Sunday, November 18, 2018

Red Flags

Been trying to figure out how to write this post today...bear with's a long one.
(Oh, and just I've been sucking down the last dregs of my Skyway Roasters beans.
- On Friday evening, November 16...I was at a birthday celebration in Midvale (Happy Birthday again, Nicki!) As most of you here in Wyoming know, that was the evening the recent snow began to fall. I think I headed out from the party back home at around 9-9:30. Had only one beer that night, over the course of about 2-2.5 hours, and lots of water, so I was good to go. Not drunk or buzzed. Just tired after a long day...)
🚩(Red Flag #1: Fatigue DOES affect your acuity.)
- So...a significant amount of snow had accumulated on my little Prius. It was dark, and for some reason, I couldn't find my scraper/brush anywhere (I do have one, it just wasn't in the car...a lot of good that did me at the time) I brushed the snow off with my bare hands and a plastic bag I found in the car.
🚩(Red flag #2. Make sure your vehicle is fully equipped for Winter weather.)
- Because it was dark (WY nights)...and snow covered the country roads...I crept out of the parking lot and temporarily put on my brights so I could adequately find the 8 Mile Rd/134 intersection. No problem for me (fully admitting that even I...born and raised in these parts...was a bit disoriented) but...I could see it could be a problem for someone who didn't know these back roads.
🚩(Red flag #3. Know exactly where you are in relation to main/cross roads...especially at night. And tell a friend or family member where you are, in case of an emergency. You might not have cell service, and if you're in an accident, emergency personnel and First Responders need pertinent info.)
- I went down 8 Mile Rd (speed limit=55) at about a 35-40 mph. Dealing with kaleidoscope vision (due to the falling snow/wind)...I kept on a steady crawl within ONE set of tire tracks made by the auto ahead of me. Yes, there were deer...fortunately, none of them pranced out in front of me, but they were on the edge of the road, totally deciding whether to...
🚩(Red flag #4: Unpredictable conditions. Do you really want to hit a deer at 55 mph on a dark, snowy, low-vis night? Um, no.)
- Once I got to the highway, I looked both ways, over and over, and didn't venture out until I saw that it was completely clear, NO headlights whatsoever, either direction. Crawled out...
🚩(Red flag #5: You think Main highways are gonna be cleared off frequently. Um...nope.)
- Was doing awesomely fine, then made it about 3 miles away from my home on the edge of town, when some !@#$% coming down the highway from the other direction...decides that they're invincible in their awesome, big ass truck...and whizzes by at high speed.
🚩(Red flag #6: There are !@#$% assholes in big trucks who don't understand the !@#$% laws of physics...much less give a flying !@#$ about other vehicles on the road, except for theirs.
- The after-effect of the truck, combined with the weather/wind...literally "whooshed" my entire little car UP OFF of the pavement, and set it completely out of control. I went zig-zagging across both lanes of the highway. Doesn't matter that I had all-season tires...I did my very best, turning into the slides. At no time did I brake, but...I could "feel" the fish-tailing from the back end. It took everything in me to not "over-correct" and stay calm. I was just lucky that there was no oncoming traffic when it happened...or ironically, the Riverton EMS crews would've had to scrape me up off the highway!
So there, yes. I said it. And I get that everyone thinks it's a !@#$% joke that I drive a Prius, and that they might feel they have to compensate for their own insecurities through their big ass vehicles, but...let me lay it out on the line for all of you:
1. Just because you have/drive a 4WD truck/vehicle, doesn't mean you're invincible. You are most likely more the problem than the solution in hazardous road conditions.
2. I've only been with the EMS crews for a shy of a year, and I know very well that any conditions on the road...dry, wet, snowy, slick, DUI, not discriminate. Whether it's drunk driving, careless driving, reckless driving...pompous ass put everyone at risk with your stupidity. And you know what? You never know. The person/people you hit and injure/kill might be someone you know, a friend or a family member(s).
3. I drive a Prius, okay? I get the jokes, and I'm good with them all. I'll laugh with the !@#$ best of y'all. But c'mon. Don't !@#$% dent my car with your door. Don't spit on my windshield/windows. I'm not going to disrespect the vehicle you drive, as long as you don't disrespect the vehicle that I drive. Isn't it ludicrous (and I realize that's a big word for some of you) that it's come to this in the world? Yet, it is what it is.
I told this story because it's something I just experienced, and thought I'd share. If you've read this far...OMG, you read!!!!
Given that, here are a few helpful web sites:

(Hey, Millennials...Google the rest, I'm not going to spoon feed you...)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Seeing the had to be there...

Last weekend was just getting way too warm, so I headed North. Good choice, as the night dips down to "just right" chilly. Still jacket-weather up at Brooks Lake, and the morning sky, a bit hazy, but as just as beautiful as I remember. The landscape is not the same since the Lava Mountain Fire back in 2016, but the gorgeous green still fights its way through:

I love road trips. Probably the wrong weekend to trek up to Jackson Hole (July 4th), but the drive did not disappoint. Got some great shots of the Grand Tetons. I will never get over the magnitude of these mountains. No photo can do them justice. I know, it's been tried...and I'll still say that you need to see them for yourself. Call yourself a professional photographer, but...when you stand before these incredible edifices, it's too spiritual for words:

Yeah. There's that. My Sunday drives have been epic. As a Music Director for any given church or denomination with four walls and a sound system...nothing can compare to God's grandeur in nature. When I turned the corner on the highway and realized what I was looking at...I stopped the car, broke down and cried. We are so very little. We are so insignificant. At that moment, I knew where my "church" was...where my "religion" was.

Had enough caffeine to get me "there"...and that was Jackson Hole, WY. Like I said...the most wrong place to be on a holiday weekend, different as the culture was, I sat on the side, sipping my iced latte and watched the crowds stand in line. I don't know if I was more grateful that they were at Jackson Hole Roasters instead of Starbucks, or that I was just smelling beans from a block away.

Iced latte for me that day. Could feel the morning heat growing to the point of "tolerable", but I did spy the coffee grinders in the window above. Totally coolio...and a perfect start to a perfect day trip...tourists and all. I know, I know...most of them were probably wondering why a gal in a corner booth had it all to herself.

Hey. It's coffee. Deal.

As I escape on the weekends from the country and global drama...I can't help but feel how blessed I am here in the great state of Wyoming. Living in one of the least populated states in the Union has its perks, in that...I can roam free. One of the very few states where I can. And I have to think why that is...

Recently, the Mokelumne River...on the border of Amador County and Calaveras Counties in California...was [finally] designated as a "wild and scenic" river. It amazes me that so many had to fight for that, for so many years. One of my friends in CA, Katherine Evatt, had been fighting for the Moke for so long, and to celebrate such is a huge milestone. But...why? Why the fight?

When I see the Popo Agie River crash into a mountain...when I see the Wind River flowing wild and free in the Wind River makes me wonder why California's politicians and lawyers just can't "get it". No one should have to should have to fight for Earth's streams and rivers to flow free! I'll tell you this much, for any  "government" in a global community to have to designate a river as "wild and scenic" (especially to Native Americans) is completely and utterly laughable.

It's wild and scenic..."because we said so". Really? No. It was wild and scenic before you said so.

I have to admit, I've been living in way too many cities in the past decade. Too many political jurisdictions. I know I can't escape it; politics are everywhere. But when I look out at the Riverview Valley from my back deck, I know what is true. That the places I drive to, and the places I call home have a voice of their own.

A few mornings ago, while enjoying my coffee on the back patio...I saw an eagle with a huge snake in its mouth fly above me. An amazing sight. How many ever get to witness such a thing? The strength of the eagle to keep that snake in its beak, the snake curling up and around, trying to break free. I don't know if the Great Spirit meant for me to see that, at that point in time, but I did see it, and was it a sign? I don't know...

Freedom. It means so much to so many people. To assume to define it is folly.

As I get back to work...getting on that gerbil wheel again (I'm no fool; I very well know I'm a prisoner to taxation without representation) hope is that we can take the blinders off and see what is "wild and scenic". What freedom really means...not just here in the U.S., but in a global community who aches for understanding and so much help. The signs have always been there, and I totally admit, I myself have been blinded. But what do I see? The strong tree in a fire-devastated forest. The reverenced, magnanimous mountain. The vast, sage-brushed prairie. The rivers that have always been running free...

I am ecstatic that the Thailand soccer team is freed. That made global news. But I also think about those in our own communities who are not free...from violence, abuse, criminal injustices, bigotry, etc. Do we really need "signs" before us, before we wake up and help those in need? Because these problems are in America, folks. It's the reason why America is not "great again". We cannot live in a hypocrisy...say that we're great when, indeed, we are not.

To me, it is time that America sets the example of true freedom, as our Founding Fathers would have wanted. Something so "wild and scenic" that it would shock even those who would put up walls to understand the great as the Grand Tetons brought tears to my eyes.

Ah, well. I guess you had to be there...

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Looking Up

Last Sunday, my coffee mug drew me to one of the most beautiful places in the world: The Wind River Canyon, just a road trip away from Riverton, outside of Shoshoni towards Thermopolis. With java close by, and yes...maybe a bit of old school country mixed with 80's big hair bands on the radio..I set out on a day's journey that brought tears to my eyes.

Shoshoni, Wyoming holds many dear memories for me, mainly Yellowstone Drug Store. I can't tell you how many times this was a pivotal stop for me in my personal history from childhood until now. A little store that had "every little thing"...knick-knacks, souvenirs...the ol' classic 50's-style tables, chairs and stools. But most of all, those malts. Real malt! The kind that had those little bits that crunch in your mouth as you sucked 'em up through that big straw. A favorite stop if you were on your way to or back from Boysen...or Thermopolis...or just wandering through. Alas...

As I took to the road...I couldn't help but stop and take a few photos to resurrect some memories:

Shoshoni has become a ghost town. All that is left is a couple gas/convenience store stations. A stop for photographers who want to know the history...which I did impart to one photographer with quite a big lens. She had no idea about Shoshoni's history, so I told her my own brief story.

Forward and onward (through a few tears), the drive took me through Wind River Canyon. Most of you have seen my cover page on Facebook, but I'm tellin' you right now, no photos do this beautiful canyon justice:

Whenever I venture out on a day/road trip, I always look up, down and around. Not only are the beautiful skies an obvious clear blue...the perspective of that little car you see, and magnanimous rocks of that canyon is enough to make anyone bow heads in prayer on a Sunday afternoon. Which it did for me. All I had to do was to look up. The sky...the tops of the canyon...the sun...

On to Thermopolis. Gone is the A&W that my family used to frequent. So I drove around that "curve" into town and landed at the Thermopolis Cafe for coffee/brunch. It was quite packed, but I was able to get a seat. The coffee is absolutely thin and horrible, but the ambiance is great. The artwork is by Alison Schaetzle (Facebook: Love the colors, and it's apparent that the locals love the venue as well. All ya had to do was look up:

In, around and through. People, places and things. The nouns of our lives. And verbs!

I haven't been completely devoid of what is happening in the world these days. I might live in one of the most sparsely-populated states in the Union, but...I'm no fool. Yes, I read the headlines (oh wait..yes, I do actually read!)

One of the biggest things in the news is the "illegal immigration" issue. As I've commented on so many posts, I find this all incredibly ironic. Here's why.

I was a Native American infant raised in a white, Mormon household. I was fortunate enough to have adoptive parents who respected my heritage enough to take me out (albeit up to a certain age) to the Wind River Reservation and meet my Native family. I know that not many Native children get this privilege, but I was blessed to have parents who believed that it was best for me to have and hold that privilege. However, I was also raised as one loyal to the United States of America, and was immersed in studies of the U.S. Constitution. As a result, I have to say...

Today, I am torn.

To see what is going on - with children and families at the border of this great nation - absolutely sickens me. This is not the great country I was raised to believe welcomes all with the "Statue of Liberty" promise. And I'm well aware of the broken promises and treaties of the Native nations between the U.S. Government, so don't even go there.

So where am I, on the spectrum? This is not a political problem. It is not even a social issue. This is not about "fake news"...the current President...

This is a PEOPLE problem, a moral issue. How you were raised to be..down to your very roots and family. How you were taught to believe. It's about history lessons.

And you cannot wipe away history. 

U.S. History cannot shed the genocide and displacement of Native Americans. U.S. History cannot just eradicate the purpose of WWII...the Holocaust, Japanese Internment camps, the lives and conditions of Chinese railroad workers. The Depression Era. All wars fought under some political guise (of which my own son, as a US Marine, was a part). And I don't even need to go into the problems of domestic violence, school shootings, animal cruelty and drug/human trafficking.

But don't bury your head in the sand just yet...let's look at the U.S. Revolutionary War, shall we? How many were trying to escape religious, political and social tyranny? How was America founded? Yet now, many are now trying to escape today's horrors, whether it be a social, economic or political hell...or just plain scared and living in fear? Oh, but does it really matter? As long as it's not happening to you and your family/loved ones? If you believe what the United States Constitution was founded upon by our Founding Fathers, have your own heart to examine.

Because if you don't, Shoshoni..are a ghost town.

I am completely convinced that what is happening today would make our Founding Fathers roll over in their graves. I am a Constitutionalist...but I am also Native American! Things are so much more complicated today, but don't ever think that the issues back then are not the same now. America will never be "great again" until we capture the vision of our Founding Fathers. And yes, they made mistakes! But aren't we supposed to be doing things better?? Aren't we supposed to be better human beings, as our visionaries hoped for? What "Christian Nation" closes doors, calls anyone "heathens"...and for what reason? And yes, I'm going to "go there"...

What would Jesus do???

I look at the town of Shoshoni, and mourn the days gone by. I wish I could have that real vanilla malt. I wish I could sit at the A&W and have that authentic root beer float. Gone are the days, but...I guess I'm in a bit of denial, because I'm never going to get those days back again.

But I can make things better, and continue to try to believe that good can triumph. That promises can be kept. That hearts can be turned...

All we have to do is...look up. At those fireworks...

(Probably made in China...)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Coffee With A View: "The Answer"

Well, we had some pretty big "WY-sized" boomers (thunderstorms) out there yesterday...hail came down and lightening cracked right smack overhead. Scared the caffeine right outta me (or into me, lol!)...watched as the pea-sized hail pummeled the back deck and the glass table, crossing my fingers that the hail wouldn’t get any bigger! But this morning, I'm enjoying my Kenyan medium roast, overlooking a fantastic view of the fresh green valley below, with a Sunday reflection of: Belief.

For the past 30 years or so, I've held positions as a [church] music director, keyboardist/organist, choir director, worship leader, etc...which means that I never really had a full, "normal" Saturday-Sunday weekend in a few decades. Being a music director has been a very fulfilling career, and I learned a lot about the different denominations of Christianity along the way. Music will always be a part of me and a part of everything I do. However, taking an indefinite sabbatical from religion in general has proven to be a wise choice for me at this point of my life’s journey, and I've had no regrets.

World religions have always fascinated me...or I suppose I should say that belief intrigues me...what people believe and why they do. I have been blessed to have friends from many diverse walks of life and faith, and have learned much from them. I've read many holy books...the Bible, Q'uran, Bhagavad Gita...I've taken courses and classes on world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Catholicism and Early Christian History (I still have the course materials). I spend about ten minutes every morning in meditation (before I’ve had coffee, lol). My Native American heritage has had quite a bit of pull lately...

As I peruse Facebook, I see yet many more pages and sites claiming to have “The Answer” to life, to happiness. I occasionally click on them, merely out of curiosity. Most of the time, it’s yet another motivational speaker sell-job...and, as sometimes what they have to market seems viable...quite honestly, I’m just not much of a joiner these days. My own path has led me to a point where I’ve had to really renew and reflect, wring out my heart, mind and soul, and “take the wheel”, so to speak. Doing so has been enlightening, in that…for the all myriad of religions, beliefs and paths, one question in my mind will always remain:

Why isn't the world a better place?

Crime, violence, abuse, neglect, bigotry, human trafficking, child slavery. War, division, greed. Pollution of our air and water. Lying, stealing, cheating, back-biting. But we've been "saved"! "Enlightened"! Does “membership” include someone controlling me, telling me how to feel, think and believe? Yeah, how's all that been workin' for us lately?

I recently read an article recently about world hunger (GlobalIssues: "Food Waste Enough to Feed World's Hungry Four Times Over") Astonishes me that, with all of the programs, ministries and charities, the problem of world hunger still hasn’t been eradicated. A friend recently brought to my attention that child marriage is legal in 48 US states, 19 of which have no minimum age. However, all 50 states have laws stating that minors cannot sign contracts. Think about it. This means minors cannot file for divorce…can’t vote, can’t own property, can’t access many services. Yet, she can be forced to marry (which prompts the question in my mind: Is this just a way to legalize rape? What exactly is the definition of “statutory rape”?) Most of all, is this morally veracious? Hey, it’s law…I suppose just like the law is so “clear” on illegal immigration. But this is just yet another example of how, just because it’s the "law" - as antediluvian as it is/might be - doesn’t mean it’s right.

Hypocrisy is so rampant in the world today, and in my own observation and experience, religion has not only complicated our innate faith and moral compasses, but has participated in perpetrating wrong and justifying it. Calling bad good, and good bad. We don’t know the facts or truth anymore because it's all become extremely subjective. We polarize to what is marketed to us, what is popular, drawn to all the “pretty colors”...only to discover that they were motivated by either an obvious or hidden agenda.

After a recent “soul wipe”, I replaced and embraced my own, simple faith, which is: Be good. Be nice. Be strong. If your belief system or religion works for you, great. If it makes you a better person, great. But don’t tell me how I should think, feel or believe. Don't define (or judge) my faith, my spiritual journey. Just know that, in my own “holy book” of life, religion has thousands of years of catching up/proving to do…and has been in the red for just as long. I always tell my clients to “keep it simple and excellent. The more complicated you make it, the more you have to manage.” Organized religion and politics have complicated everything to a point where there is more stress than peace…more cynicism than sanguinity…more laws than ethics…more fear than freedom.

Yesterday, I attended the Eastern Shoshone Pow Wow at Fort Washakie. I took some photos and videos…had a difficult time keeping the tears back. My favorite part of pow wows are, of course, the music. The drums…the song and heartbeats of our mother Earth. Sometimes I wish the whole world could come together in one big Pow Wow and get back in touch with our innate faith. Yes, even atheists must have faith that the sun will rise and set...that rain (hail) will fall...that all will be well when we sleep at night...

So the question is: Are we making the world a better place?

When people ask me what I believe, I ask them if they believe that they are a good person. When they say they believe they are, I tell them, “Then I believe in you.” They will prove it by what they do, what they say, and how they live their lives. Not because they believe in a holy book, not because they’re a member of a church, a political party, or because some preacher, prophet or motivational speaker said it was the way to do it...but because “The Answer” is inside of us. We need start giving ourselves some credit for living lives that have been (and are) filled with love, success, joy and celebration, as well as experiencing hurt, pain, suffering and lapses in judgment. It’s called wisdom, which can only be gained by learning and living, not anyone else’s, but our own timelines.

Oh dear, my mug is empty…time for a fresh cup!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Helping the families at the border

Hey, you know, this whole "families separated at the border" thing has been on my mind this past week, and you know me...I'm always wondering where action can be taken, and/or where solutions could start gaining some ground.
Today, a friend of mine e-mailed me the list below. Please feel free to share with anyone you might would be interested.
Caffeinated bottoms up!


  • South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project is providing free legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas.
  • RAICES is a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children, families and refugees in Texas. It’s accepting donations and volunteers at its website. In addition, the #postcards4families campaignwill donate $5 to RAICES for every postcard kids write to help the separated immigrant children.
  • The CARA Project is currently recruiting attorneys, law students and paralegals with experience in asylum work. The group asks volunteers to be fluent in Spanish or willing to work with an interpreter.
  • Kids In Need of Defense partners with major law firms, corporations and bar associations to create a nationwide pro bono network to represent unaccompanied children through their immigration proceedings. Volunteers don’t need to have immigration law experience.
  • The El Paso-based Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center provides legal representation to immigrants who might not be able to afford it otherwise. It’s accepting volunteers and donations.
  • The Austin Bar Association Civil Right and Immigration Section is coordinating training for pro bono attorneys to handle credible fear interviews for asylum seekers. 
  • Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley shelters immigrants who've recently been released from U.S. Border Patrol custody. 
  • American Gateways provides legal services and representation to detained parents. It's currently seeking volunteers to represent detained parents and is accepting donations.
  • Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services is the largest provider of free and low cost immigration services in West Texas and says it's the only organization in El Paso serving unaccompanied children.
  • Justice for Our Neighbors provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrant individuals and families in Texas.
    • The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is looking for more child advocates to visit the immigrant kids inside the detention centers weekly and accompany them to immigration proceedings. It is also raising money for advocates who will deal specifically with family separation cases.
    • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is raising money to provide immigrant children "immediate shelter and beds, medical services, counseling and therapy to help them deal with the trauma of family separation."
    • Together Rising is collecting money that'll go to advocacy groups that are working to reunify immigrant children with their families. 
    • Comfort Cases is raising money to provide backpacks to the separated immigrant children. Each case will contain items such as blankets, pajamas, toiletries, a stuffed animal, a book, a journal and art supplies.
    • The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is training adults who want to become “child advocates” who will work one-on-one with unaccompanied immigrant children while they are subject to deportation proceedings.
    • Tahirih Justice Center is providing free legal and social services to immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence.
    • Circle of Health International has staffed a clinic caring for refugees and asylum seekers immediately upon their their release. Their McAllen clinic is currently seeing upwards of 100 patients a day.
    • The Office of Refugee Resettlement requires that all people who want to foster one of the unaccompanied immigrant children be fully licensed by their state. If you are not already licensed, the agency recommends contacting organizations such as United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
    • Annunciation House is helping serve immigrants and refugees in El Paso. The organization is accepting donations here.
    • The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas is representing asylum seekers as well as unaccompanied minors — including those separated from parents.
    • The Salvation Army of El Paso is supporting 17 shelter rooms for separated families while they await reunification with their children and their court hearings.
    • Baker Ripley's team of immigration attorneys are providing representation to detained families seeking asylum as well as working to reunite children and parents. 
    • La Posada Providencia in San Benito runs a shelter for people who have applied for asylum and been released from detention centers while their cases are pending.
    • The Children’s Immigration Law Academy has pro bono attorneys representing children in immigration-related proceedings. It's also providing specialized training to legal service providers and volunteers who're serving unaccompanied immigrant children.
    • The Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee in El Paso started the Fronterizo Fianza Fund, which will go toward things like posting bond for asylum seekers.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Watching My Fathers

Photo by Ellie Caputo
At Sina's Back Roads
in Sutter Creek, CA
Happy Father's Day! I want to give tribute to all fathers out there, but most especially, my own father, Charles Henry Starks. I feel blessed to have the best dad in the world, and I know there are many who feel the same about their own fathers.

However, today I also think about those who don't even know their fathers...or have met them, and they might not have had the best example of fatherhood in their lives. I can only hope and pray that they have had good men in their lives who have set examples of love, hope, strength and courage. To them, there is a quote by Pastor T.D. Jakes that reads: "I want to congratulate all the men out there who are working diligently to be good fathers, whether they are stepfathers, or biological fathers or just spiritual fathers." And I congratulate you, too.

I was adopted into my family when I was an infant of just a couple of months. The youngest of three, my sister, Kim, is ten years older than me; my brother, Mike, one year older. Our father was born in the Depression Era, in 1936, and was raised as a farm boy out on the high plains of Wyoming, near Pavillion. Hard work is something he has always known, and he passed down his wisdom to us. I know he "says" he's retired, but...I see him out and about, always working on the grounds, the gardens...out traveling across the country. It's in his blood. Don't let him fool you...he might be pushing 82, but he's a kid at heart!

I have met my biological father, Jim Richards. He was in my life for a fleeting moment of years, then some family drama had ensued, and I haven't seen him in well over a decade (absolutely no fault of his own). When I first met him, I was about 30 years old, and I have to say, a lot of my life questions were answered. Like, where did my artistic/musical abilities come from? Jim is a guitar player and songwriter...mainly blues. A veteran of Vietnam, in the Army and the Marines. Not just a solider, a survivor. Found out that his brothers (my uncles) are instrumental in my genetics as well: Ben is an accomplished writer; Bill is a classical guitarist who debuted in Carnegie Hall. His sister (my aunt) Rosie was a ballerina in L.A. and Paris. My grandfather, Eugene (Gene) Richards, was the Director of Physical Therapy at Cedars-Sinai for many years. From what I gathered (from my grandmother), the Richards family line goes back to King Richard the III (the good one, lol).

Ah, so there it is! If there's something to be said about the men in our lives, it would be that as human beings, we are all flawed in some way...have made mistakes, maybe some of them significant. However, history lessons are key, and I will always remember what my mother always said: "Do it better than we did." It was her hope that we would, and that we would find happiness. I can only hope that I can be the kind of person my parents raised and hoped me to be. It's not an easy task, as I am only human and make mistakes as well. But I gotta say, I'm a perfect example of how people can and do change when given the chance.

I wrote this tribute to my father about 7 years ago. I hope you enjoy it, as I enjoy reminiscing and sharing it with you.

Happy Father's Day! 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Caffè Venerdì: Just because you can...

So, we've come to the end of the week, to the end of another month...and I've come to the end of my Caffè Tomasso Portuguese Roast. I'd love to tell you all about it, but the content on the package is, for the most part, in Portuguese...though, I can tell you very simply how it drinks. Basically, if you need a coffee for guests that range anywhere from, say...truck driver sludge to coffee snob...this would be a good serve.

I usually like to sample coffee beans before committing to a purchase, or like to get recommendations from friends, but from time to time, I also venture out to exotic sites and places, like...Amazon! Which is where I found Caffè Tomasso. Sometimes it can be a hit or miss when you spin the online wheel, but this one was a winner, and I must buy more.

This week was just filled with eye-rolls, wasn't it? Roseanne's show being cancelled...Trump's pardons, etc. It will never cease to amaze me what corporate media throws in, blends up and and forces into our eyeballs as "news", but...that's just me. Most of the time I can just skim through Facebook and get the skinny, but I have my own community news blog, Amador Community News, that I have to get going each morning. I don't have too very much time to dwell on the drama du jour, so I really have to sift through and rely on the local communities of Amador County to come through. And they do.

It wasn't so long ago that any subject matter would politically charge me to the point of argument. Most of my friends and those who have followed me on Facebook can attest to this. There was a time where I would skim through the "news" and posts, and something would always set me off. Mainly politics, yes, but some topics would get me chomping at the bit. Sometimes, when I went on a vent, the comment threads would go on for days; sometimes you could cue the crickets. Either way, I've learned a lot about people, their feelings and opinions, their own experiences, perspectives and wisdom...

It's interesting how a major life change can give you a whole new perspective. Looking back, I came to the realization that I wasn't very happy with the person I had become. I was stressed out, filled with anxiety and negativity, was told that I was a "fence dweller" (politically, since I'm non-partisan)...called "dangerously naive"...a "libertard"...was barraged by folks convincing me to jump on their bandwagons (and sheesh, the bands weren't even that good!)...and unfortunately, I lost some very good friends along the way.

It took me roughly eight months to figure out that the Carol I had become wasn't the Carol I wanted to be. But who had I become? It wasn't until I moved back home that I could get an "aerial view" of my life's journey thus far, and saw that I was letting the daily "drama du jour" affect me, define me, influence me. I lived in California, collectively, for about 30 years (with a stint in Nashville, TN in between), and though the interstate transition was wide (obviously physically and politically), I've had to wring myself out and think about how I want to shape the rest of my life. My life.

I'm still non-partisan, and always will be. I didn't vote for Trump or Hillary (I wrote in "Captain America"). I know folks who are full-on Trump supporters. I know folks who voted for Trump only because of their party affiliation, and have expressed their regret and remorse. I know folks who are still crying over Hillary. I know plenty of folks who don't really give a damn.

My perspective now, as I continue on my path for me, is that I'm shaping my life, not based on politics, religion or bandwagons, but on "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I want to be happy...and politics, religion and bandwagons weren't making me happy. My opinion of Trump, though it might not be popular (and I don't care) is: He's a businessman with a inflated ego that ran for and became President, and, in my estimation, didn't know what he was getting himself into. That's irrelevant now, he's our President. But to me, as I try to get that aerial view from several vantage points of the "political sky" retrospect, I wish someone would have sat Trump down at some point, pre-2016, and said: "Just because you can run for President, doesn't mean you should."

I will be visiting California next week, and I'm so excited to see those who are [still] my friends, regardless of red state versus blue. I've been asked, "Why do you continue Amador Community News when you don't even live in California anymore?" Because I can...and should. I've been all about community media for over twelve years now, and ACN has evolved to a point where so many rely on it. Believe me, it wasn't/hasn't been easy to create and maintain an information and resource site that is untainted by partisan persuasion. It's not a fancy site with a lot of flashy ads, bells and whistles, have no idea how many times I am thanked for keeping it going, simply because "of the people, by the people and for the people" was what I had in mind when it was founded.

Of course, I'm never going to run for President...I can't and shouldn't. But if I can make a difference, wherever I live in the country (or the world, for that matter), that's all that really counts, in my mind. It's time to be the "Carol" I am...

...because I can.

Carol Harper

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