Category Archives: Today Is…

I Feel Happy

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According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, May 23 is Clinical Hypnosis Day. In celebration of this upcoming “holiday,” today I’ll share with you the story of my father’s (and by extension my own) experimentation with clinical hypnosis.

You may be wondering what exactly is clinical hypnosis. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis answers this question (and many others) on their website.


Clinical hypnosis is an altered state of awareness, perception or consciousness that is used, by licensed and trained doctors or masters prepared individuals, for treating a psychological or physical problem. It is a highly relaxed state.

Pink and White Key Chain

My parents were two of the squarest people I can image. They may have come of age in the turbulent 60s and been a young married couple in the swinging 70s, but as far as I can tell, during my childhood they lived their lives as good Catholic Republicans. My dad went to his grave proud of the fact that he’d never been drunk, something he held over my mother because of the one time she drank too much while partying with her brother before he shipped off to Vietnam and was puke sick for two days. I honestly believe–after viewing my parents through the critical lens of my adulthood–that neither of them took an experimental puff of weed or snort of coke, never had a psychedelic experience; never attended a key party; never so much as sampled a dish containing tofu, lentils, or curry. Even in the most experimental decades of their lives, my parents showed themselves to be nothing but straight. All to say, I was quite surprised when I remembered my father’s dabbling in hypnosis.

It all started with our family physician. Somehow that old boy had gotten himself mixed up with hypnosis. Want to stop smoking? Want to lose weight? Want to be a better salesman? Want to do well in school? Want to feel happier? Want to be more successful? Dr. Carrol could help.

I’m not sure if Dr. Carrol did in-office hypnosis treatments. It seems to me

Skc Cassette Tape on White Surface

that a busy physician wouldn’t have time to sit with folks while they counted back from ten. Instead, Dr. Carrol made and sold hypnosis tapes.

It was a brilliant scheme. Dr. Carrol probably went into a recording studio, ran through the steps required for achieving different goals, then had the cassette tapes of each program manufactured. Once the tapes were ready, Dr. Carrol could sell them to his patients. The patients could use the tapes whenever it was convenient (immediately prior to falling asleep was recommended), and Dr. Carrol could rake in the money without sacrificing any precious office hours.

To be fair, I don’t know if Dr. Carrol actually raked in money from his hypnosis tapes. Yes, it was the 70s, and people were trying all sorts of new techniques for better living, but Dr. Carrol was practicing in a small town in the heart of Cajun Country. I suspect most of his patients were too conservative to try something as far out as hypnosis. Perhaps if one of his tapes was a big success it was probably the one purported to help people stop smoking. In the 70s the dangers of smoking were coming to light and people were strongly encouraged to kick the habit. Perhaps even in Cajunland, people were desperate to quit smoking and would try just about anything that might help change their unhealthy ways. If a medical doctor said hypnosis was the way to go, why not give it a try?

How Dr. Carrol sold my dad on hypnosis tapes, I have no idea. My dad was not–had never been–a smoker. My dad did struggle with his weight, so maybe he got hooked up with a set of weight loss tapes. What surprises me the most was that my dad was tight, not prone to spending money unnecessarily. He was a young man with a wife and two little kids and not much money. How did Dr. Carrol convince him to buy hypnosis tapes?

Maybe Dr. Carrol got my dad with tapes that were supposed to make him a better salesman. My dad was a salesman by profession. If you’ve ever read or watched Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, think Willy Loman.

Brown Wooden Plank

My dad should have been a carpenter or maybe a plumber or even an auto mechanic. He could fix almost anything, build almost anything. I once asked him how he knew so much about car and home repair, and he said he’d had to learn because he could never afford to hire someone to do the work for him. He said he’d go into an auto parts store or plumbing supply shop or lumberyard and ask questions until he figured out what to do. This was in a time before YouTube, and I never saw him pouring over a library book from the do-it-yourself section, so he really must have had innate mechanical abilities to supplement the information he gleaned from the people who sold him supplies.

My father should have been a tradesman, not a salesman. I believe he would have been happier working with his hands. However, somewhere in his life my dad had picked up the notion that being a salesman was more prestigious than working in the trades. He may not have attended collage, but he could move one rung up the social ladder if he got a job in sales.

I believe my dad wanted to be a good salesman. He wanted to be considered a success. He wanted to bring home enough money to keep his wife and kids comfortable. I suspect my father did not have the innate knowledge or personality traits of a natural salesman. I suspect he felt he could use a little help. I suspect he hoped hypnosis would do the trick.

I was vaguely aware that my dad was listening to the hypnosis tapes at night. I was 7 or 8 a the time and mostly unconcerned with the affairs of the adults in my life. My dad did share with the family a motivational catchphrase he got from the tapes. I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific! he’d say enthusiastically, probably trying to convince himself. Sometimes my mom and sibling and I would say it too. Sometimes I still say the words (out loud, enthusiastically) when I’m trying to pep myself up.

I don’t know who decided it would be a good idea for me to listen to

Red-and-brown Pencils

hypnosis tapes before bed. I don’t know if my parents bought something intended for kids or if they just used what my dad already had. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to listen to a tape, but I don’t remember being opposed to listening. I remember being told that listening to the tape would help me do better in school, even though my grades were fine.

Every night after tucking me into bed, my dad would press the play button on his tape player that had been moved into my room. Dr. Carrol’s voice was soothing and relaxing and because I listened to the tape as I was falling asleep, it didn’t take time away from anything I wanted to do.

I wish I remembered what Dr. Carrol said on the tape, what instructions he gave. Better yet, I wish I had the tape now so I could listen to what I was told on those nights decades ago.

I remember being skeptical of the whole hypnosis thing. Even as a little kid, I wondered how what someone said on a tape could help me do better in school. I don’t think my parents told me anything about the subconscious or how hypnosis is supposed to work. What I do (very clearly) remember thinking is that while what I was hearing on the tape probably wasn’t going to do anything for me, I was going to pretend it worked in order to please my parents. So in the mornings after listening to the tape, I would pop right out of bed and pretend to be excited and happy about going to school.

Of course, now I have to wonder if the hypnosis actually did work. Was I in fact only pretending it was working? Could my skeptical brain only embrace hypnosis if I could continue to disbelieve it but accept the changed in my behavior it caused by telling myself I was only pretending? Why would I feel the need to pretend it was working if it wasn’t?

I don’t remember how many nights I listened to the tapes as I drifted off to sleep. It doesn’t seem like I did it for very long, but memory has a way of distorting time. I also don’t remember why I stopped listening to the tape. Even complaints wouldn’t have necessarily gotten me off the hook, as my parents made me do plenty of other things I complained about. If my parents thought the tapes were valuable, one of them would have pressed the play button every night whether or not I wanted to listen. I can only imagine my parents decided Dr. Carrol and his hypnosis were not worth our time after all.

In retrospect, I wish my patents had continued to play the tape for me. Maybe the messages it contained would have helped me live a better life. Maybe whatever instructions given on the tape would have saved me from the depression that settled over me within a couple of years and has been with me on and off (mostly on) for most of my life. If I had the tape now, I’d listen to it at bedtime every night and hope for a change.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/dark-vintage-table-keys-67094/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/skc-cassette-tape-on-white-surface-1219113/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-blur-carpenter-carpentry-345135/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/desk-pens-school-design-2172/.

In Praise of Paper Maps

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Person Holding Pen Leaning on Map Near Cup

According to the National Day Calendar website, April 5 is National Read a Road Map Day. To prepare us for this holiday, today I’ll share with you my ideas about why GPS isn’t enough, make suggestions about what maps to use depending on where you’re going, and give you tips on where to find help if you need to brush up on your map reading skills.

When did everyone become dependent on GPS and a computerized voice telling us when to turn left?

My dad was a salesman during the early years of my life. When he went out looking for clients, he used paper maps to find them. When I was very young, we moved to a major metro area. My dad had not a single paper map, but an entire large, thick book that showed each neighborhood, each street, each back alley. The book was laid out with some mysterious logic I still fail to understand which involved flipping to a whole new page in mid trip. How did my father possibly read that map while driving? I can only assume he studied the map and planned his trip before getting into the driver’s seat and stopped in a parking lot to consult the map any time he had to confirm his route or start over and figure out new directions.

In 1998 I found myself at a music festival with a need to get back to my home base sooner than planned. I didn’t have a car and didn’t drive. I was facing a multi-day Greyhound bus adventure, but a friend of a friend of a friend pointed me in the direction of a woman who was headed to the same city as I was. She had an open passenger seat and room in the back of her pickup for my gear. After she accepted me as her passenger, I found she also had a TripTik Travel Planner from AAA. Does anyone remember these customized booklets that AAA members could request from the local office? AAA members could get request directions to a specific destination and the local office would provide turn-by-turn instructions. I spent a lot of time holding that booklet from AAA, as I was immediately promoted from passenger to navigator.

(True confession: I still managed to send us off in the wrong direction, despite the turn-by-turn instructions in my hand. In my defense, we were in the outskirts of Chicago, and the proliferation of road signs had me befuddled. Luckily the driver quickly saw the error of my ways and got us back on track ASAP.)

I can’t remember exactly when I learned about MapQuest. Perhaps it was in the very early years of the 2000s when I got my first laptop. Maybe it was before that, and I’d use my computer at work or go to the public library to get my directions via the World Wide Web. I do remember finding directions online and either printing them or writing each step out by hand. MapQuest let me down multiple times (including on so many occasions on a single trip to Missouri that I grew convinced that no employee of MapQuest had ever driven one mile in the Show Me State), until I swore to never use that website again. Now I’m a Google Maps gal.

The first time I heard a talking GPS navigator was 2009. The parents of the

White Android Smartphone Inside Vehicle

guy who was then my boyfriend flew into the major city where we lived and rented a car because the guy and I didn’t have one. The car’s talking navigation system seemed to be more trouble to me than it was worth. We asked it to take us to tacos; instead it took us in circles as we tried to find a taco stand that apparently didn’t exist. I feared we would be directed to drive off a cliff or through a river.

Until I met The Man, I never let the navigation lady in Google Maps talk to me. I’d get directions from Google Maps, then write them out on a piece of paper I’d clip somewhere on my dash so I could refer to the instructions as I drove. I soon agreed with The Man that listening to the Google lady is easier than writing everything out, but it sure is a wrench in my system when she decides to send me on a wild goose chase. (I call them “wild Google chases.”) Why does the GPS lady get confused? Doesn’t her job require her to be omniscient?

And yet, I often wonder how our society got around before Google Maps or other GPS technology. When I think hard, I remember as a teenager having to ask friends how to get to their houses before my mother drove me over. Invitations to birthday parties often included small hand-drawn maps. Vacationers used road maps and those AAA TripTik booklets (if they were so fortunate as to be AAA members–my family never was). When folks got lost, they’d stop at a gas station and ask the worker for help.

Yes, I do appreciate GPS technology. I use it often. I’ve made friends with the Google Maps lady who guides me from inside my phone. (I call her Megan.) But for goodness sake, no matter how convenient GPS technology is, don’t forget your paper maps and don’t forget how to use them.

There are a few types of paper maps that you may need during your travels. Be sure to get the right map for the job!

(I’m going to assume you’re traveling in the U.S.A. since that’s where I’m writing from. I’ve you’re traveling in a country other than the U.S.A., I‘d love for you to leave a comment describing how your use of maps is different from the suggestions I’m giving here.)

Map of the World Book Laid Open on Brown Wooden Surface

For your day-to-day driving on the interstate and highways, use a decent road atlas. Rand McNally makes a good one. You can buy these bound sets of maps at bookstores or even Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart also sells a Rand McNally road atlas that shows the location of every Wal-Mart store in the U.S. This atlas would be a great investment for anyone who plans to spend a significant number of nights in Wal-Mart parking lots.SimplyRVing made a YouTube video all about this Wal-Mart atlas and how it can help you on the road.

If you’re planning your travels ahead of time, you can order an atlas online or through a local, independent bookstore. (Believe me, an independent bookstore will appreciate your business!) An atlas will show you the main roads to get you from town to town. The maps often show rest stops and campgrounds, as well as state and federal public land. Many of them also show basic maps of major cities and the most popular National Parks. If you purchase an atlas that covers all of North America, you’ll get maps of Canada and Mexico too.

If you’re only traveling in one state or region and you don’t have the space

Two People In Vehicle Looking At The Map

(or money) for an atlas, you can probably get by with one or more state maps. You can sometimes find state maps in bookstores or Wal-Mart stores, and you can certainly buy them online. However, state maps are typically available for free at visitor centers or by mail if you contact the state’s tourism office ahead of time. I was recently in the visitor center in Deming, NM where there were free maps available for New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas.

(If you want to request free paper maps and other tourist information, the USATourist.com website offers a page with links to all the tourism offices in the USA.)

Sometimes a stand-alone state map will be more detailed than a state map in an atlas. It may show you county roads and tourists attractions. A state map may also include basic maps of major cities within the state.

If you want to explore a state thoroughly, especially if you want to boondock for free on public land, you may want to invest in an atlas or atlas and gazetteer for the state you are exploring.  These bound maps of individual states break the entire state into blocks, then enlarges each block to show not just county roads but also forest service roads, old mines, campgrounds, public land, historic sites, hunting zones, and more. Having a state atlas or atlas and gazetteer combo is a good plan if you want to find free camping areas that are off the beaten path. The two most popular brands are DeLorme and Benchmark.

Photo of Gray Concrete Road in the Middle of Jungle during Daylight

If you’re going to spend some time in a National Forest or BLM area (especially a popular one), you may be able to get a map from the local ranger station. These maps will show Forest Service roads, natural attractions and landmarks, and campgrounds. These maps will also save you from buying a gazetteer if you don’t really need it because you’ll be boondocking primarily in one part of the state. (The map of the National Forest I worked in for four seasons cost $20, but the ranger station may have free handouts that will get you where you want to go. Don’t be afraid to ask for freebies.)

On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time in an urban area, you may want to get a good map of the city where you are based. Gas stations or Wal-Mart stores may have city maps, or you can order them before you hit town, if you’re the type to plan ahead. If you get to a city and need a free map of the area, try the local chamber of commerce. You don’t have to say you live in your van (if doing so makes you uncomfortable) when you explain you’re new to the area and need some help finding your way around. You could also go to the public library and print out some maps of the city that show the parts of town you plan to frequent.

Once you have your map, don’t just stick it in the pocket behind your seat and forget about it. Get that baby out and study it! Trust me, the best time to pull out your map is not when you are already lost.

If you’re using GPS to get to your destination, compare the route the

Person Holding Map of Usa

computer gives you to your map. Does what the GPS tell you make sense? Some camp host friends punched “Sequoia National Park” into their GPS, and after following the instructions given, found themselves turning down what seemed to be a dry riverbed. Oops! Had they consulted a map before the trip, they would have seen there was no reason to leave the pavement to get where they were going.

I’ve had Google Maps send me on wild Google chases even in cities and towns. Once when on the interstate, driving through the metro Los Angeles area, the Google Maps lady routed The Man onto Sunset Boulevard. Why? Why? Why? Google Maps often sent me on strange, roundabout routes through Porterville, CA. In any case, using a paper map to get familiar with an area before a trip can help do away with this type of nonsense. Simply being familiar with street names and the lay of the land can help make recovery a little easier if the GPS starts spewing incorrect information.

If you’ve never learned to read a road map or your skills are rusty, no shame! You can find lots of map-reading help on the internet. The Beginner Driver’s Guide will give you an informative overview of what different components of a map mean and how to use them. wikiHow has a thorough two-part article on “How to Read a Map,” including how to understand a map’s layout and how to use a map to get where you’re going. If you’d rather watch a video, there are several on YouTube dedicated to teaching folks how to read maps.

However you go about sharpening your map-reading skills, do it before you get on the road. Trying to interpret an unfamiliar map while trying to drive and read street signs is no easy task and could be a recipe for disaster.

GPS is quite helpful in getting you where you’re going, but it shouldn’t be the only tool in your navigation toolbox. Make sure you have the correct paper map for the particular journey you’re on, and know how to use it so you can reach your destination with less worry and stress.

As always, Blaize Sun takes no responsibility for your safety and well-being. Only you are responsible for your safety and well-being. Do your research and decide for yourself your best course of action.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/activity-adventure-blur-business-297642/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/smartphone-car-technology-phone-33488/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/map-maps-american-book-32307/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-gray-concrete-road-in-the-middle-of-jungle-during-daylight-775199/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-close-up-fingers-focus-590133/.

Unusual Bodily Connections and Their Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being (Guest Post)

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Today is World Oral Health Day. According to the World Oral Health Day website, it


is celebrated globally every year on 20 March. It is organized by FDI World Dental Federation and is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health.


WOHD spreads messages about good oral hygiene practices to adults and children alike and demonstrates the importance of optimal oral health in maintaining general health and well-being.

March 20 was chosen as World Oral Health Day


to reflect that:
Seniors must have a total of 20 natural teeth at the end of their life to be considered healthy
Children should possess 20 baby teeth
Healthy adults must have a total of 32 teeth and 0 dental cavities
Expressed on a numerical basis this can be translated as 3/20 hence March 20

In honor of this day, we’ll take a break from our usual Wednesday posts of special interest to vandwellers, vagabonds. nomads, drifters, rubber tramps, and travelers and share this guest post by Catherine Workman. Catherine’s article tells us about the impact oral health has on the human body’s overall general health, the link between dental and mental health, and as a bonus, how gut bacteria influences mental and physical well being. Of course, such information is important to everyone, including folks who live on the road.

The human body is an endless source of surprise, with odd connections that would seem highly improbable if science hadn’t provided the evidence. Research has established a connection between periodontal and cardiovascular health and proven a connection between one’s gut and mental and metabolic health. It’s strange to think that a healthy gut would have an effect on your mental well-being as well as obesity and whether you get diabetes, but such is the case. Understanding these connections is important and the first step in preventing serious physical and psychological problems. And it’s very likely that understanding how to use these connections to stay healthy and happy can help prevent serious conditions.

Gums and Heart

Gum disease results from the buildup of plaque around the teeth, increasing the incidence of inflammation within the body, especially chronic long-term inflammation, a key factor in an array of health issues, particularly atherosclerosis. And while there’s no clear proof that preventing periodontal disease will prevent cardiovascular disease, researchers have concluded that the link between the two is reason enough to be diligent about maintaining good oral health.

Proper oral health includes being faithful about brushing, flossing, and making regular visits to the dentist, all of which play an even more important role in one’s overall health than previously understood. Gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums, is an early warning sign of periodontal disease. Swollen, red, or sensitive gums that bleed easily are indicators of gingivitis and should be brought to your dentist’s attention as soon as possible.

Dental and Mental Health

There is also a connection between oral and mental health. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, two-thirds of people suffering from depression indicated having had a toothache or some other dental problem in the past year. Depressed persons also tended to have teeth in fair or poor condition. Evidently, poor dental health is linked to a range of mood disorders. It can be difficult to know which comes first, but there is evidence that people who suffer from depression and anxiety tend to neglect their own hygiene.

Depression is also a cause of poor dietary habits and the ingestion of sugary and acidic foods that are bad for the teeth. Maintaining a healthy oral health routine is the most direct form of treatment, though some people may require pharmacological help, including the prescription of medications to alleviate their mental suffering.

Your Gut, Your Health

One of the most impactful findings of recent years is the relationship between gut bacteria — a proper balance between good and bad bacteria — and various aspects of one’s mental and physical well-being. Your overall health begins in your gut, where bacteria such as Akkermansia, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium play a major role in preserving your health.

Gut bacteria are involved in proper food digestion and are tied to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, and even mental health problems such as depression. Gut bacteria line your entire digestive system, most of which live in the colon and intestines, and affect profoundly important bodily functions, such as your metabolism and immune system. Insufficient anti-inflammatory gut bacteria is likely to cause colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Following a healthy diet, which should include whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, can help place your good and bad gut bacteria back in balance and overcome health problems related to gut-related problems. Regular exercise and taking probiotics can also improve gut health. Alternative approaches include ginger and turmeric, an anti-inflammatory; milk thistle, which speeds slow digestion; and slippery elm, which soothes acid reflux.

We’re accustomed to thinking of major organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver as the primary influencers of one’s health. It can be strange to think that good physical and mental health begins in the mouth and in one’s gut. However, maintaining good oral and gut health clearly have an impact on one’s overall health and well-being.

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in a while. She travels to boost her physical and mental health.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Transit Driver Appreciation Day

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Bus Interior

Today is Transit Driver Appreciation Day! This holiday seems to the brainchild of TriMet transportation (providing bus, light rail and commuter rail service) out of Portland, Oregon.  

I think most transit drivers are real public heroes. They deal with traffic; inclement weather; and strange, belligerent, confused, and angry passengers. I always thank my driver.

The story that follows isn’t specifically about a transit driver, but it took place on a city bus, so I think it fits the occasion. Anything could happen on a city bus. Drivers and passengers alike have to be prepared for surprises.

Long ago I lived in a large city in Texas. I didn’t have a vehicle, so I walked or biked or rode the bus to get to all the places I needed to go. Work was a long way from home, father than I wanted to ride my bike early in the morning or after a long day on the job, so I spent a lot of time on public transit at the beginning and end of each work day.

One afternoon I was on a bus full of evening commuters. The place was packed. Every seat was taken, and I was grateful I’d gotten on early and had a place to sit.

White Bus on Road Near in High Rise Building during Daytime

I don’t remember when the woman boarded the bus of if I’d noticed her when she did. I was sitting in one of the forward facing double seats on the same side as the driver; she was across the aisle from me and father up, in the middle of the row of seats facing the aisle.

The interior of the bus was noisy with the sound of people talking mixed with the steady thump thump of wheels on pavement and the roar of engine. As the bus approached a red light, the driver decreased our speed, and the roar of the engine died down.

Of course, the bus was not the only vehicle on the road. We were in the midst of big-city rush hour traffic, so there were a dozen or more vehicles between the bus and the intersection. Even after traffic started moving, it was going to be a while until we started chugging along again.

It was at this time the woman decided to make her pronouncement.

I have to go to the bathroom! she called out in a loud, singsong voice. She placed the stress on the word “have” and the first syllable of “bathroom.”

Red Metal Bars in Side Vehicle

The woman was young, but definitely not a child. Most adults would not make this announcement to people they didn’t know

Everyone else on the bus was immediately uncomfortable and quiet. The interior of the bus was enveloped in the silence that occurs when a group of strangers are feeling socially awkward together. But ok, the outburst was over. We could move on…

I have to go to the bathroom, the woman burst out again.

Oh, the awkwardness was not over.

As the bus inched its way forward, the woman turned her words into a little chant.

I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. Her voice grew more plaintive as her chant progressed.

None of the other passengers on the bus would look at the woman or at each other. No eye contact was being made.


I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom.

We could all hear the growing desperation in her voice.

Even if the bus driver would have let her out between stops, there was no place for her to go. We were in the middle of a block with an empty athletic field on the right and businesses not likely to have public restrooms on the left. Even if she got off the bus, where would she find the restroom she seemed so desperately to need?

I have to go to the bathroom.

Finally, the bus was close to the traffic light. Surely when the light turned green the bus would make it through the intersection.

I have to go to the bathroom.

Red became green, and the bus made it through, but I guess the woman was going to hold out until she got to her stop. She didn’t pull the cord to ring the bell or dash to the door. In fact, several blocks later when we got to my stop, I could hear her as I got off the bus, still chanting about her need to go to the bathroom.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-sitting-bus-seats-34171/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-bus-on-road-near-in-high-rise-building-during-daytime-68427/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/bar-bus-grip-hand-grips-1462097/.

Love for a Son

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On Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to focus on romantic love and forget about all the other kinds of love that live in the human heart: love for siblings, love for children, love for friends, love for animals, love for parents, love for caregivers, love for students, love for teachers. On this Valentine’s Day, I want to remind you of these other loves and share a story about one woman’s love for her son.

The farmers market was almost over. Some of the less patient vendors were already packing. I’m an until the bitter end kind of gal, so I hadn’t put away a single item I wanted to sell.

Two women walked up to my table. They seemed to be Native Americans, probably from the local tribe if I had to guess. They appeared to be in their late 50s and were maybe sisters or maybe cousins or maybe close friends. In any case, there was an easy companionship between them.

We were about a month from Valentine’s Day, so I showed them, as I’d shown everyone who’d approached my table that day, the stone hearts cut from labradorite, rose quartz, agate, and carnelian that I had for sale. I also pointed out my new septarian concretions and the Arkansas quartz points I’d picked up earlier in the week. The women discussed the stones, slipping seamlessly from English to their native language, then back again.

Heart Stones

The woman to my left had long, dark, curly hair, and she wore glasses. She picked up a septarian nodule and it slipped from her hand and fell onto the concrete sidewalk. She couldn’t apologize enough.

Septarian Nodules

Don’t worry about it, I told her. That rock is a million years old.* It’s been through a lot. 

Her companion giggled at my joke, but I could tell the woman who’d dropped the stone was mortified. Of course, I prefer my merchandise not to hit concrete, but there was no sense being mad at someone who’d had an accident. I know the woman had no intention of being disrespectful towards me or my stones.

The woman with curly hair returned the septarian nodule to the bowl with the others of its kind and began sorting through the heart stones. Her companion had wandered to the next table before the woman with the curly hair found the perfect heart stone, a red agate.

My son died six years ago, she told me. I stopped what I was doing and looked into her eyes.

Oh, I’m sorry, I murmured. I never know what to say to people when they confess their heartbreak.

He loved loved loved rocks, she said with a big smile. I’m going to leave this on his grave, she explained, showing me the heart stone in the palm of her hand.

I miss him, she said quietly. I love him so much.

I’m sure he loved you too, I told her. Loves, I corrected myself. I’m sure he still loves you.

He does, she said with absolute confidence. He tells me he loves me. He tells me he’s ok. He tells me he’s happy. 

The woman paid for the heart stone and caught up with her friend who had moved on down the row of vendors.

I enjoy selling stones that make people happy. I like selling Arkansas quartz points to kids who look at the clusters as if they were diamonds. I like selling septarian concretions to people who enjoy the way they feel in the hand. I like selling ammonite pairs to folks who give them as meaningful gifts and kyanite pieces to jewelers who use them to create pieces of wearable art. Most of all, I like selling stones to people who share their pain and joys with me and let me know they’ll use the stones to maintain a heart connection with the people they love.

*According to BestCrystals.com, septarian nodules were actually


formed between 50 to 70 million years ago…

so that stone was more than a single million years old.

I took the photos in this post.

Christmas in the Desert

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Shiny, round Christmas tree ornaments are balanced on the tips of pointy desert plants.

I hadn’t planned to share a post on Christmas Day. I don’t usually run posts on Tuesdays, and I had a fun story from my childhood to share on Christmas Eve. I thought I had done all I needed to do.

Photo has a dreamy quality and shows shiny Christmas tree ball ornaments on the pointy end of desert plants. A palm tree and mountains are visible in the background.

Then I took a ride through a small Arizona town in the Sonoran Desert and saw how the locals were decorating for the holiday.

A green and yellow desert plant is surrounded by rocks. Shiny green round Christmas tree ornaments have been placed on the pointy ends of the  plant's leaves. The photo is taken from above the plant.

Residents of several homes in the town had decorated desert plants in their front yards by placing brightly colored, shiny, round Christmas tree ornaments on the pointy ends of the plants. The decorations really made the plants look festive, which in turn made the whole yards look festive.

Close up of brightly colored and shiny, round Christmas tree decorations adorning the pointy ends of desert plants. Palm tree is visible in the background.

At least one homeowner decorated the saguaros in the yard.

I love this trio of Saguaro Santas. Since I took this photo, I’ve seen desert dwellers in other towns do this too, and it never fails to amuse me.

Shiny and round red and green Christmas tree ornaments are perched on the pointy ends of desert plants. The photo has a dreamy quality to it.

I hope everyone who reads this post enjoys seeing this approach to holiday decorating in the desert, whether you’ve encountered it before or it’s all brand new.

My favorite of all the decorations was the one put out by Mother Nature.

Closeup of green cactus with white dots. In the middle of the green is a dark red, barrel shaped  part of the plant that will blossom into a flower.

I love the little red barrel amidst all that green. As a reader explained to me, the barrel is the fruit from last summer’s bloom. .

Looking down at a desert plant, two bright and shiny round Christmas tree ornaments rest on the points of the plant,. The reflection of the photographer shows in each of the ornaments.

So Merry Christmas, friends and fans! I hope you have a lovely day blessed with peace and joy.

I took all the photos in this post. Note: I had a lot of fun adjusting the settings on some of these photos to make them POP with holiday cheer!

Today is Arbor Day

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I was scheduling posts for April when I looked at my paper calendar and saw April 27 was marked “Arbor Day.”

Arbor Day? That’s about trees, right? I thought.

This tree stands somewhere in Southern New Mexico.

I have a lot of photos of trees, I thought. I could do a post on Arbor day and share photos of trees, I thought.

These giant sequoias live in California’s Sequoia National Park.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation,

Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care.
The idea for Arbor Day in the United States originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska
when settler Julius Sterling Morton proposed a resolution to the State Board of Agriculture.
In 1872, the State Board of Agriculture accepted a resolution by J. Sterling Morton “to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.” The Board declared April 10 Arbor Day and offered prizes
to the counties and individuals that properly planted the largest number of trees on that day.

These olive trees grow in Phoenix, AZ. The palm tree, it turns out, is not really a tree at all. According to Earth Connection, “Palm trees, of which more than 2,000 species exist, are grouped botanically with grasses, sedges, bamboo, grains, lilies, onions, and orchids.”

As an April 2017 Time article called “This Is Why Arbor Day Is a Thing” explains,

Nebraska was a largely treeless prairie region when, on April 10, 1872, it became the first state to celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees.

A century after the holiday was first celebrated, the Arbor Day Foundation was created to continue encouraging people to plant and love trees, and President Nixon proclaimed National Arbor Day. Now the last Friday in April is National Arbor Day, which is when most but not all states celebrate it.

Evergreens in the snow in the mountains of California.

The USA is not the only country that celebrates trees! According to Wikipedia,

Arbor Day (or Arbour; from the Latin arbor, meaning tree) is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant trees. [1]Today, many countries observe such a holiday. Though usually observed in the spring, the date varies, depending on climate and suitable planting season.

(See the aforementioned article for a long list of countries that celebrate some version of Arbor Day, as well as a summary of what goes down at those celebrations.)

This tree in Northern New Mexico welcomes the night in the spring of 2017.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief history of Arbor Day and these photos of trees. I also hope you can get out there and celebrate Arbor Day by planting one or more trees.

The General Sherman is not only the largest living tree in the known world; it is the largest living creature of any species in the known world.

All of the photos in this post were taken by me.

Lundi Gras

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It was Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras, and the entire city was in party mode. It was the perfect time for kissing a stranger in the French Quarter and bringing a stranger home to share my bed.

I was a student at a university in New Orleans, adrift in-between boyfriends. I’d recently freed myself from my controlling high school sweetheart who’d thwarted my plan to slowly drift apart when I went off to college by following me there. I was looking for love but settling for sex in those party days of my early 20s.

I’d gotten a temporary job for the Mardi Gras season through a friend of a friend. The t-shirt shop where I worked was tucked into a quiet corner of the Quarter and was only open during daylight hours. After closing up shop, the woman I was working with and I met our mutual friend and took our party to the streets.

Our first stop was the convenience store where cans of cheap beer floated in a tall cooler filled with slushy ice. The beer was nasty, but the price was right for working-class collage students at only a dollar for not just one but two cans. I downed one of my beers quickly, while it was still icy cold. I enjoyed the way the alchohol went straight to my head.

Where all did we walk that night? I have a hazy memory of the fountain at the Riverwalk and crowds of people packed in to listen to Dr. John play. It was too much for us, or maybe we didn’t see anyone we knew, but for whatever reason, we wandered back to the Quarter.

I think I met the DJ on Jackson Square. We met in some quiet place, because I was able to hear him when he spoke. He was a DJ at a local radio station. Although his radio name was the same as a classic rock legend, the DJ worked at a country music station. At some point during our conversation, he leaned over and kissed me. It was a rather chaste kiss, but it made my head spin as much as the beer had. He liked me! He was an older man (maybe even 30!), an adult with a real job, and he liked me! Usually my friends got all the guys, but this grown-ass man liked me.

My friends quickly got bored and urged me to come on! There was to be more from this night than me getting kissed. There was bound to be more exitement around the next corner.

I said good-bye to this exciting man who I expected to change my life.

Call me at the radio station, he said to me and told me the hours he worked. I was too naive to know that a man who really liked me would scribble his home phone number on a scrap of paper and press it into my hand.

We hadn’t gone far before we ran into the two boys* from Chicago in town from Mardi Gras. My friend had met them somewhere (a bar probably) a night or two before and befriended them. They were maybe even crashing on my friend’s floor. My memory is fuzzy after all these years. They were dressed like they’d come from the video for a song by the Black Crows–all patched pants and nouveau hippie.

The one guy had dark hair. He was nice enough, but I don’t remember his name or much about him. His friend, however, was lovely. His name was Michael and he looked like a nouveau hippie angel. His blondish hair was longish and curly, but he looked more like a cherub than a Greek god. He was good-looking, but attainable.

The five of us hung out the rest of the night, walking the streets of the Quarter. At some point I’d drunk my second 50 cent beer, but I don’t think I’d had any more alcohol than that. I was tipsy but not sloppy, and I was having a great time.

The more I hung out Michael, the more I liked him, and the more I liked him, the more I wanted him in a carnal way. Emboldened by the alcohol and the earlier kiss from a stranger (which proved I was desirable), I decided I was going to ask this young man to come home (and by home, I mean dorm) with me.

I waited until we were stopped on the sidewalk so my friends could talk to someone they knew and I didn’t. Michael’s friend had wandered out of earshot, and the two of us were standing there a little awkwardly, two wallflowers at the world’s biggest party.

I turned to him and smiled. Would you think I was a terrible person if I asked you to come home with me?

He grinned at me, said, I wouldn’t think that at all, and hugged me.

Michael and I spent the rest of the evening out grinning at each other. We knew what was going to happen next, even if our friends were still clueless.

I don’t remember how we got back to my dorm, but I remember us going to my room where my roommate thankfully was not. We had friendy sex, them grabbed a few hours of sleep next to each other in my single bed. In the morning, I walked him downstairs and watched him leave through the big glass doors at the front of the building.

I never saw or heard from Michael again, but I’ll never forget the Lundi Gras when I was kissed by a stranger and slept with an angel.

* by “boys” I mean two young men old enough to consent

Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress

Kill Your Television?

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Do people still talk about killing televisions?

Back in the late 90s and early 00s, when I ran around in activist circles, every 4th of July, there would be talk of killing, smashing, destroying televisions. It was an appropriate day for getting rid of televisions because it was U.S. Independence Day, and activists were promoting independence from the TV.

I don’t hang out with many activists these days, so I dont know if getting rid of televisons (by smashing, destroying, or any other means) is still promoted on July 4th. I did a few quick Google searches; “July Fourth smash your television day,” “kill your television day” and “smash your television” didn’t bring up much. The best thing I found was a blog post by The Happy Philosopher with a lot of information about why getting rid of one’s television might be a good idea. I also found links to the Kill Your Television Theatre and references to the songs “Kill Your Television” by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and “Smash Your TV,” “Track 8 (of 54) from the forthcoming [as of December 2014] album Et Mourir de Plaisir.”

A life without television seems like a good life to me, but who am I to tell other people what to do?

I haven ‘t owned a telvision since I moved to a new state in 1998. I’ve livined in houses with other people who’ve owned them, I’ve been in cheap motels with them, and I’ve house sat in homes with them. I’d be lying if I said I never watch TV, but I don’t do it every day or even every week.

The commercials are the worst. Often I’m confused, and many seconds go by before I figure out what the advertiser is trying to sell me. Sure, I know I’m supposed to think I’m being sold happiness or sex (or sex leading to happiness), but I often wonder, What’s the real product? I know it’s strategic when the product isn’t shown until the last moment.

Most network programs are terrible. I’ve sat through bad acting and stupid plots (I’m looking at you, NCIS: New Orleans) while visiting friends and relatives. I’ve honestly seen better acting at a small-town fundamentalist Christian church Easter program than I’ve seee on primtime TV.

But yes, I will admit, there are times when I like to have a television on. It’s good company when I’m cooking, mending, crafting, or cleaning. When my brain is simply too tired to read, a decent television program is a nice distraction.

I mostly watch television when I’m house sitting. My favorite shoes are Chopped, Cupcake Wars, and Beat Bobby Flay. (I once spent a three-week house sitting gig flipping between Food Network and Cooking Channel.) I like the Travel Channel food shows too: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Man v. Food, and Man Finds Food. For a time I was really into History Channel’s Pawn Stars and got really excited whenever I stumbled upon an all-day marathons of the program. However, after visiting Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, NV and seeing the $2 price tag on a postcard, the thrill was gone. 

In any case, who am I to say people should kill their televisons? I think people should make their own informed decisions.

I do know people who watch the tube for several hours a day would have more time for other activities if they smashed the television or just clicked the off button. If you can’t imagine what you’d do if you watched less TV, here’s a list of 50 activities you’ll have time for if you’re not distracted by your television.

Read a book

Read aloud to kids or adults

Teach someone to read

Garden–food or flowers, it don’t matter

Ride a bike

Feed hungry people

Run through the sprinkler on a hot summer day

Visit new places

Write a sonnet

Write a letter

Write the great American novel

Play ball

Make music

Wash the windows

Wash the car

Wash the dishes

Meet your neighbors

Soak in a hot bath with candles around the tub

Walk the dog

Walk without the dog

Learn a new language

Call a friend

Meditate

Mediate

Watch the sun set

Dance in the moonlight

Talk to an elder

Talk to a child

Raft down a river

Build a treehouse

Build a bookshelf

Build community

Make love–to yourself or your partner(s)

Play board games

Create art

Take deep breaths

Think deep thoughts

Throw a costume party

Swim

Wage peace

Bake bread (or muffins or cookies or cake)

Paint a portrait

Paint the walls

Cuddle

Make jewelry

Look at the stars

Run a marathon

Fix what’s broken

Mend what’s torn

Dream

I took this photos of the (popular?) sticker.

What would you add to your life if you subtracted your televison? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

 

Flag Day

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Today is Flag Day.

According to a webpage about the history of Flag Day,

…the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as ‘Flag Birthday’.

…Flag Day…was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson’s proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

I wouldn’t call myself patriotic, but I did have a nice photo of the flag to share. I thought today would be an appropriate day to do so.

I took the photo in this post a few years ago on my friend’s land in Northern New Mexico. Those are the Sangre de Cristo Mountainsin the background.