Thursday, November 29, 2012

Looking Forward! +Crazy Bosses, Frightened Red Pandas, and Partial Temporary Deafness

I am looking forward to next week. Why?
Because I start my new job!
I have never been so excited to begin employment at a new company,
and this is partially because I am thrilled to get out of the apartment and feel productive (I have a drive to work, and feel lazy when I don't), and mostly because this is a great company and I already know quite a few people that work there.

That is how I got in--- Eli already works there in IT, and through him we made new friends with a great group of people within the company and have done the Devil Dash with some of them, gone to Vegas, and had some epic shindigs.
These are good people.  And when I felt ready to go back to work after the crazy, hellish, therapeutic summer I've had, they passed my resume around, and voila!

It is a mortgage company and I'll be in the Centralized Disclosure department.  I already know two of the girls in that department and they're sweethearts, and I'll be working under a woman.  I interviewed with her and really like her, especially in comparison to the two crazy ass male bosses I've had in the past.
The first one was a cranky British jerk that openly hated me because of my blonde hair, yet put my desk IN HIS OFFICE 2 feet away from his own and made me work in there for weeks for no good reason.  Creep.
The second was a wealthy eccentric old dog with Alzheimer's. It was like The Devil Wears Prada (remember those posts about me ordering his Hermes ties and him asking me to put his eyedrops in?).
That was a bundle of laughs.  Especially when I was told that I wasn't fulfilling his needs... Yes, those needs.  The sexual kind.  Ew.

So give me a female boss any day!!! I've gotten along nicely with my women bosses in the past, so this bodes well for me!

The only hitch in my getalong is that on Tuesday, when I was reclining in my bubble bath humming Bing Crosby songs, I got some water in my left ear.  Which is nothing new.
I don't know why my left ear has a bigger canal that is apparently misshapen and downright stupid, but I have had a myriad of problems with it, and had to see an ENT for it before.
The only useful thing he did was tell me that chemotherapy screws with the cilia (tiny hairs) in your ears and if you have chemo when you are young (like me), it can cause most of them to fall out, which can give you problems.  One of these, which I struggle with, is that earwax doesn't get caught in them and dissipate like it should, so I get pebbles of wax that get wedged in there deep.
Sorry, that sounds kind of disturbing and gross, but at least it's ear wax and not hemorrhoids or something.

So I've had water in there before, but it usually comes out after a few hours and me vigorously shaking my head like I'm at a Metallica concert.
Not this time!  It is still in there, stuck tight, and so much so that I can't hear at all out of that ear and it huuuuuurts.  I've tried putting in vinegar and alcohol to dry it out, tried swimmer's ear drops and natural drops, ear candles and even putting my head back in the water to try to flush it out.  I even did that trick where you create a vacuum with the palm of your hand and that was too painful to continue.
I'm hoping I won't have to see an ENT for it again,
but more than that I'm hoping it gets better before my first day.
Because I don't want to miss crucial instructions or have to turn my head strangely for hear people and say "I'm not usually half deaf, trust me!  No, I don't have a disability.  Don't tell HR."

So here's praying it spontaneously drains out!

And in celebration of my last 2 days of having free time (if you discount cleaning, organizing, cooking, and working on Christmas gifts), here are some GIFs that I've enjoyed!
Yes, quite a few of them have to do with animals, but there's a great zombie one thrown in there too!
Remember, for some reason on this blog if the GIF isn't moving, scroll over it.
Yes, I'm looking to relocate my blog, but I'm not as savvy at this stuff as I'd have you believe, and let's be honest, I'm too lazy.

I'm going to start with my favorite--The look of horror on the red panda's face looks so human!

Love this brave little bird taking on a bear! GO CHICKLET!

Hahaha! Talk about watch dog...

The longest bowling strike ever?! Well done! Totally something my friends and I would try.

This is some kind of Japanese mesh marching, and it is mind-blowing!

WOAH.  Fat, yet graceful.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Retro Giggles

Care for a naughty flashback?

Check out these real retro advertisements.
My, how innocent the world used to be...

I just had to share...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The X in the Road: Reliving a Tragedy

[In which the author loses her head entirely]

When I first found out that we were going to Texas, on the pretext of seeing a Dallas Cowboys football game, my heart leapt into my throat.
And it had nothing to do with sports.

I knew that I was finally going to have the opportunity to see Dealey Plaza, where President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

For those who don't know,
I have spent years of my life researching and writing on the Kennedy clan, namely Jack and Bobby.
I wrote my college dissertation on the three brothers--Jack, Bobby, and Teddy--
and how they made the 1960s the apex of Kennedy fame, creating a polemic among the American public.  I delved into the curious love/hate divide that people have for the Kennedy family (which originated with me growing up in a house where one parent adored the family and the other parent loathed them).

Obviously Jack's murder was a crucial part of this thesis, and it piqued my interest, and since then I have continued my research purely for personal pleasure.
I actually met Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a few years ago and tried to speak with him on the matter, and he recommended a book to me that fueled the fire and is my go-to tome on the assassination and causation behind it!

I always dreamed about visiting Dealey Plaza and seeing history for myself, wanting to understand the layout of the park and how that influences the various conspiracy theories.
So this, my first trip to Texas, help special meaning for me!

When we arrived and the Texans asked what we wanted to do and see, I said all I cared about was making sure I got to see Dealey Plaza.
They rolled their eyes at me and drawled " 're you a Demacraaat?"
They offered to take me there on our way back to the airport, but I couldn't explain that this wasn't a site I wanted to drive past and snap a picture of.  I wanted to walk every inch of it and see the museum they built in the Book Depository.
Most of them having never seen the plaza themselves, they just didn't get it and reminded us that Dallas was about an hour and a half drive away.  I said "that's closer than Salt Lake City...."

And I tugged on Eli's sleeve every few hours going "when will we get to go to Dallas?!"
Then, on our second morning there, while everyone was lazing around in their pajamas by the fire munching on biscuits and gravy, Eli whispered "go get ready."
He said he has never seen me spring into action so quickly!
He arranged for us to borrow the car and go, just the two of us (like I preferred), into Dallas and meet up with the others for lunch.
It only took us about an hour to drive into Dallas and it was like a deja vu history nerd's dream; as we neared the metropolis, we saw signs for Love Field (the airport Jack and Jackie flew in to), and drove past Parkland Memorial (the hospital he was taken to and declared dead at).
I got butterflies in my stomach as we exited off the highway and the GPS said we were nearly there.
Then I looked up and saw Stemmons Freeway, and behind it, the Texas School Book Depository (which is the brick building the Warren Commission declared Lee Harvey Oswald shot from).

I started shaking and crying all at once, and when Eli looked over to see what was the matter, he thought I was having a seizure or something! He said "What's wrong?! Are you okay?"
And I couldn't speak--all I could do was point incoherently at the building until he looked and realized what I was blubbering about.
It felt surreal, after years of studying a place, to finally be present in it.  I felt like I had jumped into a book's page, especially because in the last 49 years they have kept Dealey Plaza the same.
Because they continue to film period pieces about the assassination there, and study possible conspiracies to explain how it happened, they haven't built or removed anything that wasn't there in 1963, so you feel like you've gone back in time.

They were repainting the original white structures to make them look as fresh as they did 49 years ago because they're filming a new movie there, Legacy of Secrecy, starring Leonardo DiCaprio...who, unfortunately, wasn't there.

We circled around, trying to find a parking spot, and ended up behind the Texas School Book Depository, near the train tracks.  I burst out laughing, realizing that where we were parking had been a parking lot 49 years ago, and supposedly an escape route for the assassins.
We walked through the plaza, and I stood on the outcrop where Abraham Zapruder shot his famous film of the assassination,

We ran up the infamous Grassy Knoll to the fence where the other shooters were and my breath left my body.
We could not believe how close the fence where they stood was to the road where Kennedy's motorcade was.  I would feel comfortable taking a shot that close--it was only about 20 feet away.
If you compare that to the awkward and difficult shot from the window of the Depository, you can't help but know there was a conspiracy.

Following a tradition I had heard of on one of the many JFK conspiracy blogs,
I brought along a fat permanent marker and left my own scrawl on the fence.
It is an Aeschylus quote, and what Bobby said got him through Jack's death.
It is also the quote that Bobby extemporaneously recited when he had to announce the awful death  of Martin Luther King, Jr. at a campaign rally in 1968.

They have an X painted on the road there in Dealey
where the President was shot.
An X for the first shot,
and another for the fatal head shot.
When we were there I had to be completely removed and try for objectivity,
because even squinting my eyes a bit I could visualize the motorcade and the crack of a gun and flying blood and Jackie in a pink suit crawling on the trunk of the car.
I couldn't go there--it made me too distraught and the whole experience overwhelming,
so I tried to observe it as calmly as possible and not dwell on the tragedy of the matter,
which I've done before and knew I would do again in the privacy of my own home.

Because who wants to see a whimpering crybaby standing in the middle of the street?

After traipsing through the Plaza for an hour, we decided to hit up the museum they've built on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
They don't let you go in the original main entrance, or use the stairs, because these are involved in what the Warren Commission put out and a variety of conspiracies.
And waiting in line to buy tickets (which were $16 a piece...OUCH!) we had 30 cameras trained on us; the security there was intense and certainly said a lot.

Also, you're not allowed to take any photos in the museum, but I snuck a couple with the cell phone of the model the Warren Commission used to explain their crack ass crazy theory and the supposed window Oswald shot out of.
This window is curious, because it is entirely glassed off and they've put up boxes around it which they claim is to maintain the historicity of it (even though they cleared all those boxes out years ago, and then put them back) when we all know it's to prevent people from looking out of the window and going "NO ONE COULD MAKE A SHOT FROM HERE! I COULDN'T HIT THE BROADSIDE OF A BARN ON ELM STREET!" and the especially crazy ones would probably try to chip pieces out of the floor and test them for gun powder or something.

It was spooky up there, but it certainly was a nice museum.
They had all kinds of information and objects about Kennedy and his campaign.
On the 7th floor, which is an open space probably used for events, they had giant portraits of Jack and Jackie that were made of millions of miniature images of the other (so Jack's was made of small portraits of Jackie).  Very neat.

Afterward, we walked a block behind Dealey to see the cenotaph they put up for JFK.
From images, I expected it to be smaller, about the size of a large tomb, but it was huuuuuuge.It was so concrete and cold and I felt claustrophobic being inside.
I didn't like it much, and I don't think Jack would have either.
The beautiful orange butterfly dipping its wings over the reflecting pool in the plaza was a much better homage to him.

All in all, we spent about 3 glorious hours there and walked every inch of the space.
I saw everything I wanted and Eli, who has patiently listened to my ramblings and watched documentaries with me, also thoroughly enjoyed himself.

History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.  ~Winston Churchill

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bigger and Nicer

Let me tell ya,
things are bigger in Texas.

Our first night there, our ride, from a badass Uncle in a huge truck, took us on a terrible and long detour (too much construction around DFW Airport) through the cold darkness.
But there was a cooler in the back full of (high point!) beer and we stopped for a Whataburger.
I had never had a Whataburger, and being a fan of burgers, Eli saw one on the side of the highway and hollered "PULL IN HERE!!!"
And it was the biggest burger I have ever had, including the expensive 1/2 pound ones at fancy restaurants, and this was just a typical Texas fast food burger.
Chas (the badass Uncle) told me that it is some of the best cheap beef you'll ever find and I don't know if it was the late hour and excitement of being in a new place, or the fact that I'd been on a strict anti-candida diet for 2 weeks and I was indulging, but that Whataburger was DAMN GOOD.
If we had had time, I would definitely have enjoyed another one before we left, but alas all of our other meals were booked out to enjoy Ft. Worth's finest food.

We stayed with my hubby's aunt and uncle in their beautiful Cape Cod style home outside of Ft. Worth.
We slept in a tiny bed that pulls out of a closet of some sort, in the boys' play room.  There were murals of fish all over the walls and it was all blue, so it felt like we were sleeping in a small underwater grotto, complete with ceiling fan!
The third night I slept walked and I'm not sure quite what I did, but I woke up with bruised ribs the next day!!
That was also the day when my body started screaming for mercy from all the grease we were consuming. Texas food is tasty but sooooooooooo fattening.

Which was nice, in a way, because in Utah I am classified as a "curvy girl" compared to these stick thin blondes that compete in pageants and think taking their babies to the grocery store is a secret beauty contest.  Yes, I am blonde, but I am lazy blonde.  In Utah women are BLOOOOOONDE and keep up on their hair appointments and use the expensive conditioners to maintain their golden sheen.  I can't afford my stylist right now and I'm being good if I remember to throw in a few highlights 'round my bangs every couple weeks.
Salt Lake women scare me.  They're just so judgmental and seemingly perfect and everywhere you go in Utah people give you the stink eye. Who knows why.

But in Texas, I am considered thin.  Shockingly thin, apparently!! This was news to me.
I had several people on several occasions, including strangers, exclaim over how "tiny" I am.
Even Eli started heaping my plate with more barbecue, saying "you need more meat on your bones!!"

I embraced this wholeheartedly!
Enjoying my food rather than feeling guilty about it reminds me of this quote I like:

As a people, we have become obsessed with Health.  There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this.  We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying.  We have lost all confidence in the human body.
-Lewis Thomas

And the girls there in Texas are nice.  Not fake, simpering-smile-then-death-stare-once-you-turn-your-back nice, but genuinely sweet and thoughtful.  It blew me away.
I was suspicious of it at first, being a born and raised Utahn, but it is true.
In Texas you can have a deep and meaningful and hysterical conversation with a stranger, and they don't want anything out of that I mean, well, it is difficult to phrase, but in Utah strangers don't just engage one another on the bus or in line at the restaurant, because they don't see the point.  In Texas, they consider minutes wasted if not in fun conversation, regardless of if you know the person and if you'll ever see them again.
It's kind of a "hey, you're a human and I'm a human and we're in the same place for a second, so how the hell are ya??"
I love it.
It might make some people uncomfortable but it makes me feel appreciated and pretty and all kumbayah.
And you can act silly in public and no one rolls their eyes at you!! They laugh with you.

I was trying on a shirt at Eli's favorite BBQ joint, where even his Dad grew up munching on pulled pork, and the girls working there weren't rushing me going "So do you want the medium or the large???" and acting impatient.  They were enjoying picking out the right shirt with me and told me that this particular shade of yellow looks swell on me and asking me nice questions about myself.  Like they cared! And they did!
And they weren't looking me up and down in a snide way like the Utah women do.
How refreshing!

Just the other day, after Eli and I got back from this splendid trip, we were getting some new shoes for him and in a jam-packed store, and he needed to sit down to try them on and all the little shoe benches were packed with people.  One of them had a woman sitting by herself, for no apparent reason (she wasn't trying on shoes) and there was room for someone else, so Eli said "do you mind if I share with you for a minute?" and she looked at him, eyebrows narrowed, didn't respond, and continued to sit there!  He waited a second, then sighed and sat down on the smallest amount of the bench possible.
She immediately stood up and took off.   He looked at me and said "I miss Texas."
So true.  It really put things into perspective.

I didn't realize people could be so nice, and experiencing it firsthand made me see how mean I can be, being a Utahn myself.  You don't even realize the prejudice that gets into your spirit here, but when you're given the stare-down on a daily basis, you start to do it too, and maybe even get preemptively snarky in anticipation of everyone else's attitude. Not healthy.
I'm trying to keep the lessons of Texas fresh in my heart, as they were very uplifting.

I am also trying to remind myself that I look goooooooood, particularly in the eyes of Texans, but also anywhere.  Because although I'm not what Utah girls deem "perfect," I shouldn't be feeling guilty about me curves when a few states away I am considered hot shit,
and, even better,
appreciated for my spunk, goofiness, and brains.

Don't bring me down, Utah!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Truth About Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving all!
What a fun holiday to get together with family and get in the Christmas mood as we gleefully commit the sin of gluttony, all while reciting our many blessings!
That sounds sarcastic, but in reality it is in accurate description of Thanksgiving and it sounds pretty awesome to me!
As I write this, Eli and I are noshing on donuts and cider and watching the parade, which features a huge Sponge Bob balloon looking like it is suffering from polio.  Hmm...

Anyhow, I enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving and all it entails, but it has always bothered me how the joyfully ignorant tell their kids "This was the day when the pilgrims and the Indians sat down and ate together!!!"
On the same subject, when we received our voter pamphlets this year, one of Utah's amendments was regarding setting aside part of tax money to go toward what they called "an Indian trust fund."
Really?! We sending money over to them peeps in India now??!
Keep in mind that was from a federal political document. What. The. F*ck.  Yes, I'm sending them a strongly worded letter.

People have been terrible about that lately (and always, lets be honest).
They ain't Indians, America! They're Native Americans, cos they were here before us.  No offense.

And on Thanksgiving, many Native Americans on the East Coast celebrate too.
But for them it isn't about Butterball turkeys and spiked cider--it is a day of mourning.
Because the pilgrims destroyed their way of life.

Nearly 90% of coastal New England Native Americans were killed in the early years of settlement, from smallpox mainly, and the settlers were more than willing to take their land off their hands.

Some historians also argue that the picture we paint of the natives and pilgrims sitting down at the table together, after sharing their mutual culinary beliefs, is an illusion as well, instead arguing that after pilfering native crops on several occasions, the pilgrims saw the natives celebrating their harvest and crashed their party.

What happened in what is now Mystic, Connecticut, validates this theory.
The Pequot tribe was having their annual Green Corn Festival and some crack ass crazy Puritans stormed in and shot them, clubbed them, and burned them to death - - more than 700 Native Americans, woman and children included.
Apparently Massachusetts Bay Governor Winthrop proclaimed this a "day of Thanksgiving" in 1637, thanking God for giving the settlers strength over the heathen natives.

When you compare that to the revisionist history that is pleasantly taught in schools today, it makes you shudder a bit.  I know I always have to bite my tongue when my nephews and niece come home from school with construction paper Native American headdresses and crayon scrawls of pilgrims, and members of both cultures holding hands. Oh, our Mandatory Miseducation...

 I know we can't tell kids "Our ancestors slaughtered the Native Americans, buddy! More than 10 million natives were slaughtered in the name of colonial progress and religion! Let me tell you how it really happened..."  but we do need to provide different versions of history and elucidate the truth as they get older, because we're just creating new generations of ignorant Americans--the same kind that think the reason we're at odds with the Middle East is because they're jealous of our democracy.

We can still teach them about Squanto instructing pilgrims on planting squash and that in some villages there was friendship between natives and the new settlers, but we need to balance those accounts with the more disturbing side of history (every part of history has a disturbing side! And it is usually more interesting!). Just "Google" anything related to "truth about Thanksgiving" or "Thanksgiving revisionist history" to educate yourself.  Lies My Teacher Told Me is also a fun resource.

So, on this Thanksgiving, please remember your American history.
Be thankful that information is available to give us the truth and that you have the right to believe what you choose.  Be thankful that you can be with your family and feast on turkey with cranberry relish.  Be thankful for polio Sponge Bob and American capitalism and the commercialism of Christmas (I guess it means the economy is coming back).  Be thankful for elves dancing Gangnam Style.
And be thankful for the wonderful diversity of the world, and our country.

Please forgive my history nerd cynicism, and truly enjoy the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

With a Little Twang

Back home from Texas, sadly!

I had the time of my life. It was literally the best, and not what I expected out of the state at all!
It gave me a whole new outlook on life and I feel like I'm coming back with a fresh perspective to go along with my new waistline (I must have gained 7 or 8 pounds, stomach is killing me from all the fried crap and I am sooooo bloated, but it was soooo worth it).

I had a job interview this morning and it went splendidly, if all goes according to plan I will be starting in mid-December (or a bit earlier if I can wrangle it).

I am exhausted and still dealing with the aftermath of my head cold... my voice isn't entirely back, but what is there has a little twang to it (I pick up accents quickly and loved what I heard in Texas).
I've already done the grocery shopping, gorged myself (by body is having naughty cravings after this little vacation), and now I have a ton of laundry to catch up on and Thanksgiving to prepare for.

A Side Note: I can't wait until we get our own washer and drier--the convenience will be unimaginable.

I have stories to tell and photos to share, but don't have the time this moment.
I will post them soon, but until then, here is a little teaser.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Planning Texas

Tomorrow the hubby and I leave for Texas.
I could not be more thrilled (well, if my sinuses weren't so congested I may be able to manage a bit more excitement, but part of me irrationally feels like as soon as we step glamorously off that plain, my head cold is going to just dry up and Poof!).

I have never been to Texas, except when we had a layover there last year on our way to our Caribbean honeymoon.  And we didn't even get to go outside--I just felt bursts of humid heat when we got on and off that big tram thing they have at the airport. I wonder how my skin and hair are going to react to the humidity..?

Eli, on the other hand, is well versed in the Texas-ness.
He grew up there and the majority of his extended family still lives there, and we'll be staying with them.
I absolutely love his Texas family--they've been visiting us in Utah quite a lot lately and this spring we went with them on that trip to Zion (remember, when I cut off the top of my finger in that town so small it didn't have a hospital?).

His aunt is soooooo Texan and larger than life, and her son is a sweet little chunk that loves to flirt with me.  And she is also larger than life generous.  When a dear family member recently died, she fought the courts and won, and was able to adopt the new baby that said family member died giving birth to.
His name is Logan (they, in true Texas fashion of giving everyone a nickname) call him Lo-Lo and already he is a curly-haired hellian! Adorable though.
And then there are the cousins and the uncles and of course, my love, Charlene, Eli's grandma.
She is a true Southern belle and we have had many a memory together, from giggling over martinis in Vegas to baking Christmas pies together to hanging out in the hospital when she got stuck here with pneumonia that she somehow, despite her frail state, powered through.  She is a tough cookie that loves the color purple and calls everyone "honey."  But with her heavy accent, it comes out "huun--aaaaaay."

We will be going to a Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday.
I have been rooting for this team (on behalf of Eli, of course...unspoken rule) for years, and now I finally get to see them play! It will also be my first official NFL football game.

Other plans for the trip are going to the little city on the outskirts of Fort Worth where Eli grew up.
He had a sugary sweet childhood in a development known as Pecan Plantation, that (wait for it)
really was full of pecan trees!
His dad used to make his famous pecan pie from the fruits of those trees,
and there was a park (and apparently still is a park) across from their house, and a river running next to it that they used to play in, water moccasins be damned.
Ever since I saw Lonesome Dove I have been deathly fearful of water moccasins. And he grew up swimming with them! Ye Gawds.
Also, I may have spent 20 minutes yesterday looking at photos of the poisonous snakes of Texas.  Call me paranoid, call me preventative.  Okay, that is kind of nuts.

But, I must confess, I am most looking forward to this trip because I can finally visit Dealey Plaza.
Hopefully when I say "Dealey Plaza" you know what the hell I am talking about.
If not, please, in my absence, smack yourself across the face with a modern history book.

Dealey Plaza is where President Kennedy was assassinated.
You know, the Grassy Knoll and Texas School Book Depository and all that.

I have spent years (literally! YEARS!) of my life researching the Kennedys, particularly Jack and Bobby, and I wrote my history dissertation on them.  I am fascinated by JFK's assassination and the blatant cover-up, and I never cease to wonder when (if ever) we will glean some shard of the truth about it.  E. Howard Hunt confessed on his deathbed that he was involved, but he didn't say HOW or WHY.   I still tend to think WHY is the military industrial complex and the fact that he was pulling America out of the Vietnam War.  But that's just me!

Anyway, we'll be there a few days before the 49th anniversary of the shooting and I know I am just going to have a meltdown, running through the plaza and seeing the museum in the Book Depository (but, suspiciously, they will not let visitors look out of the window that Oswald SUPPOSEDLY shot Kennedy from.  Because any numbskull could see that it's an impossible shot.  Especially when you're a bad marksman, like Oswald, using a Carcano rifle, with the sights not set accurately, etc.  But I won't go into that).

After spending so much of my life poring over maps of the plaza, and watching documentaries about the Grassy Knoll, I may or may not have had the foresight to buy waterproof mascara for that day.
(Hint: I did buy it, I'm a crybaby).

I only regret that my bestie, Torie, can't be there with me. She too is a JFK lover and understands the tragedy and history of the assassination.

I will let you know how it goes.
Giddy up!

Perched on a rock, with only a bridge to get to it

I want to share something mind-blowing and inspirational with you.

I've started looking at images of these structures whenever I'm in a pooh-pooh mood---thinking my life is difficult, or running a little low on faith.
Because when you imagine constructing something several hundred feet in the air, on rockface, it puts things into perspective.

I'm talking about the monasteries of Meteora.
They are precariously perched on sandstone rocks that have eroded naturally into pillars.

For hundreds of thousands of years, monks sought refuge in these cliffs so they could practice their religion.  Originally they lived in shallow caves in Meteora, but as they were persecuted for their beliefs, they moves skyward.  And higher, and higher, just to be able to worship their God in peace.
Now that is dedication.

Then they started to build the monasteries.
Which was excruciating, to say the least.
The only way up and down from the rocks was with rope ladders tied together, or mesh nets.
And the monks had a saying that they replaced the ropes/nets "only when the Lord let them break."
So with every use, they were literally taking leaps of faith.

Imagine riding in a net with stones, being lifted painstakingly up the side of a cliff face, up hundreds of feet (some of these monasteries reach 1800 feet), watching the ropes strain, knowing that your life is literally in God's hands.  It is a sensation we can only imagine.

Now these monasteries, centuries old, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on Eli and my bucket list.  Nowadays there are stone stairs carved into the rocks that you have to hike up to reach the top, though that is definitely preferable to climbing a rope ladder without any harnesses.

One of the monasteries is only accessible by a rope bridge from an adjacent rock.

Currently, only 6 of the monasteries are intact, and one of them, St. Stephen's, is still used religiously by nuns.  During WWII the Nazis believed insurgents were hiding in St. Stephen's and destroyed much of it, but the nuns rebuilt it.

The Holy Trinity monastery is where they filmed the climactic finale for my favorite Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only. I shared it with Eli last night (he had never seen it, nor seen Roger Moore as Bond!!) and we both were white-knuckled watching 007 rock climbing his way to the top.

Now these are what I call skyscrapers.
They embody determination and faith, and should be an inspiration to us all.

And should the zombie apocalypse ever happen,
I think these babies will be the best bet for a safe fortress.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sleds and Motorcycles

I've been a bit quiet lately!

I haven't posted on here in...a week? Maybe more?
It has been a crazy time.

My hubby has been away on a business trip, I had a job interview, we toughed through 3 (THREE!!!) days of nonstop snow, I nearly died on the highway because of it, savored the last of the autumn leaves, we saw the new Bond, went shopping for a whole day (and even to the pet store) and didn't buy anything (miraculous), I got my 3rd iPhone (not by choice), made my own bath melts, yelled at a few doctors over the phone, spent 6 straight hours cleaning our apartment, we took our nephew and niece sledding (and I confronted my old enemy from the Sprained Ankle Incident), watched the Ute game, had a craft night with the kiddos, and I rode on a motorcycle for my FIRST TIME EVER.

It isn't surprising that I woke up this morning with a ghastly head cold!

When we went sledding yesterday, I had a sore throat that I was ignoring.  I figured it was just my body getting used to the freezing cold weather that has heaped itself upon us so suddenly, or that I had spent far too long verbally trashing Daniel Craig (I do not like his acting) and had a hoarse voice as a result.

I took the risk of riding the Demon Sled (the same one I crashed on the stairs that messed up my ankle) and once again crashed it. On the ice.  And my niece crashed too, cutting up her lip.
DEVIL SLED!! I sought my revenge on it by vowing that no one shall ride it down an incline ever again.  The rest of the afternoon we rode my nephew's sled, which is one of those foam wonders that soars over the lumps and bumps and carries you further than anyone else on the hill.

We all had so much fun taking turns on that baby, and I was reminded of the incomparable thrill of flying through the cold air, soaring down a mountain (okay, a hillside, but the experience enlarges everything in your mind).  We had a little snowball fight and the kids had a giggle fit (which is the cutest thing in the world) and when we said it was time to go home (because it was getting dark!!) they cried out "you guys spoiled us!! This was awesome! Can we go next winter?!"  and I told them that Eli and I will take them sledding every winter forever, even when they are adults and think they're too cool for sledding.  Michael responded "I don't think I'll EVER get over sledding!"
On the drive home, with the promise of hot chocolate (in 3 flavors to choose from!), we shouted out Christmas carols.
Which, of course, I shouldn't have been doing with a rapidly swelling throat, but on days like that you can't hold back in the least, and I'm glad I didn't.  It really was the most fun I've had in a long time.

And though the sensation of sledding is wondrous, it pales in comparison to riding a motorbike.
My Dad has been riding motorcycles since he was 14 years old.  Yes, 14.
Despite having a crash that nearly killed him, and gave him the pin he still has in his leg, he loves bikes.  he bought a Harley a few years ago and that bike is so BEAUTIFUL it makes you salivate just looking at it, nevermind when he starts the thing up.
But, when I was a little girl, he made me promise never to ride on a motorcycle.  Ever. Not even his.
And being the good little Daddy's Girl that I am, I never did.
But per a recent discussion we had on parents raising their kids, and putting fear into their kids, and his regret that I may have held back doing certain things in life due to fear, we decided I was going to get on the back of his Harley and LIVE.
And I did.
And there honestly isn't anything like it.
The first few minutes I was nearly shaking, I was so terrified.
There wasn't anything between me and the road (right below my feet!) except physics.

And I've never been one for science, so it is difficult to put your faith and your life into something you fail to understand most of the time (I did like burning the different elements in chemistry, and learning anatomy in biology).
On those turns, when you have to lean and you feel the weight of the bike beneath you, tipping downward, your heart drops into your stomach.
We were flying down the hill near our house, 3 minutes after the ride started, and I looked up and my breath was sucked out of my chest.  The sky was RIGHT THERE.  The trees and grass and the little creek we used to catch turtles in is RIGHT THERE.  You can smell everything.
It really is like walking fast---you get to experience being outside with the thrill of speed added into it.
What a deal!
It's terrifying having those other cars next to you and knowing that if a driver makes a mistake, they could injure you, or kill you, but you just have to enjoy the ride and trust the driver.
I even spread my arms to my sides, as if in flight, just for the sensation.
We drove up the canyon and I saw the cliffs in a way I've never seen in a car.  We took the twistest rode we could find and surprisingly, I felt safer on the bike than I do in a car.  The heights didn't even bother me like they usually do.  It impacted me like a near death experience---everything looked brighter, smelled fresher, and I felt a tingling in my limbs and could feel me heart beating "I am, I am, I am."  Even the coffee we stopped for at the mountain lodge tasted more flavorful.
I am so glad I did it, and even more grateful that I am no longer afraid of riding on a motorcycle.
I don't feel the need to go out and jump on anyone's bike, but next spring when my Dad takes her out again, we may go for another spin.

Now for some photos:
Autumn love

GORGEOUS leaves in my parents' backyard

Bike up the canyon

The scarecrows I made with the kids.  Notice the bloody princess, far left.

Unplowed highway. Scary.

Love snowy Utah mountains.

We meet again, demon sled.

He looks like a handsome Russian!

Pure joy.