Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's a Privilege

A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight
for democracy, but won't cross the street to
vote in a national election. ~Bill Vaughan

I'm a political person. I have very strong opinions about who should be elected president in November (ask my hubby: he supports the other guy!) But I keep that side of me out of my blog because - well - I just want this space to be about the positive things in life. And right now, politics isn't very positive.

But I have to put in a pitch for something about which I feel extremely passionate: getting registered and voting.

I just signed up to work a polling place on November 4th. I'm doing it as part of the American Association of University Women, so several of us in our branch will be there as volunteers. I wanted to take the 10-2 shift, but help wasn't needed at that time. So I instead volunteered for the morning shift, starting at 6:00 AM.

You gotta know how strongly I feel about this issue if I'm willing to be up and at 'em at that hour!

I know that it sounds so corny, but I can't help thinking of the people who came before us, who fought long and hard for the privilege to vote. And it is a privilege! Think of all the countries around the world ruled by dictators and tyrants, where free elections are only the stuff of dreams. The young man I tutor can't vote: he's a convicted felon and it's one of the rights he lost when he was sentenced to prison.

There's a great deal of apathy in our country, which stems from a feeling that we can't make a difference in Washington. I always hear talk of "the government did this," or "the government did that." What we've all seemed to have forgotten is that the government is US: you and me and our neighbors and co-workers.

So if you haven't done so already, get registered to vote (check here for the deadline in your state) then get to the polls on November 4th. I'm not much into exercising lately, but I will exercise my right to vote! I hope you're planning to do the same.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Autumn is a State of Mind

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns. ~ George Eliot

When I first moved to southern California in February 1999, I applied for a position at a museum in Ventura. I was interviewed by the director and associate director, both of whom become dear friends after I got the job. They asked what I'd miss about living in Utah, and I immediately said, "Autumn. Not the winters that follow it - but definitely autumn." The associate director replied with a statement that has stuck with me through the years:

In California, autumn is a state of mind.

He was right about that!

I've learned over the years that we made not have the overt signs of autumn here, but autumn does occur. The leaves on the tree in our neighbor's yard turn red and gold, and flutter to the ground every October. There aren't a lot of trees here that do that, so it's a real treat to have one right across the street. The nights develop a nip in the air. Granted, it's not the nip of frost and snow, but it's a nip nonetheless!

Hey, we take our seasonal pleasures where we can find them, right?

I've really enjoyed bringing out the autumn decor this year. Little touches here and there that make me smile. I have the pumpkin (above) sitting on my dining room table, and these little spooky candles sitting in popcorn (thanks for the idea, Kelli!) in the kitchen window...

They shed a lovely glow at night...

Autumn is definitely my favorite season, and I've often wondered why. My husband much prefers summer and the long, warm evenings sitting outside. I like getting cozy on the couch, with a fire in the fireplace. I love cooking this time of year, making soups and stews. I may even get brave this year and try baking bread (but don't hold your breath!)

There is just something about this time of year... maybe it goes back to when we were kids and we'd head off to school in September. Maybe it's the ancient celebration of the harvest. Perhaps it's knowing that autumn's glory is a harbinger of the winter to follow. Whatever it is, September and October are a lovely time of year for me, leading into the holidays and the joy they bring.

* * * * *

There are two great giveaways going on right now in blogland ...

Carole over at Pea's Corner is giving away some absolutely darling Halloween decorations. Check it out and enter. On second thought- don't enter: I want to win! :-)

And there's a great giveaway being coordinated by Debbi called Fall into Fall Quilters Blog Giveaway. I'm taking part, although I have yet to decide what I'm going to give-away. Stay tuned, but check out the Giveaway site for details.

* * * * *

No wonder I love this time of year! It brings out the best in all of us. What about you? Are you an autumn person, and if so - why?

Until next time...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Glue That Binds Us

Family faces are magic mirrors.
Looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past, present, and future.
~ Gail Lumet Buckley

My cousin Kristi was here for a visit, coming from her home in southern Idaho. That's us, pictured above (she's the thin one!) You'd never guess by looking at her that she's a mother of four grown children and grandmother of seven, would you?

She and I have always been a happily envious of one another. I wanted to be thin and pretty, like her; she wanted to be able to sing like me. I wanted her straight hair; she wanted my curls. She's always claimed (erroneously) that I'm more creative: I know for a fact that she's the better cook. We've joked through the years about the human condition of always wanting what we don't have. We're not only family, we're dear freinds -- and that's a great thing!

We've been close since we were small kids. I grew up in Salt Lake City and every summer, my folks would put me on the bus (alone - can you imagine doing such a thing nowadays?) and send me three hours north to my Grandma's house, in southern Idaho. I'd get to play for a few weeks with all my cousins in that area: capturing frogs and lizards in jars; feeding the deer that would wander up to Grandma's back door; going to the annual rodeo fair. It was a wonderful experience for a "city" kid from Salt Lake.

As we got older, we grew apart somewhat. She got married to a dairy farmer and started having those four kids. I went to school and started working. We'd write letters back and forth, and occasionally see each other when her Mom would come to visit my Mom, or we'd go to Idaho for family reunions.

Then in the mid-90's, her husband was severely burned in a accident on their farm. He was flown to the burn center in Salt Lake, where he remained hospitalized for four months. During that time, Kristi lived with my ex-husband and I (and my Mom, whom my ex and I cared for) so she could be with her husband every day. It was a long and emotionally painful time. But Jim slowly recovered, and they both lived with us after his release so he could make his follow-up appointments every day.

As often happens, good things come out of the worst things. While her husband was healing, Kristi and I bonded once again -- this time, as mature married women. She helped see me through my divorce; she stayed with me while I was healing from gall bladder surgery; she was there for me when my Mom died in 1998. When I moved away in 1999, to remarry and start a new life, she'd fly out and visit. We always see each other when I go "home" to Salt Lake.

So I guess you can tell that she's a pretty special person in my life, and I loved having her here for a visit. My spirit has been fed.

I have been blessed to make new friends here in California. But there's nothing quite like family and old friends to keep me connected and grounded. Sharing a long history just feels so comforting. It feels good knowing there's someone who can look at me and think, "still crazy after all these years!"

Until next time...

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Seven Dwarfs

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm
wrinkles the soul. ~ Samuel Ullman

My cousin is here, visiting from Idaho, so I'm once again behind on my blog writing and reading. But I can't tell you how much fun we're having, laughing over old times and planning for new adventures! She's not just family - she's a cherished friend.

I thought I'd post this cartoon to let you know that I'm still alive, and to hopefully bring a smile to some of you. Ah heck, even if you're not at this stage in life, I bet you can still appreciate the humor! I know that these days, I'm living as either Forgetful or Sweaty - how about you?

Hope you're well and being happy!

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order. ~ John Burroughs

Welcome to Alaska -- or at least, the small corner of it we visited!

I'd like to share a few photos of the many wonderful things we experienced. We spent two weeks on the Kenai Peninsula, southwest of Anchorage. As previously mentioned, the weather was, for the most part, cloudy, rainy and overcast - so the photos tend to be gray, which is unfortunate. Please double click on any of them for closer details.

This is Surprise Glacier on Prince William Sound. Amazing - and it's incredibly blue. One of the crewmen said we were actually lucky to see it in such gloomy weather because in bright sunlight, it doesn't look so blue. How's that for a positive attitude? :-)

Yep, it was this cold and this rainy! Brrr!

But not all views were gloomy. Look at this gorgeous fjord...

And we did see greenery on our hikes, like this beautiful field of autumn colors...

My favorite part of the whole trip was the wildlife we saw. Here are seals in Kenai Fjords National Park. These creatures are disappearing at an alarming rate, and no one knows for sure why it's happening.

Everywhere we'd go, we'd keep an eye open for moose. You just never know when you're going to spy one having lunch along the roadside...

There were magnificent bald eagles everywhere we went. Imagine getting to the point of thinking, "Ho hum - another bald eagle!"

The greatest treat of our trip was seeing caribou. We thought we were too far south and too early in the season. When we asked about wildlife viewing, the nice folks at the Kenai Visitors Center suggested we drive out past the airport because the caribou sometimes come out onto the tundra there. We headed straight there, in the middle of the afternoon, and drove for miles seeing nothing. Disappointed, we left and went on about our day. At dusk, I suggested we drive back out there and try one more time. We were richly rewarded! Again, I'm only sorry that the photos aren't brighter. It was amazing to see these glorious creatures so close...

After they grazed to our right side, we watched them cross the road in front of us to graze on the other side. Here is the huge male that led the small herd. He was incredible!

Another surprise waited for us as we rounded a corner by the house we rented in Homer. There, standing by the mail box on a neighboring yard, were two Sandhill Cranes. We stopped and watched them, and were lucky enough to see them "dancing" with one another. They bowed and jumped and flapped their wings. I guess they got tired of having an audience of two, because they just slowly walked away, disappearing over the hill.

One more shot of my beloved puffins, this time at the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward...

Our one wildlife disappointment is that we didn't see bears. We had the same experience a few years ago in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Everywhere we'd go, people would say, "Oh, two bears were just here!" But we never saw a one. However, we had to take a picture of this warning sign at the foot of the hiking trail to Exit Glacier. Read what it instructs you to do if a brown bear attacks (again, double click on it to enlarge.) I'm sure it wouldn't be funny if I were in that situation, but the sign made us laugh!

We stayed in some pretty special places. Here are two spots I'd like to share. The first is the bedroom of the house we rented in Homer. It was called The Nest, and it sat on a cliff over looking Kachemak Bay. The view from the rooms and the deck was outstanding! And there were quilts on every bed...

The house was decorated with lots of dark green (my favorite color!) But what really convinced me that I'd found a kindred spirit in the home's owner was a wall we discovered by the washer and dryer...

It was filled with little framed quotes! Quilts, green decor, and a wall of quotes - what more could I ask for? Oh - and a view to die for!

Here's where we stayed in the town of Kenai... the Harborside Cottages, over-looking the area where the Kenai River meets Cook Inlet...

The view from our cottage at night...

Look what I found in Homer! Pehaps there's a new career is waiting for me?

There is a famous bar in Homer called The Salty Dawg Saloon. It's kind of a hole-in-the-wall place we just had to see! The walls and ceiling are covered with dollar bills. The legend is that the trappers would come in for a drink and leave money behind to pay for drinks for the trappers they knew would be passing through in a week or so. They'd write their name on the money and put it on the wall, where their friends would find it.

Nice story, eh? But check this out... this bill was tacked up right over my head:

Now, I'm not a Mormon but I am from Utah. Funny that I'd sit right under this one, don't 'cha think? :-)

What would a trip to Alaska be without fishing? Here's hubby throwing in his first line the second day of our trip...

He didn't have a lot of luck fishing the lakes and streams, but he had fun trying. As he always says, "The fishing's great: the catching, not so good!"

But he did have luck on a halibut charter out of Homer...

He shipped home 35 pounds of halibut fillets, which just arrived today. YUM!

I couldn't resist taking a photo of this funny sign at the halibut ("butt") processing place (click for details)...

Now, you may be wondering what I did why hubby fished for halibut (fishing's not my thing.) I treated myself to a massage - a loooong massage, with an herbal body wrap... in a small, heated yurt on the shores of Kachemak Bay. I could hear the waves and the gulls as I lay there, experiencing something very close to nirvana! Here's the view...

Ah, it was such a wonderful trip! Hubby and I are both from states where the snow flies each winter, but we now live in southern California. So it was such a treat for both of us to once again experience autumn in all it's glory. Those are the images I'll keep in my heart -- not the clouds and the rain.

How incredibly lucky we are to have been able to go to Alaska! Thanks for letting me share some of my memories with you.

And many thanks to Mary and Jill, for teaching me how to post more than five photos at a time on Blogger. It appears that this old dog can learn new tricks!

Until next time...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel
until he comes home and rests his head
on his old, familiar pillow. ~ Lin Yutang

We're back from our Alaskan adventure, and what a journey it was! Hubby and I (pictured above in Resurrection Bay) hiked to glaciers and walked in autumn forests: watched caribou and spawning salmon; enjoyed gourmet meals and got soaked in the freezing rain. Alaska was everything we'd dreamed it would be.

And as for my main goal at the time I left? Yep, I saw puffins -- lots of puffins!

This shot was taken in the Kenai Fjords National Park, and it was really cloudy that day. You may have to click on it to get a better glimpse of the little guy hiding in the rocks because boy, is he cute!

We got a much clearer and closer view of puffins (and seals and otters) at the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward...

I was like a little kid -- so excited, and couldn't stop grinning at all the puffins!

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate with us on this trip. I think we can count the sunshine we experienced in terms of hours rather than in days. Locals we spoke with all over the Kenai Peninsula said the same thing: this has been the rainiest summer in Alaska's history. How could we have known that when we booked everything back in February?

For the most part, we said to heck with the weather and got out and enjoyed everything we wanted to do. This was taken during our cruise on Prince William Sound...

Those are glaciers, which are incredible to witness. But you can get a sense from this photo how cold it was that day. The wind was fierce and drove the rain even harder. Brrrr!

However, we also had moments like this, when we were able to get out and enjoy the gorgeous scenery...

Alaska is beautiful, vast and clean. I'll be sharing a few more photos over my next couple of posts, since I can't figure out how to load more than five pictures at a time. Maybe that's a good thing: saves you from having to view the 200+ shots we took! I promise to share only a few of the most interesting ones with you.

I'll be around to catch up with your blogs over the next few days. I've missed you all! Two weeks is a long time to be on the road, and I'm very glad to be sleeping in our own bed once again. I love to travel and hope to do much more in the years to come because it's great to go -- but it's even better to come home.

Until next time...