Monday, August 24, 2009

Memories of Me - Part 3 (sorry I missed Part 2)

Boy oh Boy, I almost forgot AGAIN about keeping up with my BFF! Last week I completely missed the mark, but hopefully I'll be able to go back and answer the question anyway, later this week.

For now, I remembered Part 3 just in the nick of time! Here we go:

"If you could visit any country overseas, where would you go, and why?"

Now THAT is a difficult question for me to answer, because truth told -- I have never longed to travel anywhere overseas. Isn't that funny? I've had many longings to travel various places within the U.S., but I can take or leave anywhere else. Hah! Not a great adventurer, I. Now that doesn't mean I'd turn down the opportunity to visit another country if the chance came up, mind you ... I just wouldn't pursue it on my own. And it's not because I'm snooty ... I'm just a bit shy (believe it or not).

EXCEPT I would alter that for anything connected with a Disney cruise or now one of the new Disney extreme adventures. I'd jump at a chance to visit any country connected with one of those adventures!!!!

So let's see ... if I really had to choose a country outside the United States ... it would be ... yes, Ireland and/or Scotland. Guess I'm going to choose two places instead of just one! :-)

And why?

Well, first of all, they speak English! (Mostly -- of course I wouldn't understand a beautiful but difficult language like Gaelic.) I'm very nervous about going someplace where I don't know the language.

Secondly, I love an Irish accent and a good Scottish brogue. Mmmmm. I could listen to those accents all day long. Put a charming man behind the accent and I'm seriously good to go. And hmmm ... put a charming man in a KILT behind the accent and I'll go running full tilt! Hah!

Third, I am attracted to the romance of green countryside, quaint villages, sheepherding ... probably all cliches, but I hope not!

Fourth, I really enjoy Maeve Binchy's books -- her lovely fictional accounts of Ireland and its peoples. I've read most of her books and for a while I fancied collecting hardbound editions of all of them. I stopped collecting along the way, though I do have quite a few. I find the peoples of her books charming and delightful, and I would enjoy meeting some real peoples face-to-face.

Fifth, add to that my total enjoyment of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. That red-hot relationship between Claire and Jamie ... wow. I have to be careful recommending the books however, because you have to learn how to skip over the sex. The story is so phenomenal I learned how to do that in a hurry. Absolutely phenomenal.

Sixth, I have great admiration for Roma Downey, who played Monica on "Touched By An Angel." I have always wanted to see if the Irish peoples as a whole were as gracious and tempered and ... as good, as she seems to be.

Lastly, both Ireland and Scotland seem just a little mysterious and magical to me ... very old country, very ancient, and that pulls at the mystical strings in my soul. Honestly, if I didn't have the great gift of the Gospel in my life, I would probably have been a New Ager or maybe involved in some middle eastern religion, for I am very attracted to all things spiritual. Without the Gospel I would be searching for the truth in all kinds of places (which means you can bet I am deeply grateful for the gift of real truth I've been given).

So there you have it -- two places I would go if I had to visit a foreign country and my (hopefully not too shallow) reasons for choosing them. What's your choice?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'Memories of Me Monday' -- on Tuesday

So my BFF has started an interesting Monday blog thread: "Memories of Me Monday." Check out her entry for yesterday here: I thought it was a cool idea and decided to play along. Except I'll wait until Tuesday to post my memory so I can follow along with whatever fun spark she pulls out of her slips-of-paper-jar. Debbie, I'm so glad you're getting some good use out of that gift! I have a jar of my own too. Maybe someday I'll diverge and pull out my own little paper slips. BUT! As for today ...

Here's this week's memory jogger: "Describe the teacher you hated most in high school. Why was he/she your least favorite?"

Like Debbie, the very first memory that popped into my mind was NOT of high school but of third grade. Great Minds Think Alike, yes? :-) At least ... I think it was 3rd grade. Hah! And another brain cell bites the dust. My mind remembers it as 3rd grade, so I'm going with that. And like my BFF, I'm going to describe that memory instead of high school. To be honest, I can't even think of a single teacher I hated in high school. I really liked H.S. (for the most part).

I went to Franklin Elementary in north Redondo Beach, and I absolutely hated my 3rd grade teacher. My dislike was not because of her teaching skills or anything like that -- it had to do with one impactful incident on one not-so-fine day. And THAT memory has not faded one iota (unfortunately).

You see, there was this boy on the playground who was a little bit of a weird kid, and also a trouble-maker. I don't even remember his name nor how old he was. Hah, for that matter I've blotted out my teacher's name too. All I remember is that she was a slightly built Oriental woman.

One day during Recess (what do they call that nowadays?) the weird kid decided it would be fun to line up all the girls against the playground wall and run down the line giving each one a kiss. Yes really! Silly, huh? I guess in this day & age it might be viewed as perverted. Maybe it was? But we fell for it and a whole bunch of us lined up against the brick wall. I can remember debating about whether I wanted to join in ... a part of me felt really uneasy about it. But in the end I wanted to be part of the crowd bad enough that I squashed my qualms and fell in line near the end.

He didn't get very far before the Recess teacher stopped the whole thing (he didn't reach me, for which I was thankful). Later on when Recess ended and we had to line up in our class lines, they announced that everyone who had participated in that little break-time shenanegan had to go to the Principal's office. We were required to turn ourselves in, queue up in a different line and follow the teacher to the Principal's office for disciplinary action. I was deathly afraid of the Principal so I did not turn myself in and went off to class with the "Not Me" kids.

WELL. Someone ratted on me. But that wasn't the horrible part. The horrible part was that my teacher pulled me aside in the classroom and asked me if I had been a part of the "kiss-a-girl" line. I was so embarrassed, so rattled, and so afraid, I lied straight to her face and said, "No." In fact, she asked me several times and I very stubbornly said "no" each time. I refused to fess up. She got furiously angry with me, grabbed my arm, shook me and yelled at me about how it was much worse to lie, and of course I cried like the scared little kid I was. But I refused to confess and finally she just let me go and sit back down.

She was right: lying was much worse than standing against a wall with a bunch of other silly girls. From the experience I recognized a weakness in me: my fear of embarrassment or retribution or being singled out, etc. can be stronger than my integrity, unfortunately. And it's true that the experience showed me how easy it is for me to go along with the crowd, even when I know it's wrong. Recognizing this weakness has helped me to combat it.

But I have to admit: I have never forgiven that teacher for embarrassing me in front of my peers. Oh dear!

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Favorite Spot - Zion's

I went to visit my mom in St. George this past weekend, which I always love to do.

This trip was especially restorative for me (I needed it so badly ... I've been putting myself through my own personal hell, again) and we had such a good time besides. Part of that fun was Friday ... thanks to my mom's willingness to go with me, I had the chance to visit my very favorite place in the whole wide world: Zion's National Park .

Majestic ... don't you think? The picture above is a shot through the roof skylight of the tram/bus we were riding. The one below is part of the River Walk trail:

When you arrive in Zion's there are a few places to park just past the entrance (at the Visitor's Center, the Museum, and near the tunnel turn off) but if you want to go further into the heart you need to take one of the free bus/trams. Or I suppose you could ride your bike. The buses stop at all the main trail heads and tourist spots (the Weeping Rock, the trails that take you up to the Emerald Pool, the Lodge, the River Walk, etc.) and they are free (well, they should be since you pay a pretty high price to get in ... though the entrance fee IS good for a week). I remember when they first started dis-allowing cars in Zion's several years ago -- there was some complaining about taking away people's freedom and what-not, but mostly the consensus (I think) was that it was a good thing. It certainly adds to the mystery and beauty of the place and it has done so much to preserve and protect. When cars were allowed through people would park anywhere and everywhere, almost blocking the road sometimes, and it was noisy, over-busy and terribly crowded. Now it is quieter and more orderly. I love the change, actually. Here's a shot looking towards the front of the bus:

And one looking directly out the partially open window (interesting that my poor little camera completely washed out the sky where the window was open and looking through the window tint you see the sky how it REALLY was -- that BEAUTIFUL deep blue):

My mom is "getting on in years" (so she keeps insisting ... I guess I have to begin accepting that it's true) so we weren't interested in doing one of the "real" hikes or stopping at each of the scenic places. We just wanted to take the tram through the beautiful valley, feel the peacefulness of the place and take the one-mile-up-one-mile-back River Walk to the Narrows Trailhead. I'm very proud of my mom -- she made it the full trek, in spite of a little high-altitude dizziness and muscles that refused to fully cooperate. Mom, you are very stubborn and determined! Hah! The hard part to swallow was admitting a cane could've come in handy.

It was SUCH a beautiful morning!!!!! A fabulous cool front came through over the weekend and though the really great coolness was up in northern Utah, still they saw low 90's in Dixie, which felt nice after 110-degree weather. In Zion's (in the morning, anyway) it was heavenly: teperatures in the 80's and probably even cooler in the shade. When we reached the end of the River Walk at the Narrows trailhead, there was a lot of THIS going on (sorry for all my blurry pictures):

And this:
And this:
(We weren't the only ones sitting around people-watching though ... there were lots of people just hanging around enjoying the shade, catching their breath and watching the splashing and climbing):

There were also LOTS and LOTS of these, and I was absolutely amazed at how fearless and completely unconcerned they were around humans. They knew where the good stuff was, too!

Which leads me to my funny story of the day. Check out the furry dude in the next picture (again, sorry for the blurriness -- this time it was partly because he was across from us on the other side of the walkway AND I was also laughing):

There were other squirrels who went after other backpacks. But THIS guy was amazingly PERSISTENT! Intent. Determined!!! And he could care less that he was in the middle of dozens of milling human beings. Some unsuspecting hiker had planted this backpack and shoes next to the retaining wall and went merrily on his way down to the water, and Mr. Squirrel went in for the kill. He started with the shoes but those soon went the way of the ground and THEN the fun really began. He climbed all over that backpack -- he pushed and pulled at the flaps -- he stuck his head into tucks and crannies ... and finally ... oh yes, I kid you not ... he unzipped one side of that thing and began to climb in!!!!!!!! Mom and I sat across the way and just laughed and laughed. All that effort really drew a crowd (at one point there must have been almost a dozen people standing in a half circle around the squirrel), and what really cracked me up is that EVERYONE was trying to take his picture and NO ONE was trying to stop the little invader! I think I laughed harder over that than the fact that he was actually getting into the backpack:

HAHA! Of course, did WE try to chase him away?! NO! That is, not until he managed to get that thing unzipped and began to climb in. Then I jumped to my feet and was about to go on over but a nearby man grabbed a large stick and chased the squirrel out. He didn't hit the critter of course -- just threatened him. The squirrel gave up and ran the other direction, and shortly thereafter the unsuspecting owner came back, picked up his backpack and prepared to move on. And do you know that not one person leaned over to tell him what had happened?! HAH! Again, I toyed with the idea but I think eventually the guy with the stick told him. It was sure entertaining for people-watchers such as my mom & I! And I learned a valuable lesson: don't leave your backpack (or other stuff) hanging around unless you KNOW it's secure and can't be gotten into!

It was a very pleasant morning but by the time we got back down the trail it was early afternoon and starting to get hot. NOT so pleasant then! So we went on home for a good little rest before heading out for another favorite family pasttime: EATING.

I truly, truly love Zion's. There is a magic to this place ... a majesty ... a spirit. I think all national parks have something of the Divine, but for me Zion's has it in abundance.