Roadrunners and Javelina

My husband was brought to Arizona when he was just five years old and he has lived most of his life here. Before I moved with him to Arizona in 2012, I had lived and worked in Ohio, Switzerland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and South Carolina. An experienced traveler, I thought I knew about most critters both wild and domestic. My education was augmented by the spectacular film footage of the movie Princess Bride with its excellent documentation of Rodents of Unusual Size, aka ROUS. I thought that these combined experiences would suitably prepare me for life in Arizona. I was mistaken.

My nearly native Arizonan husband brought my daughter and me on vacation here a few years before our move. On that visit we first experienced the Saguaro Cactus and learned that they can easily crush a car or take out the wall of a house should they fall. We saw the various short scrubby trees whose branches resemble feather dusters. Such trees were new to this adult woman who was used to good sized leaves like any self-respecting mid-western child could collect and press between sheets of wax paper.

We went on picnics where I was introduced to the Greater Roadrunner, an omnivore, who can run at speeds of 20 miles per hour. We saw ground squirrels lying spread eagle on the shaded concrete patio floor of a local Cantina, trying to cool down from the desert heat. We saw huge foraging birds flying in circles over something dead in the desert. All of these were of interest to my daughter and me, but there was more.

Eventually, my husband and my then college-age-daughter persuaded me to move to Arizona from South Carolina. We rented a place while we looked for something to buy. People new to the area often have never seen anything like it and say ill-informed things like the young woman we met, who opined that we should bulldoze the Sonoran Desert and “do something useful with it.” My husband needed to quickly relocate himself so that he would not counter that ignorant statement with graphic Navy words.

There is no place quite like the Sonoran Desert. The houses that are springing up on acre after acre fill me with sorrow and my husband with anger. After about a year in our rental house, my daughter came to stay with us on her Christmas break from college. After much too long an absence, her remarkable godmother flew in from California to visit with all of us. We had a great visit, and all four of us went with our realtor to view a house our realtor thought we needed to see. Everyone convinced us that it was the house we ought to buy, and it was here that my Arizona education genuinely commenced.

Still smokers in those days, my husband and I would go out on the back patio late at night and in the early morning hours when it was dark. It was then that we would hear the coyotes howling and yipping in the park behind our home. We watched the birds of prey cruise low over our neighborhood’s backyards around dinnertime looking for a tasty small dog or cat to pick up and carry away for a picnic. A friend showed us the photographic evidence of a hunter who took down a mountain lion a couple of miles from where we live. Various neighbors told us of seeing Bobcats walking atop the backyard walls. In time, one walked atop our wall, jumped down, and explored our backyard – up close and personal.

However, nothing prepared me for the Collared Peccary or Javelina. I had seen a stuffed one in a store window in Tombstone. That was instructive as I saw the front teeth that

[photo courtesy of Neal Lutyens]

should never be underestimated. Our friends, whose yard is not walled, and which is next to a broad swath of desert land, have Javelina that come to their house and patio. But the scariest time was when some Javelina babies fell into their sunken walled garden, planted when they took out a pool long ago. Our friend thought that he would try to lift the babies up out of that three-foot hole. You know what they say – never come between a Mama & her babies. Close call, that!

I love the view from our yard; I love the Santa Rita Mountains just west of us. I love the cactus and sunsets that we see from our patio and which form the banner photo for my blog. But I have to say that the Javelina are a coat of a different color. I believe that my response to them should be to respect their power and teeth and keep a distance. Javelina remind me of the rodents of unusual size from the Princess Bride movie, but they also make me wonder whether the God of creation has a weirdly peculiar sense of humor.  What do you think?

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Bone Tired, Frayed Nerves, Great Kindnesses

During the last three or four weeks my husband and I have dismantled two beds and have arranged them and one additional bed frame along with two dressers, a nightstand, a couple chairs and some random furniture oddments compounded with a gazillion boxes which we packed & taped shut in one bedroom of our home. Then we closed that door.

We have packed another gazillion file boxes full of . . . Drum roll please . . . Files.  They have been parked in our kitchen, hugging one of the walls. We have taken down and carefully packed more family pictures than any reasonable person could possibly accumulate. We have emptied closets, drawers, cupboards, and filled suitcases, cartons, and garbage cans. We have hit rock bottom and taken naps. We have bought stock in Bengay when we discovered that all of our muscles were talking back to us. Our mental health is out to lunch. We can’t afford, nor would it be wise, to restock the cupboard that held the wines and spirits.

Extraordinary feats of micro-engineering, within small cartons, have been interrupted and put on hold, time and again, when documents had to be signed, initialed, dated, sworn to and then driven to the post office to be mailed with return receipts. Movers, Mortgage Loan Officers, as well as Realtors and Insurance Agents in two states, have proved indispensable, helpful, informative, worrisome, and nerve-wracking and on one occasion drove this woman to despair.   Every time that we try to take a break another obstacle occurs.

On the other hand, amazing acts of kindness and generosity have been showered on us. Deliveries of packing materials, boxes, and meals, along with kind words, encouragement, prayers, hugs, quietly humorous or wickedly amusing stories, cartoons, have been delivered to lift us up. Our dwarf fig tree kindly produced its first season of delicious fruit. We have had calls and emails from family and dear friends, along with an upcoming dinner invitation. We have been delighted with the photography prowess of our Realtor that has captured our home in ways that we hope will provide us with a buyer. Open Houses have been scheduled for people to view our home. A few helpful friends along with my thoughtful step-daughter have shared the real estate link of our home on their Facebook pages. A High School friend from the Mid West emailed the listing of our house to her cousins who are realtors in town. Our rather amazing pastor faithfully preached another spot-on sermon, addressing the texts of the day, in ways that were helpful and seemed to speak to our weary circumstances.

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, got up and typed this narrative to update my friends and family and faithful readers of the sometimes scary adventure that is taking place in our little corner of Arizona. Having come nearly to the end of the page, and as it is still dark outside, I am going to see if sleep will visit me again.

Update:  I did get another couple hours of sleep.  I would ask you to continue to send prayers up to heaven and good vibes to Arizona.  We would be very grateful if you would keep us in your thoughts and prayers.  As we learned just this morning, this cross-country moving adventure is far from over!

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The Mixed Blessing of Our Last House

We are selling our house and moving. As a disclaimer, this was my husband’s idea. He loves me very much, and it occurred to him that the discrepancy in our ages might cause some difficulties for me in the future.

He returned home from his tour of duty in Vietnam when I was in second grade. His eldest daughter was born when I was not yet five years old, and his youngest daughter was born when I had been six for a few short months.

He is a thoughtful man, and it occurred to him that perhaps it would be prudent to move into a house in my home state where I have kith and kin.  I have specifically, three brothers, two cousins,  a flourish of inlaws and many friends of long standing from high school, church, and college.

I love my dear Arizona family, our many friends here, the quest for a church which prompted the name of this blog, and ultimately the church which found and nurtured us.  Then, too, there is the wild and remarkable land that is Arizona.  Despite all of these, I wouldn’t choose to stay in this sunny land if I were by myself. So, bless him, my husband made the call and said that he thought I would be happier nearer to my family, my old stomping ground, my old friends.

So this is it. Later today we will find out whether the house that appeals to us is the right house for us to purchase. My oldest brother and his wife will be going through the house with our realtor on our behalf.  Later today we may be making an offer on the house.  Not any house but our last house.

Then begins the bittersweet tasks of leave-taking, packing up, preparing and explaining why we are moving precisely two thousand and forty-two miles from our current to our last home.

It is bittersweet indeed. Leavetaking often is. We will not get to see our Pomegranate continue to grow strong and bear fruit. We will not be able to finish our plans for our quarter acre yard which included a rose covered pergola for dining out with friends.  We will not be present for the milestone celebrations of our Arizona friends and family.

We are excited about the prospect of a new beginning. We are eager to be close to my family and friends. But you will forgive me if I keep the cover picture for my blog. That is one of a million brilliant sunsets as seen from our back patio. A view I love and will never entirely leave behind.

Blessings are often bittersweet.   It is not wrong to care intensely about what you must leave behind.  It is not wrong to cherish sweet memories that touched and enriched your days.

 

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A Parsec of Stress Prompts Delicious Escape

The sum of our ages added to the dollars needed to get our house ready to put on the market, multiplied by the task of finding the very last house we intend to buy, squared by the 1400 miles from our present home to our potential new home, equals a parsec of stress. We all know that stress isn’t good for you, so my husband Ron and I put our two heads together and decided that we needed to escape for destinations both fun and delicious. We shut up the house and escaped.

Before we knew it, we were making online reservations, emailing some family members so that someone would know where the heck we were supposed to be, putting gas in the car, and packing travel stuff.

We headed north on a path that drove along the southern edge of Roosevelt Lake, formed in 1911 with the Theodore Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River.

For us, it was a lovely interlude of breeze, beauty, and wonder.But to capture the wonder — sometimes we had to pay attention to small details. Zoom in, if you will!We enjoyed Roosevelt Lake for miles and then crossed the bridge that spanned it. The bridge itself was spectacular!Then we continued toward our first day’s destination: Meteor Crater.  Talk about Big Things!(Truthful, but comic warning. This place is very windy. Anyone wearing Jean skirts should wear LONG ones!)

I don’t know quite where to start talking about Meteor Crater. Everything about it was epic! The museum connected with it was fascinating. Seeing exhibits which put into perspective the speed with which this meteor would have crossed the surface of the earth before landing was breathtaking. Glad we were nowhere around at the time.  But also breathtaking were the historical displays of early explorers of the crater, taking their camera equipment, and babies (!) on horseback down the rugged sides, to explore the impact area.That night we headed to our hotel on the outskirts of Flagstaff, on a street named Lucky Lane. This was in keeping with our moods.

In the morning we headed west to Williams, Arizona to catch the Grand Canyon Railroad for, of all places, the Grand Canyon.We rode in this Pullman car built in the early 1900s.

We were kept entertained and the scenery and company were terrific.

Finally, we arrived at the Grand Canyon. We have both been there multiple times, and my husband had even ridden the train before. But he wanted me to see and experience some things on my Arizona bucket list, and he thought I might enjoy the train. I did indeed! I also enjoyed the new experience of going to the Grand Canyon just as a couple which was a first for us.Isn’t it breathtaking?What about this one?

Even when you think you have some handle on the magnitude of what you are looking at, you discover something small that puts it all in perspective. Do you see them? They may look like bugs, but they are people, tiny hikers on the trail below. We counted eleven.After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we took the train back to Williams. Unfortunately, this was not as placid as the ride to the Canyon. Alas, and alack, robbers attacked our train!Truth be told even the bandits were entertaining.  They didn’t get money from us and eventually were apprehended. So that part was good.

When we returned to the station and headed out to our car, we walked by this train car which reminded me of reading a story to my little girl, many years ago.That evening, back on Lucky Lane, we had dinner for the second time at Cracker Barrel, just down the street from where we were staying. We had the good fortune to have Ryan H as our waiter for the second night in a row. Batting 1000.

Over dinner, Ron and I came to the decision that we were going to alter our plans. Is everyone sitting down? Yeah, well we were also sitting, and decided that we were going to stay an extra day, taking the third day to chill, before hitting the last stops on our whirlwind Arizona Bucket List escape. Chill we did, and it was lovely. We even got one last dinner at Cracker Barrel and got Ryan H as our waiter one last time. Ryan, if you are reading this, be sure your boss knows we think you need a raise!

Our last day involved a long drive and a beautiful bridge loaded with history. We drove to see Lake Havasu and the original London Bridge at its American home in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

The original London Bridge was, in fact, falling down, and England built themselves a new London Bridge. Missouri engineer and entrepreneur, Robert Paxton McCulloch, bought the bridge and brought it to America.  In the picture he is standing with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.We loved that two flags were interspersed along the length of the London Bridge: The Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.If you look very carefully, you can see that these stones are numbered for reassembly.I took this picture showing the width of this bridge. It is pretty amazing.

What is also amazing is the engineering of the rebuilt bridge. When the bridge was reassembled in Arizona, a steel framework was installed internally faced with the solid granite blocks, reducing the weight from 130,000 tons to 30,000 tons. This architectural change made the bridge strong enough for auto traffic, but much lighter. This London Bridge won’t fall down!

Take a moment to look at this walkway near the bridge.  A salute to our men and women in uniform.Lastly, read this terrific quote by Audie Murphy on that same walkway.This pretty much concludes our spectacular escape. What a remarkable trip it was! On our way home, we passed a few places of note. In Picacho, AZ, we got this picture of the sign for the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm. Always reminds us of one of our movie heroes, John Wayne.I hope that you enjoyed this little recap of our vacation.

Please share it,  leave your comments, and take a moment to follow my blog. Just hit the follow button in blue top right and leave me your email address. Many Thanks!

Happy Trails to you.

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2018 Memorial Day – Military Funerals – Call to Action

Cut to the chase – I want you to read this post, and I want you to share it as widely as possible. This is a call to action! Memorial Day is this coming Monday, and it is a time to pay tribute to the men and women who died while serving in the US Military. I’d like to relate a short story as background for my call to action. My dad lived to see 78 years and every one of his grandchildren. He did not die in the service of his country. He had served as a Master Sergeant in WWII in Patton’s Third Army, but I mention him because his funeral was on Memorial Day in 1994 and his funeral lit a fire in me focusing me on something we need to do for all of our veterans.

At my Dad’s graveside service, there were representatives from a local veterans group who gave a volley of rifle fire, but there was no bugler, and the veterans played a recording of taps on a tape player. This is the background for what I have learned since.

There is a volunteer group who will supply a bugler for any veteran’s funeral at no cost. They are a non-profit organization, called Bugles Across America.  If you care about our veterans, you may already support many worthy non-profits that provide various services to our wounded warriors. But I am asking you to consider donating, this weekend, to Bugles Across America.

 

Here are the links you need:

★    to donate – go to this page right now:  http://www.buglesacrossamerica.org/
★    to request a Bugler – go to this page:  http://www.buglesacrossamerica.org/Request-A-Bugler

    If you want to read more about them – check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/BuglesAcrossAmerica/about/?ref=page_internal

★    If you can play the Bugle, whether or not you have ever served in uniform, you may volunteer to play here: http://www.buglesacrossamerica.org/Volunteer-Audition

If you are like us, nary a day goes by without organizations sending mail requests for donations. We recently got home from a short vacation, picked up our mail at the local post office, and took it home to discover there was nary a friendly letter – just two bills and about twenty requests for money. So, yeah. We get it.

But people who are willing to die to protect your freedoms are worth honoring. So, I’ll reiterate my call. Please. Whatever you can give, please give it today.  It will help keep this free service going, and it will give comfort to those who are left behind.

Please. Do this Now:
★    to donate: http://www.buglesacrossamerica.org/

Thank you for honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for you. Thank you for honoring all of our men and women in uniform by supporting this worthy organization.

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The Color is Red

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  It isn’t on the same day every year, but changes date, in relation to Easter.  My husband and I have had a lot on our minds lately, busy with too many projects, and so walking into church, the bright Red Paraments were my first reminder that today was Pentecost.   (Well, to be honest, had I been paying proper attention,  the greeter gave us a bulletin as we came in the narthex from the parking lot which had a symbol of Pentecost on the cover — a descending dove.)

The Old Testament Reading this morning was Ezekiel 37:1-14.  This is the story of the dry bones.  Verse 11 reads in part:  “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  .  .  . Thus says the Lord God:  Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will bring you into the land of Israel.”

The Second Reading for the day was Acts 2:1-21.  Chapter 1 tells how on the day of Pentecost “there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

We don’t even understand each other very well when we speak the same language.  Imagine how bizarre it must have been to Jews, living in Jerusalem, who came there from every place under the heavens, and they understood what was being said to them!  Chapter 2 verse beginning at verse 7:  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

Well, well, well.  What does that have to do with you and me living in a whole new millennium?  The same thing that it meant way back then.  In verse 14, Peter responses to the questions posed by the people  “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem. . . .” and then quoting the prophet Joel: he ends with this:  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Pentecost is the festival in the life of the church when we recount the historical event of the Spirit of God coming down to give voice and hearing to his people — pouring out his spirit in a flame upon them.

It has often been said that every saint had a past and every sinner has a future.  Call upon the name of the Lord — and may the dry bones of your life be given new life and a new beginning.  If you took this chance — this weird out of the blue chance — how might your life change if you merely dared to hope and called on the name of the Lord?

 

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Take Two — A Bit of an Edge

My husband has yielded to my twisting of his arm — and you are my witnesses.  I am laying aside some other projects for the time being, as I have coerced my Navy Veteran husband to share some of his stories with you.

By way of introduction, I am reposting a piece I wrote about him three years ago.  Many of you weren’t following my blog then, and you might find this introduction to the man a bit of an eye-opener.  Warning.  He is colorful.  Stay tuned in the future, for a few more stories — this time dictated by the man himself.

Here is my 2015 blog post:  A Bit Of An Edge

I have written blog posts on a whole variety of subjects, but today I write, not about an idea or issue, but about a man. He is a man who can tell a story and who has a handshake that can break your hand. Some years ago he promised me he would give me the world. He continues to make good on that promise. In fact, he has done so many times over.

He understands hard work, he understands failure and success, he understands sacrifice and honor. He doesn’t have a college degree, but he is an avid reader who has pursued history, politics, war, scripture, astronomy, electronics, theology, and classic fiction.

When I was a school girl, decades before we met, he enlisted to serve his country in the United States Navy training in aviation electronics. In the mid-1960s he served in the Navy, much of the time aboard the USS Coral Sea. He was assigned to HC-1, a helicopter squadron whose crews performed sea-air rescue operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. When he got back from Vietnam, no one came to meet his ship.

[designed by the man himself]

He is the kindest man in the world, but a rough cut gem. He doesn’t always weigh his words before they leave his mouth. The most notorious example, sitting at the dinner table with his parents after he returned from Vietnam, he told his mother to “pass the f-ing butter.” When he saw the look on her face and remembered he wasn’t aboard ship anymore, he said “oops.” He worked harder to never say that again.

He built a race car with a friend and once rode his motorcycle from California to Arizona in the pouring rain. He learned about the hard work and long hours of running a restaurant while yet in high school when he had the job of cleaning the restaurant his parents owned and operated. His working career has spanned decades in Tucson. Mention of the fourteen years he worked for Tom Brown in Burr-Brown still causes him to wax poetic. Started in Tom’s garage, Burr-Brown was sold to Texas Instruments and was the largest business sale to date in the state of Arizona, approximately 7.6 billion. When we reminisce about the best and worst bosses we ever had, Tom is always at the top of Ron’s list of the best.

He studied to be a deacon in the Roman Catholic church and was approved to be ordained a deacon, but at that time, with a wife and two young daughters, he withdrew and did not pursue it. It would have meant that the Bishop could assign him to any church in the diocese and he was not in a position to be able to move his family.

When we were corresponding long distance before we got engaged, he told me that there is nothing that I cannot ask him or talk with him about. He has been true to his word. Some people say that, but when you wade in, you find the beach littered with landmines. He is not like that.

He has wiped away many a tear and manfully dealt with lots of baggage that has come with this woman whose biggest sorrow in life was that she failed in her first marriage. He isn’t threatened or angry or hurt when I cry over the loss of someone else. He is thoughtful in surprising ways. When we moved into our house in Arizona, and I set up a room for my daughter when she is able to be in town, he suggested that it would be a good thing if I would put a picture in there of my daughter’s family: a photo of my daughter and her dad and me. Was he threatened? Not a chance. He just thought it would please my daughter. I asked her, and she loved it. Amazing. It had not occurred to me.

He is mischievous, outrageous, plays well and loves to act up in public. He doesn’t get perturbed when I cry at a sappy movie, or a touching song, or for no known reason. He just calmly asks me to tell him about it. He brings me treasures, like frogs to see, and laughs at me when I get too serious. When watching politicians, he tends to forget his manners. When asked to jump he just asks how high.

[in this case, Horny Toad]

He is fiscally conservative and has never replaced his ancient Rolex which he bought as a young man when making an impression seemed important. We know that we would never have been interested in each other then and give thanks that we have each other now. He is not made uncomfortable about big picture dreams: what you would do if you suddenly discovered you inherited a huge sum of money. Weirdly our thoughts on that subject dovetail nicely. Still, when I grouse about a job I dislike he reminds me that it is temporary, tells me to be brave and just do what we have to do. We talk about everything, so we have a plan. We work the plan.

He has expanded my world by teaching me about the stars in the sky and explaining about the wonders of the Sonoran Desert.

Sometimes I catch him looking at me. After our six and three-quarter years of marriage, I love how he notices me. How his eyes light up when I walk into the room. We love picnics together, although I have learned that his attention will wander to the Quail, Ground Squirrels, and Roadrunners looking for handouts. What a soft touch.

He can swear like a sailor, but he thanks God every morning for blessing us with another glorious morning. I love this man, and we pray for 23 more years together. We have so many conversations we haven’t finished and trips we haven’t taken. A few of the subjects: childhood friends, the soft hearts of our fathers, creation and miracle stories, the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Churches, cities we’ve lived in or visited, Rome, marriage, wars and rumors of wars, wounded veterans, politics, astronomy, America, dogs and cats, hawks and white-winged doves. We haven’t finished taking all the trips we have talked about to see family and friends, to show me places where he used to hunt, to visit national parks, to take another picnic. Besides which, there are still paintings he has yet to create.

His two daughters are now remarkable women: both are loving, funny, and kind – of whom he is very proud.

Every day I start the day by praying that God keeps us safe and brings us home to one another.

We have no idea what the future holds. No one does. But this man is a treasure, and I am so glad he is holding onto me. I am such a fool. Every day I find that I was wrong the previous day: I do love him more today.

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