Sunday, March 31, 2019

Road Trippin': Holi, Holi!

As an avid Bollywood fan, I have longed to visit India for its music, culture and, well...the Holi Festival. It has been on my bucket list for a long time. A "quick definition" of Holi can be found on Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi

Like many cultures around the world that celebrate Spring, Holi is the Hindu Spring "Festival of Colors", and this last weekend was epic for me, personally. Many of the Bollywood films I've watched have Holi festival dance scenes, and it just looks so fun and happy and celebratory! I've always longed to be mixed into the crowds...dancing, hugging, throwing colors in the air and at each other...

So when the opportunity arose to attend the Holi Festival in Spanish Fork, Utah, I jumped at the earliest chance and bought tickets. Despite a looming Wyoming weather forecast, I forged through the wind, ice and blowing snow through South Pass and just out of Little America to Fort Bridger...determined (or at least be known as "died trying"). My logic (and I did have a little bit) was that...it would be the next best thing to the real deal without actually having to book a flight to India.

And it was! Granted, it was in Spanish Fork, Utah, but the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple was a most amazing backdrop, with the beautiful Wasatch Mountain range in the distance. Thousands (I mean, literally, thousands) gathered for one of the most amazing events I've experienced.

(There are videos on my personal Facebook page, too. https://www.facebook.com/carolrharper)



View from the Temple.
I pretty much inhaled the whole experience. I got a henna tattoo on my left hand/arm...had hot, fresh samosas for lunch...stopped and shopped at all of the vendors' tents. I met so many people...hugged so many people...the music was amazing...threw colors on so many people who smiled and laughed and knew that we were all there for the same reason:

To celebrate Spring! To live life, to love...to shed the Winter and look forward to new beginnings!

Many of my friends and family wonder where I am in my spiritual life right now. Today, Sunday, March 31, 2019 is as good a time as any to say that I am "spiritual" (however you want to define that, I don't know how anyone really does), but...I do not belong to any spiritual, religious persuasion or belief. I have studied, read, experienced and have witnessed the terrible history and misguidings of so many world religions, tribes and people...with the idol of money as the primary "god"...that I have simply shed the complexity of it all and have finally learned that life is not meant to be as complex and horrible as those in power have and continue to make it.

That we are all human. That we laugh and cry...we hurt, we're angry, we're stressed, but...we are also good, kind and forgiving! We come together in times of trouble. We give, we work, we play. We have it in us to be more intelligent than those who are telling us to not laugh, not cry, not hurt, not be angry, not be stressed.

But to what end? What's it all about if we cannot be?

Just Be?

You could travel the world
But you can't run away from the person you are in your heart.
You could be who you want to be, make us believe in you,
Keep all your light in the dark.
If you're searching for truth, you must look in the mirror,
Make sense of what you can see
Just be…just be.

They say learning to love yourself is the first step
That you take, when you want to be real
Flying on planes to exotic locations
Won’t teach you how you really feel
Face up to the fact that you are who you are
And nothing can change that belief
Just be…just be.

‘Cause now I know, it's not so far to where I go,
That I respond, it's inside me
I need to just be…
Just Be.



Monday, March 18, 2019

AMR Fremont County offers "Stop the Bleed" classes on April 5 & 6

AMR “STOP THE BLEED” CLASSES OFFERED – American Medical Response-Fremont County is proud to host “Stop The Bleed” classes on Friday, April 5 at 5pm at the Riverton ambulance station at 1052 Petersdorf Drive, Riverton and on Saturday, April 6 at 11am at the Lander ambulance station at 310 N. 1st Street, Lander.
Both classes will be approximately two (2) hours long and will include subjects such as controlling bleed using tourniquets and how to respond to mass casualty incidents.
EMT-I WFAI Seth Agee and AMR Clinical Education Specialist Daniel Brookeshear will be the instructors.
We look forward to the opportunity to provide this free training to our Riverton and Lander communities. For more information, call 307-463-0653 or e-mail seth.agee@amr.net


Saturday, March 9, 2019

History Lessons: Beholding Beauty

Yesterday (March 8) was National Women's Day. I raised my coffee mug, thought about and celebrated all the women who have influenced, inspired and encouraged me throughout my life. I even celebrated the women who haven't been so nice to me (there have been a few). I've learned a valuable lesson: Life is way too short to waste precious time with mean, ugly people.

Ugly word, that word "ugly"! They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me, society has always had unreasonable expectations and unhealthy definitions of what is beautiful and what is not. Thanks to Hollywood and the media, we tend to judge ourselves based upon how "beauty" is defined for us, how it is marketed to us...as if we're all a collective of lemmings...when the truth is, there is beauty in everyone and everything. To me, being beautiful is a choice. I will never understand why some women pride themselves on being a "bitch". Years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read: "Warning: Bitch on Board". Now, that's attractive. Yeah, I sure wanna get to know/be around someone like you!  (Not. Thanks for the warning.)

In the 90's, I took on some part-time modeling jobs with an agency in San Francisco. I lived in the San Jose Bay Area at the time, and my kids were in grade school, so I'd have to get up pretty early - do the 280 commute - in order to make it to hair and makeup by 6 a.m. Sometimes the job was on location, sometimes the jobs were as far south as Gilroy...but I made it clear to my agency that I had to be home before my kids got home from school. Yes, I learned a lot about the industry with each job I took, but...my very last modeling job made me realize that it really isn't a career path for a young mother whose priority is her kids.

During that time, I learned a lot about makeup and skin care from a dear friend and beautiful person, John Trau. Today he is the Director of Sales and Education at Immunocologie, but back in the day, I had the distinct advantage and pleasure of having him live with us for a spell, and during that time he taught me much of what I know today about skin care and, well...beauty.

The biggest lesson? Be a beautiful person! No matter what is going on in your life, be beautiful, to yourself and to others. It absolutely slays me when people call themselves "ugly". "There's nothing I can do about this mole/wart/acne...I hate my big nose...my hair is so dry and brittle...why did God do this to me?..." We can rentlessly pick ourselves apart until there's nothing left of our self-esteem, but I'll tell you this much...there was a time in my life where I may have looked beautiful on the outside, but was slipping into depression, negativity and "bitch" mode because I let those kind of people into my life. I blamed myself because I chose to let the toxins in. But once I shed myself of them, I swore I would never let them in again...and I've been all the happier for it.

I've had many friends ask me for my beauty tips...how I do my makeup, what I use for skin care. I've already summed it up with my motto in life: Be good, be nice, be strong. But yes, I do have a daily regimen that includes everything I learned from John, and also from several beautiful women in my life. Women like Brandy LaRae of the Amador Wellness Cottage in Plymouth California...Briget Kisling Bunker of Studio 402 here in Riverton, Wyoming...Quilter extraordinaire Kathy Allen of Quilts by Kat, Sutter Creek, California...LaTonya of The Lotus Dawn in Ogden, Utah...Cheryl Payton of Dragonfly Beads, Casper, Wyoming...I've been following [way too many of] my girlfriends on Facebook and their trials and journeys with cancer and various other illnesses. All beautiful, strong women that I am abundantly blessed to call my friends!
I love you all.

So...in celebration (and an extension) of National Women's Day, and for all of my women friends who have asked...below are a few of my beauty tips. I'd like to thank Andy Robinson Wirth, Dominic Vicari, Ellie Caputo, Rich Hoffman and Charleton Churchill...and all of the photographers I've met through the years, for their amazing talents.

- Drink lots of water. Hydrate! Water is life...it cleanses every part of your body, flushes out toxins. Always carry a water bottle with you.
- Think natural. Your skin is the largest living, "breathing" organ of your body. The first thing you put on your skin is what is absorbed (within minutes), so make sure it isn't loaded with chemicals. I use organic coconut oil, collagen and hyaluronic acid serums, tea tree oil. Avoid products with perfumes and dyes. I like to sample products before buying them, but...I'd much rather use coconut oil, or crack an egg and put it on my face, than waste my money on, well...utter crap.
- Sweat. Exercise for at least 10-15 minutes per day. I have a bad hip, so I have to be careful about what activities I do, but get those pores and sweat glands goin', then take a nice hot shower (feels so great)! Your skin is a miracle - how it involuntarily reacts, absorbs, sheds. It's always working!
- Exfoliate. Slough off those dead skin cells. I use those egg-shaped exfoliating sponges. I found a pretty good microdermabrasion scrub for under the eyes. Be very gentle when you exfoliate, as your skin is very delicate. Doesn't take much to scratch and tear the outer dermal layer.
- Diet. Eat healthy. You are what you eat. So if you eat a bag of Cheetos...LOL, just kidding. I eat a lot of meat and veggies. I try to balance the carbs and sweets (not much of a sweet tooth these days, though). And sure, I have a few pounds on me that I'd like to shed...but you know what? I'm happy. I'm in a great place in my life right now, and I'm not going to let folks judge me because I'm not a Barbie doll.
   Avoid alcohol. I know that if I overdo it on the beer or wine, I not only feel like crap, I look like crap and my entire body hates me. So try to minimize/balance your alcohol intake.
Now, coffee? Sorry, not happening. 😉 Hehehehe...
- Makeup. Makeup is an art...your face is a canvas, your hair is a frame. For those of you who have that natural beauty and can get away with a little mascara and lip gloss, I salute you! But I happen to really like makeup, and have learned a lot, not just from John and makeup artists in the industry, but by observing and studying women whose faces I just can't take my eyes off of...and then there are those who get you wondering if the circus is in town.
   Avoid the extremes. Fashions and fads come and go, but I personally ignore them and gravitate towards a more classic, "timeless" look, conducive to my own identity and personality. I might try a different eye shadow or lipstick once in a while, but I always have my daily "tried and true". Like an artist, I do have a lot of different brushes to achieve certain effects. Experiment. You know what you like, but also get honest feedback from your friends who will give you constructive criticism. What looks good on someone else may not necessarily look good on you.

A clean canvas. Yes, that's me with no makeup!

Photo by Andy Robinson Wirth
Photo by Ellie Caputo

Photo by Rich Hoffman

Photo by Dominic Vicari

Photo by Charleton Churchill
My high school Senior photo. LOL!




Sunday, March 3, 2019

Shopping Local: Blrerblblbblblbblelblblblbl!

When I lived in Sacramento, I had a great temp agency that placed me in various temporary/part time jobs. My very favorite company I worked for was Ultra Glass...a very solid, customer service-focused window and glass company that was all about, well...happiness. Laughter! The best service ever for their customers and clients. It was a complete and total fit for someone like me. Yes, we all worked, and worked hard. But we also knew how to play and play hard. Ultra Glass had the formula down pat: Keep your customers and clients happy, yes...but also keep your employees happy, because they're the ones who interact with those customers and clients, and will recommend and refer more.

How did they do that?

I'm reminded of a 1970 Christmas classic, "Scrooge"...a musical based upon Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Ultra Glass definitely had the spirit of "Mr. Fezziwig"

The scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgPlz67L-LI


Ultra Glass would buy VIP passes for all their employees to Sacramento Kings games (driven to the stadium, in a limo!)...would celebrate every holiday with a barbecue or potluck...would make every employee feel like a VIP, every day! If you did your job and did it well, you were rewarded. But even if you didn't, you were still made to feel important and encouraged to rise up to the standard. Everyone was given a chance to succeed...rarely did anyone fail because of that.

To me, Ultra Glass is the ultimate example of strong, small business power in America.

Okay, so I have to explain my subject line: Blrerblblbblblbblelblblblbl!

While at Ultra Glass, we'd all be working away...and every once in a while, we'd gaze outside and see a flock of turkeys moseying on by. Sometimes they'd come up and peck at the windows...other times they'd be doing...(um, er)...other things. But we'd all, at the very least, get a laugh out of it.

Sometimes (because we were in an industrial cul-de-sac)...we'd have stupid idiots spinning donuts around and around...the sound and smell of peeling tire treads made us stare and shake our heads.

But in that same cul-de-sac, Ultra Glass also had the local fire department out for fire safety and extinguisher training.

Sometimes they had to deal with mail being delivered to the wrong address...and they'd always communicate, positively and professsionally...with our local delivery services. The USPS, UPS, FedEx...

Sometimes Ultra Glass had to deal with employees not showing up for work...and they'd call my awesome temp agency, asking for more qualified candidates.

Once, my purse was stolen in the parking lot of a chain grocery store down the street (very well known as a crime area in North Highlands). Ultra Glass gave me the day to file a police report, cancel my cards, spend literally hours at the DMV for a new DL. Not only that...they'd call me to ask if I was okay, if I needed anything...

I live in a rural town, right smack in the middle of Wyoming. I am happy to say that I work for a great company, American Medical Response (formerly Guardian EMS), that (so far) understands what it means to serve a local, rural community. Emergency, critical care services should never be taken lightly or taken advantage of, but...sometimes I wonder if folks really understand just what our EMTs and Paramedics go through on a daily basis.

I do. I get the same great feeling here at AMR as I did with Ultra Glass. We're all connected, we're all important, and we need to be able to feel free to laugh, cry, vent, etc. Basically, be human.

Because when it comes down to it, ALL of our lives should always matter in a small town, in a big city, in a "red OR blue" State of the Union. There will always be "issues"...but most especially, there will always be times when we need to shed the political elements and concentrate on the "big family" factor. That we are all "in this" together...

Because, turkey babble aside...how we succeed as a community depends on how we treat each other. How important we make each other feel. How compassionate and understanding we are.

How we recognize those who make a difference in the human experience.

VIP seats at a Sacramento Kings basketball game...courtesy Ultra Glass of Sacramento.






Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Necole Monere: Glitter is Good


I come to you today to admit I have a problem:

I love glitter.

I love sparklies, rhinestones, and shinies so much, I have caused entire raid wipes because something sparkled in the distance, and my obsessive, ferret-brain overtook my senses and forced me into action. I have an actual rhinestone dealer saved in my bookmarks...and I am convinced all enemies can be defeated with a glitter gun.

The movie, Predator. Imagine, if you will, an alternate timeline...where Arnie carried glitter guns instead of regular guns. What do we always see in movie-ism, where the bad guy or threat is invisible? Nobody can do anything until they can spill some ink or water (or something liquid-ous) on said Baddy McBadderson.

Now, think again: Predator is invisible…and that dude is, well...kinda sticky.

Introducing: THE GLITTER GUN! Arnie would have made short work of Mr. Dental Nightmare with just one dose. That shizzle would have stuck EVERYwhere! So, first now Predator has a SUPER obvious (and prominently pretty) target on his back.

Secondly...glitter is kinda gritty. IMAGINE what that thigh-rash duder is gonna have after a mile with that stuck in his crotch. AND...if Predator gives up the silly goose and goes home...Mrs. "Dental Nightmare" is totally gonna know he was at the strip club. Done-zo, buddy.

Predator = 0, Glitter = 1

Depression. Now, I know you might be thinking: "Well, that escalated quickly," but hear me out. How can you be upset if you sparkle? Having a bad day? Pop some shimmer lotion on! Need a quick pick me up? Try a laser pointer and a fur, pant-wearing quadruped. The results may not be as long-lasting, but it will definitely provide a distraction and a quick dose of snicker-giggles.

Depression = 0, Shinies = 2

Did everyone see the viral video of the engineer who put glitter bombs into packages to thwart package thieves? Despite perhaps being staged, those peeps still got a massive dose of craft herpes, followed by an intense battle with a vacuum. And speaking from experience, the vacuum did not win. They're still finding bits when out and about!

Staged thieves = 0, Glitter 5 

So, at this point our count looks like:

Enemies = 0
Glitter/Shinies/Sparklies = 7

But be warned...you can turn the tide of battle against yourself!

Raid = 0
Home Team = 0

Team-Killing Glitter Distraction = 20, full wipe.

Healers in tears. Tank takes ball and goes home.
______________________________________

Necole Monere is the published author of a plastic-bag-addicted tabby and glitter aficionado, Captain of the Silly Song Club, and humor columnist. Often found annoying cats by twerking. If you wish to read more of her work, check out:

...a tale of tabby woe, as a hefty kitty deals with his crinkly addictions.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Pour It Slow: Time to "Hunker Down"

Folks in Wyoming are used to a "storm slammin'" or two (or several!) during the Winter months. I can rightfully say I've adapted to the weather changes again, even after a 30-year absence, and I did miss the seasonal changes...a real, defining "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter"...and even though some here would say I'm crazy for not zipping up my coat, or wear gloves or mittens, I just laugh and say, "Isn't this great?" Of course, they also don't know that they keep the station at what feels like 100 degrees, so...yeah, there's that!

But Californians aren't used to the weather they're getting right now. High winds, flooding, a good snow dumpin'...as I look at Facebook posts by my friends, by CalTrans, CHP and other news channels, it reminds me of my time in Pioneer, where if we didn't have a good few cords of wood for our stove split well ahead of time, Winter would've been mighty cold! I remember sitting in the living room, watching the flames rage in the stove as the snow would fall and the temps drop outside.  Fortunately, we had a full house generator, but when gas prices were near $5/gallon, it was sure a hit on the ol' pocketbook. Still, I cherish the memories of my home in the El Dorado forest, and hope that all my friends are safe and sound and warm.

So what do you do if (and when) the power goes out, or the roads are too bad to travel? Since being back home, the power has only gone out once, and that was for just a little over an hour. My phone is always on the charger, but I do have a landline as well. I have plenty of candles. So what I usually do is: Clean. Wash the dishes. Find a nice warm blanket and read a book. Or...I make a French press coffee, go over to my folks' place (who have a generator), pop popcorn and practice my shots on the pool table!

I have boxes filled with sheet music that were gifted to me by friends and family over the years. I sometimes sit in the middle of my disheveled music room (that I've been avoiding for months)...and read through the music. It's like stepping into a time machine...


I take out my recorders and practice, trying to get the right fingering for a good pitch and tone. It's not easy, especially since I have perfect pitch (a blessing and a curse)...but one can only try to master "Scarborough Fair" and "Danny Boy" until the lights come on. Hey, I didn't say I was any good, I'm just saying that I'm "practicing". LOL


Perhaps the thing I love the most about "hunkerin' down" when the wind blows and the snow falls is, well...sleeping. I surely don't get enough of it. I know most of you know me as a real upbeat, positive, energetic, super caffeinated person, but...I'm also only human. At some point, my brain needs to shut off and I need to just "chill". Not a problem here in Wyoming, but figuratively-speaking, I often just need time. Time to relax, regroup and refocus.

Music and writing. Two things that really don't need electricity to do. So if you find yourself "hunkerin' down"...break out that instrument. Put that pen to paper. Put that brush to canvas. Light that candle and start at that bookmark.

Because life doesn't end if the Internet is down...maybe it will begin!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Road Trippin': Miles and miles...of heart.

On my way to Casper this weekend (which has turned out to be a frequent trek)…I stopped at an old historical landmark, “Hell’s Half Acre” (pictured below). Despite the single-digit temps (add the wind factor, and it’s in the negative integers), I got out of my comfy “Prius Pod” and took a couple of shots (photos, not espresso). Hell’s Half Acre has been but a glance for destination-bound road trippers buzzing through the flat prairies. I remember, when I was a kid, my folks would stop there to stretch before taking to the road again. There used to be an average-sized billboard sign that pointed to the attraction, but that has long since been torn down and replaced by a small green road sign, and you might miss it if you weren’t paying attention…or didn’t actually know it was there.

For those who don't know...it was the locale for shooting the bug planet scenes for the movie, Starship Troopers.


Despite the sub-zero temperatures, I do still try to get away on the weekends. I always check the road conditions on WYDOT first and plan accordingly. If there’s a good day or two of sun after a storm, I can pretty much maneuver the wind and the roads pretty well. Saw that California was (is) getting quite a dumping…brought back memories of mountain living in Pioneer at 4000 feet.

I sit here at City Brew Coffee in Casper - enjoying two delicious coffee drinks: A Coconut Caramel Macchiato and a Honey Macchiato - scrolling through all of your Facebook posts. I love when you do that, by the way. It’s so nice to see what’s going on in your lives…the ups and downs, laughter and tears, joys and pains. New life with the births; happiness with the relationships and marriages...grief, yet shared memories and celebrations of life for those dear to you who have passed. Thank you for enriching my life by sharing yours!

If you haven’t noticed lately, I’ve taken a long break from political “discussions” and debates. But one post this week in particular caught my eye and triggered a response:

Should we build a wall? Yes or No.

As I much rather prefer questions like: “Bacon on your burger?” or “Espresso at three in the afternoon?”, I indulged the post with my answer:

“Yes…and then we need to tear down that damn Statue of Liberty.”

After all, what it stands for would no longer apply.

Prisons have walls. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues all have walls. Interstates have sound barriers. There are gated communities, “good” neighbor fences (at least we hope they're good), etc. etc. There are even “invisible fences” to keep animals and pets on our properties. All fences and walls serve some purpose, but while no one thing can keep everything out…what’s more to consider is what is kept inside.

America has a myriad of problems. Domestic violence, child endangerment and neglect, animal cruelty, sex slavery, robbing, thieving, bullying, abuse and battery, suicide, mass murder. Prison overcrowding. Drunk driving. Bigotry. Hate crimes. White collar crimes. Those are just some of the problems I could think of off the top of my head while sipping my coffee within the cozy walls of City Brew Coffee. Walls don’t make problems go away, and Trump’s wall isn’t going to make America’s problems go away. In my opinion, this whole "build a wall" business is a distraction that points a “scapegoat finger”, always posed and ready to shift the blame on a bordering country and/or people. A wall that would keep heads in the sand, noses to the grindstone, and control on the masses…when such monies could be better spent on finding the solutions to the problems that have historically plagued us. Money put towards resources that would improve our communities’ overall health and wellness. Money better spent on our own roads and interstate highways, historic parks and landmarks, our environment and water sources. Money invested in building each other up, solving the crises of homelessness and joblessness.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it sure fell, and fell hard. Hitler’s rise to power didn’t happen overnight, but the impact of his fall surely shook the very foundation of any World War II veteran who may have had to witness the horrific aftermath inside the walls of Holocaust concentration camps. There are students today who don’t even know (and weren’t taught) about the Trail of Tears and the genocide of Native Americans as “progress” pushed out to the "Wild West".

Hey, I get progress. I just don’t get why it has to happen one funeral at a time. I guess we will never learn our history lessons if we continue placing Sponge-Bob Squarepants band-aids on the present’s gaping wounds.

Because America also has an Achilles heel:

Greed.

What makes America great? Our Constitution. That we as Americans do have rules to abide by and rely upon...rules that should help us in our hopes and dreams to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They should help us. But we are constantly distracted by red herrings, allow bills to pass into law without our knowledge or consent, are taxed without representation. We are gridlocked by extreme partisanship, glued to the political bickerings on the TV news channels and talk radio stations. We are controlled by corporate interests…and all the while the homeless populations grow, crime and violence increases, and prison walls start to bust at the seams.

My mom used to say: “Every generation needs to do it better than the one before it.” Make it better by doing it better. America is great because, along with that Constitution that has survived 229 years and 44 (now 45) Presidents…We the People also have something that is very effective when it is collectively used for the good of the nation:

Heart.

Each year after the Super Bowl, I have a tradition of watching the movie, “The Replacements”, and there’s a scene where a news reporter asks Coach McGinty (played by Gene Hackman):
Reporter: What will Washington need to get back into this game?
Coach McGinty: Heart. Miles and miles of heart.

I took the photo below on my way back from Casper a few months ago. It's the "Tumble Inn", Powder River. I’m always intrigued by old neon or vintage signs, or fading murals. I get nostalgic, thinking of the eras gone by...how folks just probably drive on by, not thinking or caring about that old motel, an old café or that old drug store that used be a hopping place at one time.


What will it take America to get “back into the game” when it comes to the dealing with its own weakness of greed? How can we “do it better” than the generations before us? How can We The People save the very Constitution that seems to be always used against us, when it was supposed to be written for us? I can tell you right now, it won’t be done with endless gridlock and bickering, nor walls of cement and steel.

It will be done with heart. Miles and miles of heart.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– The New Colossus, inscribed on the plaque of the Statue of Liberty

Carol Harper