fitting and others not. And bless the flight attendants who patiently rearrange the bins and assist with gate checking the things that won't fit. During one flight, I actually saw a briefcase fall out of an overhead compartment and hit a man in the head cutting him pretty badly.

Newbies - These are people who don't fly often or are flying for the first time. You see a lot of them in the summer and around the holidays. Like the young man trying to get through security who was pulling toiletries out of his backpack one at a time and asking if each was small enough. No, a full-sized tube of toothpaste isn't. Meanwhile the line behind him is getting longer and longer and longer.

First timers also tend to speak loudly in excitement. A woman behind me recently was on her cell phone when I was seated. I easily heard every word of the conversation. She saw the lighted sign that said, "please turn off all electronic devices" and didn't know she could continue to talk until the aircraft door is closed. She hurriedly hung up. A few minutes later her seatmate asked her to take a picture. The woman said she couldn't because she had to turn off all her electronic devices--not realizing that only meant transmitting devices. :) Her seatmate assured her a camera was OK, and soon they were happily snapping photos. A few hours later, she was exclaiming, "look at the lake, look at the lake," as we were approaching SLC. (Little did she know it was not the Great Salt Lake but Utah lake she was seeing--but both are beautiful enough for that excitement.)

Seasoned - These are the people who have flying down to an art and fly even more often than airline employees' families. The flight from Anchorage to Salt Lake is an overnight flight. It leaves there at 2 am and arrives here at 7:30. Lights are dimmed on takeoff, and most people immediately go to sleep. I recently watched in awe as a woman settled in for the night. First, she took her shoes off and changed into slippers she pulled from her carry on (which held as much as Mary Poppins' satchel). She took out her MP3 player and Bose noise-cancelling headphones (there was a little bit of coveting from me over those) and turned them on. Next came a full-sized pillow, a snuggie, and an eye mask. Finally, she took some sort of pill (I assume a sleep aide), curled up in the seat, pulled the eye mask in place, leaned against the window, and slept like a baby the entire flight. I know this because I seldom sleep on planes and watched her restful night rather than enjoying one of my own.

Being a reader, I never travel without at least two books. But, who needs them when people are so much more interesting--at least until the flight is well underway.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Black Thumb

My grandmother Westmoreland was a gifted gardener. She grew beautiful flowers. We used to joke that she could stick a broom handle in the ground, and it would grow. I especially remember her hydrangeas--big thick bushes loaded with giant blue flowers. My mother inherited the gift. She didn't have a specialty per se but grew everything from succulents to roses. She loved nothing better than creating a beautiful flower bed. One of her biggest regrets as she got older was that it was so hard to work in her flower beds. When she downsized to an apartment, she purposely searched for one with a porch, so she could still keep potted flowers to brighten her surroundings. Unfortunately the gardening gene skipped a generation and went to my younger sisters. Diane, had beautiful red hibiscus plants lining her fence until a freeze killed them last year. I have no doubt that she'll soon have new ones blossoming. I bet she could make a broom handle grow, too. My sister-in-law, Lynn, also grows hibiscus--only hers are yellow. My youngest sister, Beverly, is a whiz with indoor plants.

I cannot even begin to count the number of plants I have killed over the years. Tommy teases that I have a black thumb. This is probably due in large part to the fact I hate yard work. My sisters all say it's so relaxing and rewarding. I find it tedious and frustrating. Give me a book and an afternoon to read any day over gardening. Over the years, I've taken out all the flowers in our yard and only maintain one narrow bed. Through a process of trial and error, I've found flowers that I can grow that don't require much work and look nice enough that the neighbors don't run us off. (Especially important if you live next door to someone who spends hours each day working with his flowers. He had 500 tulips at one point. Seriously, he was always very nice but I wondered what he thought of my feeble attempts.)

Here are my flowers. See if you can find the theme.

Allium - these come up in late spring. We started with about five that the previous owners of our house planted. Once they finish flowering and the seeds are gone, I simply pull the stems up and wait for next year's crop.

Hostas - a friend gave me two plants several years ago. They grow in the shade and produce these bell-like flowers in July. Once they die back in the fall, I pull up the leaves and wait for next year's crop.

English ivy - which isn't technically a flower, I suppose. But it makes a great ground cover and keeps weeds out. Tommy trims the tops with a weed eater about once a summer. The deer love it especially in the winter when their usual food is covered in snow.

Snow in summer - a perennial that blooms in June. It covers landscaping rocks near our hot tub and looks like snow has fallen, thus the name. Once the flowers are gone, the plant is a lovely shade of gray green that lasts til winter comes.

Clematis - a sun loving perennial which blooms all summer. It's a climber that grows up the scrub oak in a front bed. It dies back in the winter and comes back in the late spring.

Petunias - the only annual in my yard. I plant shortly after mother's day (you risk a freeze if you plant before then in Utah) and pull them out in the fall when the blooms are all gone. For some reason, my black thumb doesn't affect petunias. They love the afternoon sun, a little water every other day, and fertilizer about every six weeks.

Did you figure out the theme? (1) Everything is purple. Just a color I enjoy which looks good against the green of the yard. (2) Nothing requires much work. The petunias are the only flower I have to plant every year. It takes a couple of hours to get them in and that's about it for the summer.

The trick is to recognize that there is nothing wrong with me because I don't like to garden. God has gifted me in other areas. How boring would it be if we all planted the same flowers!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Worth the Wait

It's finished!!!!! Well, at least phase one is.

We love our home. We have the blessing of living where it feels like we're out in the country but we're only five minutes from town. God literally dropped this house in our lap 20 years ago; and reaffirmed that Utah is where he wanted us to live. Twice we had put our previous house on the market, but it didn't sell either time. Both times we would have moved out of state if the house had sold. The third time we put it on the market, we planned to buy in Utah. We had two offers on the house before the sign was even in the yard! OK, God. Sometimes we're a little dense and you have to use that two-by-four up beside the head.

But, after 20 years, the house needed some updating. We decided to begin with the kitchen. The bones were good but it looked like an oak tree exploded on my main floor. Oak cabinets, oak floors, oak railings, oak table and get the picture. After months of looking at magazine pictures and MANY trips to Lowe's and Home Depot, we had a plan. (Those of you who know us well, will understand just how long this process took.) Paint the cabinets, new hardware, and new counter tops.

After a month of demolition, disaster, and do-overs we're done! Boy, was it worth the wait! I love it! And, we got just the look we were hoping for. (Side note: if any of my Utah readers ever need a painter, we can recommend an excellent worker.) Here are a few before, during, and after shots.

Wonder how long it will be before I can talk Tommy into starting Phase 2?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Perfect Example

I heard the most amazing story this week. The elderly mother of a friend from church had been ill for a while and was in Hospice care. All her children and her husband had said good-bye. Everyone was waiting for the inevitable. My friend said that twice his mom awoke and was disappointed to still be alive. She was ready to see Jesus and was sad it hadn't happened during the night! What a perfect example of a Christian woman--living for Jesus all her life and excited to see Him in the end.

It brought to mind the words of an old hymn, Face to Face with Christ, by Grant Colfax Tullar. The last verse and chorus go like this.

Face to face--oh, blissful moment!
Face to face--to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.

Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Utah Tribal Moms

Earlier I mentioned my wonderful girlfriends, aka the Utah Tribal Moms. The first wedding "entertainment" from these lovely ladies was Matt's wedding in Phoenix two years ago. Chris' daughter was married last weekend, which gave me my first chance to dance with the moms. Oh my gosh, it is such fun--but really exhausting!! We've decided that when it comes time for grandkid's weddings, the moms can take on the tribal dancing. We'll transition to the Utah Tribal Grandmas and ride around the dance floor on our Jazzy scooters. :)

This is my UTM necklace. We wear these any time we honor a child with a dance to our signature song, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Each sticker represents a wedding or a grandchild. This year we will add two more grandchild stickers and three wedding stickers. God has richly blessed our families. The Texas charm and the cross came from Valerie. She bought each mom a cross to signify our faith and a specific charm for our personalities--Texas for me, the southern girl; a horse for Chris, who relaxes by spending time with her horse; a soccer ball for herself, since she has a son who loves to play; and a flip-flop for Linda, the ultimate California girl. The charm on the right is a Native American symbol, a charm I gave each mom after Matt's Phoenix wedding.

Evidently, the latest trend in wedding receptions is a photo booth. All the guests step in and have their picture made. The guest gets a copy of the photo strip and one is put in an album for the bride and groom as a record of who attended. It's really quite fun. Of course, the UTMs had our picture made together! Are we crazy or what? The poses (from top to bottom) are serious, scared, sexy, and silly. And this beautiful woman is Penny, the Utah Tribal Mom who now lives in Missouri. We sure miss having her around.

Just in case you wondered, we do not dance unless the bride and groom both want us to. Our goal is just have fun and give the kids something to remember--not embarrass anyone.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Things My Mother Taught Me

October 5, 1934 - April 21, 2010

This beautiful woman is my mom. On this Mother's Day, I am grateful to be her daughter. Fifty-six years is much too short a time to have known her. She loved life and taught me many lessons--both in words and deeds. Here are just a few.

1) Optimism. Notice the smile in the pictures above. That was the way she faced life even during the tough times. Her glass was always at least "half full," which makes getting through those tough times a little easier.

2) How to balance work/home/family. Mom worked outside the home as long as I can remember. And had four kids! At one time, she had a child in private kindergarten (this was before kindergarten was part of elementary school), elementary school, junior high, and high school. Yet, dinner was home cooked, kids were ferried to extracurricular activities, laundry was done, and the house was cleaned. Sure we had chores, and, yes, we complained about them. But, she carried most of the load. And most of the time, still with that smile.

3) How to make my Mammaw's banana pudding. None of that boxed pudding mix. Custard cooked on top of the stove that you have to stir to keep from scorching. Poured over layers of bananas and vanilla wafers. Then put in the frig to cool. To die for delicious. Worth every calorie and fat gram.

4) To give my best to any job. Mom proudly worked as a secretary. She was the Texas state shorthand champion in high school and took most notes in shorthand all her life. Her organization skills were amazing! She had great attention to detail. Her boss when she retired told a friend that mom was the best secretary he'd ever had. Even as a volunteer, mom gave her all. One of her biggest concerns when she got sick the last time was that she would not be able to complete the job as chairman of her church's finance committee and how she was going to get the files back to the appropriate people.

5) A love of reading. Mom devoured books--especially mysteries and romance novels--and could easily spend an entire day reading. I'm the same way.

6) To have fun with friends. Mom was the epitome of the social butterfly. She played bridge, canasta (with two clubs), and bunco; volunteered to answer phones at her church on Wednesdays; and attended a weekly painting class. She and her two best buddies gathered for impromptu dinners, attended plays at the local junior college, went shopping and to lunch, and often gathered to play Mexican Train for an afternoon. She was Queen of her red hat group and met for lunch once a month with what she lovingly called "the old retired secretaries." Fun was the priority. But, when someone had a need, the fun turned to serving. Meals, transportation, companionship--whatever was needed, she was willing to give.

How blessed I am to have had Jo Ella Pope as my mom. What a great lady, wonderful woman, and awesome friend she was.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring coats??

When I was a kid, we used to anxiously watch the mailbox in anticipation of the arrival of the spring Sears & Roebuck, J.C. Penney's, and Montgomery Ward's catalog. We'd spend hours thumbing through the pages. Growing up on the gulf coast of Texas, we marveled at why anyone would want to buy a coat in March or April. Our air conditioners were already on by that point!

God does have a sense of humor. Now, I live in Utah where we are expecting six inches of snow tonight. I can't remember an Easter since we moved here that it wasn't cold or at least cool. Those spring coats come in quite handy. However, I still love wearing pastel colors and white shoes for Easter. Of course, being a good southern girl, I NEVER wear white shoes before then and ALWAYS put them away by Labor Day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

This was the view out our window the next morning. So glad we saw the park the day before. How awesome to look miles across the landscape and see the weather approaching--especially when you're not in it. We were blessed throughout the trip with sunny weather on days we were sight-seeing and good driving weather even when it snowed. It is, after all, spring time in the Rockies.

A girlfriend teased me with this email while I was gone, "There is a report on the news of a sighting in Southern Utah. Lovely brunette with head through sunroof, hair flying in the breeze, squealing... weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!" I convinced Tommy to take this picture and sent it to her via an iPhone app which allows you to create postcards. She loved it! I have such good friends and a patient husband.

Today was the longest day of the trip, since we opted not to spend another night in Moab. We drove through six Utah counties. Saw lots of Jeeps headed to Moab for the Easter weekend extravaganza. Those people are crazy! Saw lots of signs for dinosaur museums and lots of small airports. Rural Utah at it's best.

It was windy, rainy, and snowy for the entire trip. Very much reminded us of our initial drive along the same route in March 1980 when we moved to Utah. Part of the trip was on Highway 6, which is known as one of the deadliest roads in America. It's two lanes, winds through the mountain pass, and often carries impatient drivers who pass when they shouldn't. Only the weather was worse then. And neither of our cars was 4-wheel drive. We decided that God really does protect the foolish. As flat-landers from the Gulf coast of Texas, we had no idea how dangerous the drive was.

It dawned on me that we have lived in Utah longer than we lived in Texas. Yet, we still refer to Texas as home. Why is that? Perhaps there are multiple definitions of "home." Home is where our roots are, which for us is Texas. Home is also where you live, which for now is Utah. Home is also where I will one day be. 2 Peter 3:13 promises, "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness."

Our trip was wonderful! Relaxing, beautiful, restful, surprising, and fun. we have vacation scheduled again in April. This one will again be via air if all goes well. I'm sure you can't wait to read all those details. :)

Day 4 - Cortez to Monument Valley

Today was a day of surprises. We bought gas and a car wash in Cortez yesterday. The car wash was closed, so we planned to wash the car as we drove out this morning. First surprise. Would you believe the car wash was closed for power washing?! Who knew you had to wash a car wash?

Monument Valley was the final destination for the day. But, we chose to drive south a bit first to visit Four Corners Monument. That took us through the Ute Mountain and Navajo Reservations. It breaks my heart to think of how Native Americans were treated by our government. The reservations are beautiful in their own way, but quite isolated and remote. What a challenge for a people accustomed to moving about their land at will. Second surprise. Red Mesa High School, which is on the Navajo Reservation is the home of the Redskins. Apparently it's alright to use that term as a mascot if you are Native American. I don't mean that disrespectfully. It was just something I didn't expect. Third surprise. Sheep herded by a cowboy and his dog. Only the cowboy was in a truck rather than on horseback.

Fourth surprise.

It was recently discovered that the monument is actually in the wrong place by a few feet, so it's being moved. We were glad that this wasn't the main destination for our vacation. What a bummer that would have been!

Arrived at Monument Valley early in the afternoon.We stayed in the only hotel in the park. It is built to blend with the terrain. Can you see it?

This (to the right) was the view from our room.

Final surprise of the day. The park exceeded our expectations even after waiting 30 years to see it. So many different types of landscapes and types of rock. A geologist's heaven. Wow! That was our comment around every turn. See what you think.

Monument Valley is on the Navajo Reservation. Much of the land is considered sacred by the Navajo people. You feel privileged to be there. It is almost a religious experience. Several scriptures came to mind while making the 17-mile drive through the park. Psalm 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Luke 19:40, "He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” Psalms 23 was brought to mind when we came across this flock of sheep and goats grazing. They were shepherded by a small dog.

What an amazing day!

Day 3 - Ouray to Cortez

This is what we woke up to the next morning. Eighteen inches of snow fell during the night! Tommy was thrilled he didn't have to shovel it. Our quandry now was how to get to our next stop. The most direct way is through Red Mountain Pass just south of Ouray. But, that goes through the San Juan Mountains and is 20 miles of a two-lane winding road with no guardrails at 11,000 feet. This is what the road looks like in summer. (It's called the million dollar highway because that's how much it cost to build.) Now imagine it covered in snow. Colorado DOT reported the road was open, but chains were required for commercial vehicles. We do have 4-wheel drive on my car. So, we opted to wait a bit then try it. While we waited, we had eggs benedict, juice, and fruit. Yum!

We drove three miles into the pass before traffic stopped. The road was blocked by a snowplow while avalanche control was done. That was a first. We could hear the cannon fire up ahead. After 30 minutes, the plow moved and we were off once again. It was a beautiful drive! God outdid himself here.

Today's destination was Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings. I'm a huge archelogogy/history buff and loved it when I visited the park on a family vacation many years ago. Tommy had never seen it. We planned to stop in 1980 enroute from Alamagordo, NM to Utah. However, snow was falling, so we wouldn't have been able to see anything. We just drove on. Three interesting notes on the drive in this time: 1) The entrance to the park is about a 30 minute drive from the freeway on Ruins Road. We couldn't decide if the road was named that because it led to the ruins or because the road was ruined. Quite rough. 2) When we stopped to pay the entrance fee and get a map, we were told that we were visiting the park during the "annual rock migration" and to be on the lookout for rocks falling onto the road. 3) There had been a recent fire in the park. Many trees were burned. The only green vegetation was yucca plants.

The park was just as amazing as I remembered it. We took a guided tour down a 90 foot drop to one of the sites. That will certainly let you know how out of shape you are! Our park ranger guide was excellent. I'll let the pictures tell rest of the story.

Day 2 - Moab to Ouray

One of the great things about staying in a bed & breakfast is the breakfast--especially since I don't have to cook it. We shared the meal with two other families. The Sunflower Hill staff prepared scrambled eggs, fresh fruit cups, juice, and homemade scones that were out of this world. I got the recipe. (Side note here. Tommy is not a big breakfast eater, and I love it. He indulges me on vacation but probably won't eat breakfast for a month after this trip.)

We stopped at a Native American art gallery in Moab on our way out. They had these beautiful wind "chimes" (not sure what they are actually called). We really wanted one for our yard, but the prices were WAY out of our reach. I did buy a cross to add to my wall collection. We opted not to go back to Arches today but definitely want to come back again another time.

Our first stop today was Montrose, Colorado. More details later. Here are my rather random notes from the drive there.
*Tommy and I had just commented on how brown everything was--snow gone and spring green not quite here--when we passed a sign that said "welcome to colorful Colorado."
*Today's animals included wild turkeys and elk.
*In the middle of nowhere, we passed a spruce tree on the roadside still decorated with silver Christmas ornaments next to a flag pole with an American flag waving in the breeze. Wonder who decorated it and why.
*Streets in Grand Junction are numbered even stranger than Utah's coordinate system. There was 2 3/4 road, 26 1/4 road, and B 1/2 street. How does anyone find their way around?

The reason for our stop in Montrose was to visit Ron and Carrie Dixon. Ron was our youth minister way back when. They moved to Colorado a couple of years ago to care for aging parents. We were so blessed by his mentoring and Christian faith at such a crucial time in our lives. It's been almost 35 years since we've visited with them. What a special time it was. We spent over two hours sharing a meal and catching up. Tommy and I both agreed that seeing them was the highlight of our trip. I hope it's not quite so long before we get together again.
The drive from Montrose to Ouray was about an hour. It started snowing just before we arrived, and most of the shops in town were closed; so we went straight to our next bed & breakfast, The China Clipper. All the rooms are named for sailing ships and are decorated with oriental decor. Beautiful place.We were the only guests for the evening and had the run of the place. A storm two days earlier had cut the cable connection, so we were given a room upgrade to compensate for the inconvenience. We turned on the gas fireplace, pulled the wing back chairs in front of it, and watched Casablanca on DVD while the snow quietly fell. What a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 1 - Layton to Moab

One of the nice things about driving rather than flying is you can move at your own pace rather than be driven by what time a flight leaves. Of course, it helps if both people going on the trip have a similar idea of what that pace is. We wanted to get an early start but didn't want to get up at o'dark thirty. Let's just say that Tommy and I have differing ideas about what an early start means. I'm thinking 8:30 or so. We left the house at 9:00 but detoured by Einstein's to have bagels then stopped by a camera store so Tommy could buy a new camera lens he'd been thinking about. So it was 10:30 before we got on the road. "Relax,'s OK not to have everything scheduled precisely while on vacation," is what I kept telling myself.

The one and only downside to our trip happened before we'd even gone 50 miles. A passing car threw a rock up, which chipped my windshield. Bummer! But, thank you God, that we didn't have to deal with any car issues for the entire week!

What a gorgeous drive through the canyon! Soldier Summit is almost 7500 feet above sea level, so there was still plenty of snow around (although not on the roads). There are 10-foot flags on both sides of the road to give snowplow drivers an indication of the edge of the paved road. Nothing like snow-capped mountains to reflect God's handiwork.

We saw llamas grazing in the mountains and an emu in someone's yard. Bird's nests built on power poles. Coal trains snaking through the mountains. Another train carrying heavy equipment to install new railroad ties that were piled beside the tracks for miles.

Then we got to Moab and our first destination--Arches National Park. Wow! Thank goodness Tommy talked himself into buying that new lens.

Psalms 121:1-2 in The Message says, "I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains." How appropriate for this day.

We love to stay in bed and breakfast inns when we travel. Our first night was at the Sunflower Hill in Moab. It was everything you'd hope for--quaint, comfortable, and quiet. The perfect end to an almost perfect day. And leaving at 10:30 rather than 8:30 was just fine.