Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Nouns: Trial & Error (I 💓 Food!)

It continues to be "soup weather" here in what I call the "Freezer Belt", so this past Friday night, I decided to create a delicious lentil soup. Many know that one of my passions is cooking, and I rarely, if ever, use a recipe. Sometimes I watch cooking shows, sometimes I scroll through Facebook or Google certain cuisines, and if any particular dish catches my eye, I'll study it and do what I do with most things in my life: Experiment.

During the work week, I get pretty focused on what I'm doing - I'm up early, coffee in hand, updating Amador Community News, and then it's off to the day job at AMR. I'll occasionally have a meal with the crews, but more often than not, they get called out right as the pan hits the stove, or before they can get even get a bite into their mouths. So on the weekends, especially during the Winter months, when the weather puts my road-tripping on ice (literally) kitchen becomes a foodie lab. 

My relationship with food has quite a history. When I was little, I always wanted an Easy Bake Oven; several of my friends had them, and I have to admit, I was jealous. One day, an EBO TV commercial came on, and I once again begged my Mom (who was standing in the kitchen, washing dishes) for the coveted Noun. She replied: "Why would you want a toy like that when we have a real oven right here?" My eyes widened and a smile slowly grew on my face, like it was Christmas morning. I jumped up and down with glee...and that was the day my Mom began to teach me how to cook.

She taught me the to read recipes, gather the ingredients, settings on the oven/stove, and put it all together. She taught me the basic vocabulary - sift, grind, blend, saute, mince, dice, baste. Then, as Mom always did, she'd eventually step back, assume a more management-type role and let me try it on my own.

My first experiment was Snickerdoodle cookies. I was so excited, watching them bake in the real oven, counting nearly every tick of the timer, the aroma of cinnamon wafting through the air. When they were done, I squealed with delight. I was so excited that I didn't care that they didn't "look" quite right (not like the photo)...they tasted great to me. Proud of my first batch, I was eager to share my little nuggets of happiness with the mailman. He took a bite, and his reaction was priceless: "These are, um...yeah, um...really...good."  Satisfied with his response, I went skipping back into the house, happy as a clam. Several batches of cookies later, I learned about texture, and the mailman became my official taster of my baking ventures. He was always tactfully kind, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he eventually got a garbage can in his mail truck. 

I eventually became a master of the chocolate chip cookie, to which my kids can attest. They were so good, I was lucky to even get a batch into the oven before the dough was gone. If a batch did happen to make it to the oven, they were gone before they even had a chance to cool.

My Mom and Grandma Lund were my first "culinary" mentors. Being from the Depression Era, most of the dishes they cooked were for big families, so they would cook en masse - big pots of soup, stew, chili, chowder, etc. Large casseroles and pies. Mom made the best chili in the world; haven't had better to date. My grandmother taught me how to make the tastiest, fluffiest, butter-basted biscuits ever.  I loved that they would teach me through trial and error....step back and let me try. Each time, I'd do it a little bit better than before. That's not to say I didn't have several disasters along the way, but I learned from each one until I had it mastered, and the results were delicious.

On my journey throughout my Lives - First, Second and now, in my Third - I've developed a taste for the exotic. I always explore as many different cuisines as I can, learn about different herbs, spices and blends, observe different cooking methods and techniques. My senses of taste, smell and "feel" have keenly developed over time, so I try to take advantage of international grocery stores and local markets that carry ethnic foods and spices. I could spend hours in those stores. I have everything I need for my kitchen lab...core ingredients, cookware, tools and utensils...but most of all, the love of cooking. I love to achieve the balance of herbs and spices. I love to smell the aromas that come through as I anticipate the final presentation. I don't claim to be a professional, in any sense of the word. I simply have a passion that makes me happy.

I've learned a lot more from cooking than just the mere enjoyment of it. I've put a lot into my own Recipe of Life, and still have a lot to learn and discover. I have many talented friends who have a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with them, getting to know them better. I've also had Nouns in my Lives where the lessons learned have definitely been a matter of trial and error. I've had a few disasters along the way; so many times I've been caught up in the "fast-food" of the here and now, that I have to step back and remember said lessons. Now, I try to always keep those important core ingredients in my "recipe" file: Love, kindness, patience, honor, integrity, truth. From there, hey...what can I say?
I improvise!

It was very difficult when my Mom passed away...singing at her funeral was the most difficult thing I ever had to do in my life. The emptiness I felt was as if a huge chunk of my life just disappeared. I know that I probably wasn't the easiest child to raise, but I will always remember and appreciate when she'd step back and let me succeed...or fail...on my own. She reappears every time I hear her words ring through my mind when I try something new and different: "Do it better. Do things better than we did..."...and I try again.

And then she steps back.

Carol's Friday Night Lentil Soup Experiment
Without taking a trip to the store, I simply added what I already had on hand, in my cupboards and refrigerator.

1 medium yellow onion, chopped (a core ingredient I always have on hand)
3-4 cloves of fresh garlic (another core ingredient)
1 to 1 1/2 cup chopped celery
Saute above ingredients in about 2 Tbps of butter, olive oil or coconut oil. I used a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add a little salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat until you can smell the onion, celery and garlic meld. Then...

Add 1 pound rinsed lentils.
1 large potato, sliced.
Stir together for about 30 seconds or so, then add about 6-8 cups of water and reduce the heat to low
(A word about lentils:  Always rinse beans and legumes before cooking, as there can sometimes be natural fibers, sticks, even pebbles left behind in sorting/processing. You can also pre-soak the lentils if you have a difficult time digesting them. Lentils have a thin "shell" that contain trace anti-nutrients that can affect digestion for some folks. I don't seem to have that problem, so I didn't soak them. )

Let this base soup cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes; check on it occasionally. The lentils will swell as they cook, so if the ratio of lentils to water become unbalanced, add a little more water to make it more "soupy".

2 Tablespoons Garam Masala
I love [East] Indian spices! Garam Masala is a staple spice blend. No, it is not curry. Cumin, coriander and cardamom are the most prominent tones.

1 can mixed vegetables
I would normally use fresh vegetables, but like I said, I didn't have a chance to go to the store, so I used canned vegetables this time. Always rinse canned vegetables well, as they usually contain a lot of sodium, which can affect the balance of flavors you're trying to achieve (the garlic, onion, celery, etc...even the butter and coconut oil lend their own to the mix.)

Now...taste, taste, taste!
Add salt, to taste. Add fresh pepper, to taste. If the Garam Masala isn't quite coming through, add in pinches until it's to your liking. This is where you make it your own! 😊

Monday, February 3, 2020

Coffee & Convo: Competition

Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone...the one time I watch football all year.

Some have said that the Kansas City Chiefs (out of Missouri, I might add) won because of "bad calls". Others say the 49ers are just sore losers. Unlike (and unfortunately) US elections...whose "actual wins" aren't based upon what "We the People"'s how the political game is called. Billions of dollars are pumped into an arena of "gladiators" vying for a, call it a sport, or call it pure is what it is these days...and we all have to deal with it.

I recently posted a quote from a movie I watch religiously, after every Super Bowl: The Replacements:

Jimmy McGinty (the coach): You know what separates the winners from the losers?
Shane Falco (washed up Sugar Bowl QB): The score.
Jimmy McGinty: No, getting back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.

Every year, the Super Bowl teaches me that humanity wants heroes. We want those larger-than-life celebrities who portray themselves as bigger than our own selves to fight for the win...the battle, the prize, the title, the cause. I myself am inspired by such a fight, such a win. Competition has been the thread that pulls all to push for the "best". USA, all the way!

Let me tell you a little bit about "competition".

Most in Riverton, WY know that, in high school, I practiced very hard to be the best. I competed in several piano festivals...received scholarships for Music Performance, etc. I would get up at 4:30-5 in the morning and practice the piano until it was time to go to Seminary (LDS scripture study), and then it was off to school. After school, I was off to piano lessons...when I was in 8th grade, I had entered CWC's Music curriculum, because my piano instructor and mentor (from age four), Francis Kelliher...said that she could no longer teach me...that I was beyond her instruction. Enter Carol Dahlberg, Professor of Music at Central Wyoming the li'l ol' town of Riverton, WY!

It was at that moment that I was truly scared. I remember my first collegiate lesson/audition well. Beethoven's Sonata in G Major (which I had memorized completely by ear)...Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" (also by ear)...and (how very quaint), Mozart's Sonata in C (by both ear and notation, but honestly...more by ear).

You see, I have the blessing and the curse of "perfect pitch". Some say it's a gift you're born with. Other say it's a gift developed over time. No, was born with it...and believe me, it's both a blessing and a curse!

I had won several piano competitions and scholarships, but one of the events that really stuck with me was MTNA's National Piano Auditions in Spokane, WA. I always loved going to piano competitions, because it meant that I met competitors from all over the US or the Northwest region. I kinda lived a sheltered life, so it was so wonderful to meet others in the musical arena who were my age...and spoke the same International Language:


I very much have my Dad to thank for being a humble, gracious competitor and winner. When I won a piano or vocal competition, he always said: "I'm so very proud of you! Now get over there, and congratulate everyone else!" When I did, blatant honesty ruled:  "You did your Bach piece soooo much better than me!"..."You SO  rocked on your Mozart!"..."Where did you get that Bartok?"..  A language that parents, coaches, professors, etc. don't really ever see or hear...or will probably never understand.

What have I learned about competition?

That there will always be someone better than you...and there will always be the critics, those "arm chair quarterbacks"...but that really doesn't matter. Because what you bring to your sport,  your art, your craft, your "thing" that you do...will and does make an impact!

What does it take? Heart.

YOU are what makes America great. We...the People.

In 2016, I didn't vote for Trump or Hillary. I voted for ME. I was true to myself, not any political, popularity contest or party...and many might deem that as shockingly stupid...but NO one does or ever will represent me. No party, no persuasion...nothing! I still believe in the US Constitution as our Founding Fathers set. I still believe that they would want to do good by my Native American ancestors, and would be absolutely appalled by what is going on in our world today. I believe our Founding Fathers would be weeping tears of guilt and repentance.

But who even cares now? Today, it's all a very, very stupid competition., but...

At least we all have Music.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Lights & Sirens: They Simply Go

Yesterday, I attended the memorial service for Paramedic Michael Wilder, on behalf of AMR Fremont County. Some think the drive to Rawlins isn't particularly scenic, but I tend to look for the beauty in everything, especially when there are mountains "in the middle of nowhere"...and the sky? Oh, always the sky! It has become my "religion" now, to celebrate life and to stop to wonder at all of the People, Places and Things that are so much bigger than me...just spend a few minutes to enjoy, celebrate, meditate, contemplate...

Split Rock was especially beautiful that morning, so I stopped to take a photo:

Good thing I left a bit early, because I hit some pretty big bad patches of road and blowing snow right before driving into Rawlins. I was glad to be in AMR's command vehicle instead of my little Prius, because I know for a fact that it wouldn't have made it through, as the highway was literally piled with a good 5-6 inches of unshoveled snow and ice, and a big, bitter wind (I was told 50+ mph) blowing the icy snow made for very poor visibility  Even in the command ride, I slipped a bit...there was a big rig in front of me, so I cautiously stayed a good distance behind and crawled the rest of the way.

Participating in the Procession through Rawlins and the lineup at the service brought back memories of when I represented the Tennessee Marine Family at the service of a Fallen Hero ("Remembering Our Fallen"). Mike Wilder's service was beautiful, and though I didn't know him personally, I felt a big lump in my throat and tears come to my eyes as I listened to the words spoken by Wyoming EMS Director Andy Gienapp describe all of our First Responders...and the crews at AMR Fremont County, whom I've come to know and love:

"...In many ways, it's not an easy decision to enter a profession in public safety. If you doubt me on this...imagine a law enforcement officer standing alone while someone points a gun in your face. Imagine yourself at the nozzle-end of a hose as you pause before entering a house with flames coming through windows and the roof. And now, imagine someone looking at you in desperation as their loved one lies on the floor, hoping against hope that you will be the one working a miracle.

Those are powerful and frightening images, and they've stopped many from pursuing these careers. But for Mike, like all of us who do this work, I also know that it was an easy decision.

You see, there's only one thing that brings a person like Mike through a career in EMS, or fire fighting or law enforcement...and that is the idea that a life of service to one's family and friends and community is of unimaginable value. That there are things which exist that are bigger than you are...and that to be counted among the men and women who do this work every day is something to be cherished.

It's the thread that unites all of us dedicated to public safety, and we may disagree or poke fun at each other...but when the alarm bell sounds, and the tones drop, and the radio crackles to life...we know that we are inextricably linked to each other.

Mike didn't know the people who were injured in that crash, and neither did he ask. He simply went. You see, that is what we do. We simply go. Day or night, summer or the next person who is lost, the next fire, the next crash, the next burglar alarm, the next domestic violence encounter, the next person struggling with depression or addiction, the next injured child, the next homeless person, the next person with a mansion, the next politician, the next factory worker, the next stay at home mom or dad...students and teachers, ranchers, miners, business owners...the next call for help.

We simply go.

How do you pay Mike back for a life of simply going? I don't think that you do. All of the flowers and ceremony and words and pomp and circumstance don't equate to Mike saying, "Here am I...send me."

So no, I don't think you pay Mike back. You simply say, "Thank you."

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Coffee & Convo: The Systems That Have Failed Us

Yesterday I attended one of the most incredible events since being back home. As mentioned in my last blog post, the Talking Circle put on by Wind River Cares and the Riverton Peace Mission, hosted by the CWC Intertribal Education Center...exceeded all of my expectations (if I even had any to begin with). I was very impressed by the number and diversity of folks who was so large that we had to divide into three Circles.

I love to get together with friends and chat over coffee...catch up with each other, talk about the issues, solve the world's problems (haha!). I even like to join [civil] discussions on Facebook on various topics of interest, put my two cents in. Sometimes I feel like I'm only contributing to the banging "noise" of pots and pans and wonder if anyone is really listening or reading.

Not so in a Talking Circle. Everyone has a voice, no interruptions. Everyone respectfully listens to each other. It may take several hours to go around the Circle...and it did. Five hours of talking and listening, recognizing and airing grievances, hurt, anger and pain, you might think at one point an emotionally-heated debate or argument could be triggered. However, after spending so much time respectfully listening and being in the room with strangers who have now become part of your life, your own circle, your tribe, your family...the only way I could describe it? Peaceful. 

The question was: "What have been the systems that have failed us in our lives?"

Listening to each person give their answer and tell the stories behind their answer was not only enlightening, it was very powerful. Government and legal/law enforcement systems. Political systems. Corporate systems. Religious systems. Familial, tribal and social systems. Health systems. Educational systems. Monetary systems. We've all been affected by failures of a few or several systems in our lives, and my mind gravitates towards: "Where did it all go wrong? Where did it all start to break down?"  Individually? In our tribes, in our communities? In our country? In our world?

"Failed" is a strong word. In trying to pinpoint the sources of system failures, we may feel the urge to place blame and scapegoat. Brandish those pitchforks and torches. Point the finger and engage in fiery debate. Shoot from the hip, ask questions later. Tear each other apart because of the wolves we feed. It is, unfortunately, so easy to hasten anger and hate, and we have all been guilty of it.

Why? Again, because we've been hurt. To actually take the time to pull away the layers and deeply examine the sources and causes of the system failures takes not only a great amount of patience, but courage because of the hurt, and most importantly, the degree of hurt. But there are things that we already know. After centuries of ripping up the Native American tribes and cultures to near-extinction, we know exactly what is to blame. We know what is to blame for the African slave trade. We know what is to blame for the Holocaust. We know the kind of greed, selfishness, deception, hate, violence and trauma that breaks up our Circles...and the effects of these disasters in human history have had - and continue to have - devastating effects on every generation.

Knowledge is a step, but it is not enough. Getting the "powers that be" to care enough to stop the continued destruction long enough to even admit and/or acknowledge the failures will take a greater, collective energy of paradigm-shift proportions. Until then, we are all slaves to the systems, at the mercy of failure and those who make decisions behind closed doors...decisions that affect literally billions of lives.

The Circle of Life has been so badly, badly damaged, and the only way to repair it is with the inclusion of one thing: Harmony. It is what I see with every sunrise and sunset. It is what makes music so pleasant. It is what I taste when I pull a big fat juicy garden tomato off the vine. It's what I feel when I come together in love and laughter with my friends and family. The harmonious frequencies of Life are a part of all of us, and it is what I felt yesterday in the Talking Circle.

So it starts with us: We the People. I'm not saying "of the United States" because let's face it, we are not united. I'm not saying "America", either, because this land isn't your land or my land. We the People are all a part of Life on this fragile and vulnerable as an emerging butterfly, or as formidable as a hurricane or wildfire. So perhaps we need to not only recognize and understand the hurt and devastation that has been caused in all of our lives by the systems that have failed us...and come together and create a Circle that can never, ever again be broken.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

History Lessons: What is it good for?

A chilly, but peaceful, Sunday morning.
Yesterday, I attended (and sang at) the funeral of my Uncle Ned. It was wonderful to see Aunt Betty surrounded by family and friends. Before the funeral, I sat for a bit and watched the slideshow that pictorially depicted Ned's life well lived, most all of the photos with the love of his life right by his side. I enjoyed the stories told, the memories shared...his eulogy and obituary revealed a side of an uncle I never really knew, but I learned that Ned Case was a very intelligent man, and loved the Earth he lived on.

As a child at family events, activities and gatherings (both Starks and Lund), I was simply "aware" of the adults. I kinda looked to them as the core, my "base of operations", so to speak...our safety nets...and then we'd go out and play and well, be kids. Ride snowmobiles around and around the property. Waterski all day out on Ocean Lake until our fingers and toes were all pruny. Hunt for rocks and fossils way out in the middle of a vast praireland. Play on the water slides, then soak in the hot spring pools in Thermopolis. Gather for Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was blessed with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who lived nearby and played very important roles in my raising, if but just to merely be present in my life.

Yet, I also have another family: my Northern Arapaho family. My childhood was never completely void of the Tribe of my birth, as my [adopted] parents respected my Indian heritage and would take me to the Reservation for visits. I remember spending time with my great-grandparents, Samuel and Cecilia Warren. Cecilia was blind, so each time I visited, they would lay her hands on top of my head so she could feel how much I had grown since the last visit. I also remember her only speaking the Arapaho language, so my Great-Grandfather had to interpret for me. I remember visits from my birth mother, Mary namesake, Carol Blanco...and my grandparents, Charles and Loretta Jones. My Grandmother gave me my Indian name: Sweet Singing Woman.

No family is without trials and hardships. No child/teenhood is without trouble and drama. I have no regrets, for these are the people, places and things (the Nouns of Life) that have shaped me into the person I am today. On my journey, I have added so many wonderful Nouns to my own tribe, and have learned to let go of the bad, embrace the good, continue to learn, wonder and the life I was meant to live, and be the person I was meant to be. In doing so, I find that I'm finally reaping the rewards of love, happiness and peace.

Ah, peace. Raising my own children wasn't without trials, hardships, trouble and drama. Whenever they ask me what I want for Mother's Day, my birthday or Christmas, the answer is the same: "I want some peace and quiet!" After a while, it became a joke: "Mom, what do you want for your birthday? And don't say peace and quiet."  But...that's what I want! I want peace on earth, goodwill for all. I want quiet moments to pray and meditate, to think, to breathe, enjoy a sunrise or sunset, listen to the birds, watch the deer, smell the flowers. I want to get a restful night's sleep, without my brain going 100 miles an hour about all the trials, hardships, trouble and drama that's going on in our families, tribes, cities, counties, states, country and the planet.

I love to listen to or read interviews. Perhaps that's why I love to listen to NPR so much, because I love to hear it from the "horse's mouth". I especially like when they interview bands and musicians, but I also get new perspectives by listening to key commentators on current affairs. I also like to do personal research on the issues for the same reason, and recently ran across an article by Penn Today, "A History of U.S.-Iran Relations", a Q & A with John Ghazvinian, interim director of the Middle East Center. A quote in the interview caught my eye, in regards to the historical relationship between the US and Iran:

"...I think too much of a fixation on recent events and times obscures that fact that this has been a long and very positive relationship in many ways..."

The root of any war or conflict begins with a Noun...a person, place or thing. The same can be said for peace. There is a song we'd sing at Trinity as the Peace Song: "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me..."   How can there be peace on earth, if it doesn't begin? And why doesn't it begin?

Because we don't ever let it begin, and we don't give it a chance. We still have a hard time letting go of the hurt, hate and anger stemming from old wounds and arguments. Politics and religion have not helped, for it is in the name of God, Jesus, Allah or the Great Spirit, we go to war. In the name of political partisanship, we divide our very own families and tribes. We are forced to choose sides, pick battles that only tear us apart...when all we really want is some peace and quiet.

But we don't have the Nouns in power to make that happen. Machines fueled by greed and lust for money (and safeguarded by attorneys) keep control by using ignorance, division and fear. In the mean time, we work ourselves into the ground to maintain said Machines. In the mean time, the division weakens us. In the mean time, we sacrifice our own sons and daughters in wars and conflicts we never even started or wanted. Our own US history attests to the fact that there is nothing civil about a "Civil War"...yet, here we are, in a war with words, posts, memes and blogs, adding to the confusion and chaos...which is exactly what the Machine needs.

What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

I recently posted a meme on Coffee Pong's Facebook Page:
"Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

In my own hometown of Riverton, WY, and my tribe, the Northern event further galvanized the divide between Whites and Indians: The shooting of Andy Antelope. While facts and opinions have been skewed, one truth remains clear and the same: After centuries of antagonism and violence, there is still a divide. There are still many problems and issues that remain unsolved and unaddressed. The elephant in the room gets fatter and fatter because we feed it with lies, gossip and discriminate opinions, rather than putting it on a diet of facts and reality.

It breaks my heart when I go to a family gathering - a wedding, a funeral, a holiday - and see some sitting on one side of the room, refusing to engage with others. It pains me when I know about strife that prevents family members from even attending a family gathering. It's very awkward when I [naively] reach out to hug a family member that I haven't seen in a long time, because of the division...and the love I wish to give is not accepted.

I really try not to, but I fully accept that I may have, in my lifetime - knowingly or not - hurt someone...made someone angry. News flash: we're all human. When I've been hurt, I don't always react the way I should. Why? Because I've been hurt! And I don't like the feeling of being hurt. None of us do. My own history lessons have taught me that it's one thing to let things go...but entirely another when it comes to tolerating continued abuse. In my First and Second Lives, I used to ignorantly (maybe naively) retreat, licking my wounds, letting my own hurt and anger fester to a point where, given the opportunity, I might retaliate in an unwise manner...

....but that just feeds the elephant and the Machine. Is it so naive to put aside what divides us, and come together to work on what we share in common? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

There is a Talking Circle "Towards Community Harmony: Healing For Tomorrow" planned for this coming Saturday, January 18 at 10AM at the CWC Intertribal Education Center. I encourage residents of both Riverton and the Wind River Reservation to attend. The first steps towards peace should be an open, civil communication and recognition of the hurt, division, and issue(s). I will be there...not sure of what I will contribute yet, but you can be sure that I will be doing a whole lot of listening.  Hopefully, the event will result in a new beginning of a "long and very positive relationship in many ways."

On Facebook:
Riverton Peace Mission

Let there be peace on earth...and let it begin with me.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

To Every Season: Holding Memories Dear

I had a great weekend in Casper, Wyoming. My usual wanderings in search of (and always finding) great coffee did not disappoint. I think I've found "my" coffeehouse: Java Jitters. Small, cute, quaint and the perfect refuge on a Sunday morning...or any morning, for that matter.

Had an awesome time at the 25th Annual Veteran's Biker's Ball at the Central WY Fairgrounds. What an awesome crowd of Veterans and bikers, coming together from all over the entire country for a great cause and, got a bit intense there at the end when the raffle for the Harley came down to the line!

I'm often reminded of my birth father, Jim Richard's, words: "Life takes strange turns." (upon discovering that he had a daughter, yours truly). And so did the evening/early morning take a turn, when I received news that my Uncle Ned passed away.

Ah, my Auntie Betty and Uncle Ned! So many memories! Once my Grandparents Starks passed away, Pheasant Crest Farm became not just a memory, but an associated title in my mind. It was there where the Sunday afternoons of my childhood were truly magical and care-free. I couldn't wait to take off my little black patent-leather shoes and lace-lined socks (yet, still in my Sunday dress)...and run through the grass...climb a tree to spy a magpie nest of eggs...sit on the wrap-around porch and listen to my uncles and cousins crank out old school country and bluegrass tunes (in harmony, I might add!)...while smelling Grandma Starks' homemade cookies baking in the oven. My Grandpa Starks would come around, offering sticks of Doublemint or Juicy Fruit gum. I remember sitting in the old attic, reading Peanuts comic paperbacks and Louis L'Amour novels. It was dark when we'd leave, and my Grandpa Starks would slip me an extra cookie with a twinkle in his eye, and say, "Don't tell." I never did, although...I'm sure both Mom and Dad knew, they just didn't say anything!

It's what memories are made of.

I've had several regrets in my life, but one of the biggest has been ever leaving my home state of Wyoming. I've been through a whole lot in the past 30+ years of my life, and it has taken that long to realize that my heart has always been right here. I actually live in my Grandparent's (Lund) home...I mean, c' cool is that? So many memories here, too, however...I've made this place my very own. I cannot say I "feel" my Grandparents' spirits here, but for me...I choose what I want to keep and remember in my heart, and the rest is, well...meaningless.

Memories...both good and bad...shape our timelines here on this tiny planet called Earth. I hold so very many memories dear, but it doesn't mean that I dismiss the ones that are considered "bad". It's cliche to say that "Everything happens for a reason", but just because it's cliche, doesn't mean immediate dismissal because of possible association of "bad blood", family drama, taboo or superstition. To me, it means consideration and derived wisdom...and on we go into the present!

After all, time is all we have.

It's okay to shed the bad and remember the good. It's okay to let go and foster present goodness. Heck, my own brother wore a Trump hat on Christmas Day, and did I care? Hellz, no! Why? Because he's my brother, and I love him. Politics, religion, race, color, creed, etc. aside...all of it is so very antediluvian at best when it comes to love

Love is and will always be the most powerful answer, because we remember the very moments in our lives when we felt love, when we felt joy, when we felt free, running through the grass...smelling cookies baking in the oven...climbing trees and making mud pies...running across the sagebrush-filled prairie with rattlesnakes, rattling their warnings...nests with magpie eggs...Peanuts comics...Bluegrass hymns wafting through the evening air...

And the sunsets. Oh, the sunsets! I see them every evening, off the back porch.

I remember and felt all of that at Pheasant Crest Farm.

I love you, Uncle Ned and Aunt Betty. With all my heart.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Nouns: In One Decade

The decade of last...what a blur and what a blast! Let's see, what have I done since 2010?

I moved back to Amador County, California, after a couple of wonderful years in Nashville, TN. My grand-daughter, Alivia, was born. Amador Community News grew like never before (and continues, thanks to its supporting advertisers). For most of the decade, I was the Music Director at Trinity Episcopal Church of Sutter Creek. I moved back to my home state of Wyoming in October 2017...settled in, put down my roots, landed a job at Guardian Flight/EMS (now AMR). My daughter came to live with me for a spell. I took weekend trips here and there, discovered some places I had no idea even existed in Wyoming and Utah, just by taking a few of the roads less traveled. Some were planned or recommended; others were more of a spontaneous "flip a coin, heads turn left, tails turn right"-type of deal. I experienced my first Holi Festival, and had a blast! Wherever I go, I always tried to capture a sunrise or sunset, or capture a view. Many times my camera cannot do what I see as any justice, so I just tarry for a bit and soak it all into my soul and senses. I love star-gazing, and Wyoming has plenty of wide-open spaces to just lay down, stare out into space and feel as if you'll slide right off of the planet.

I've met many people along the way, good and bad...nice and not-so-nice. I've made many new friends, and have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and catching up with old friends. Went through some ups and downs...a little drama here and there.  My gift of discernment (what I call my "bullsh** meter") has very much sharpened over the last decade, and I'm happy to say that haven't turned bitter, just better for it all. Faith, hope and love get me through a lot of the "crap" that the bad Nouns can dish out.

My home (which used to be my grandparents' home) has become a wonderful place of refuge after a long day at work. I know it might be cliché, but there truly is no place like home! If you saw my Netflix binge list, you'd find a variety of genres: Bollywood movies, crime, sci fi, classic and cult, mysteries, science and nature, docuseries, etc. My Pandora playlist includes classical, classic rock, metal, 80s, electronica, funk, folk, bluegrass, etc. As always, I'm more about the song and the artist's delivery of it, rather than celebrity hype.

The view from my back deck is's so relaxing and healing to sit and watch the sun set behind the mountains . I've enjoyed experimenting with my garden, thanks to the help of my Dad and Auntie Carol. I must admit, the first year was better than the last, but this year I'm determined to have an amazing one with the help of my friend, Dawn. As an avid farmer's market and thrift store shopper, I've developed a somewhat unique collection of various things that fit with my personality and tastes. Some have stories tied to them; most of them are just little things, but it's those very things that have meaning and can bring a smile to my face, or a good memory to mind.

As you've read in my past blog posts...I often say that I began my "Third Life" when I moved back home. Now, I sort of feel as if I'm towards the end of adjusting period (hey, only took a couple of years!)...and the journey has been an enlightening one. I don't really "do" New Year's resolutions, but I do have a Faith, Hope and Love list as I continue on in my Third Life and enter a new year and decade filled with "The Nouns":

I've let people several people into my life, and have either been blessed by it...or have, unfortunately, regretted it. Okay, maybe not so much regret, for I know that there is always a lesson learned. Oft times I just let out a heavy sigh and think, "Well, that was interesting!" and try to get back on the road again. But sometimes the wounds can go deep, and it's too bad that so many people in the world find it so very difficult to just be nice, not difficult to choose to be a good person, instead of a bad one.

There are several different types (and levels) of "friendship". I've made a lot of acquaintances, spent some "Facelook" time with some good folks. But I let very few into my circle of trust...those with whom I can have much deeper, meaningful conversations. They know who they are, and I love them for it!

The take-away:
To me, friendship is a relationship, and relationships take a lot of time. People can enrich and bless your life....but they can also be wolves in sheep's clothing. I always hope that someone is a good person, and it hurts when I find out differently. I try to learn from that hurt and move forward; I don't let it consume me. Actions speak louder than words...behavior speaks even more volumes. I've also learned that forgiveness is a personal choice - not a requirement - when I've been hurt, abused, taken for granted or neglected. Those who have done that also know who they are.

I'm generally a very fun-loving, giving, patient, empathetic person, but I do have limits...and you'll know it when you've crossed them. Too often have I let the drawbridge down on the mote around my heart, only to be invaded and burned way too many times to ignore. Because of this, I've also become a lot more discerning, stronger and wiser when it comes to letting people into my life. That may sometimes make me alone...but never lonely, because the great thing is that I find out - and come to know - who my friends truly are. I can live with that!

This is the year, I hope, is the year I get back to Nashville, Tennessee. I'll try to squeeze in a trip to California, but there are still so many other places I want to explore right here in Wyoming and the surrounding states. I want to visit family and friends in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and Idaho this year.

There are a few "Someday", bucket-list places in the world I'd like to visit in the coming decade. Italy, France, the UK. I've never been to Hawaii or Alaska. Oh, the places I want to go!

The take away:
There's a whole lot you can do in a weekend, and every trip can be an adventure! It truly is not so much about the destination, but the journey. Some trips can be planned, but to tell the truth, most of my best weekenders were spur-of-the-moment, just get outta Dodge"-type trips. I've learned to look up at the sky...and capture its beauty both day and night.

Staying with and getting together/back in touch with friends and family is so very wonderful. It's great to go out and listen to/watch live, local musicians and bands...find a local hang and "people-watch" (in a non-creepy way, LOL). I do some of my best writing in a local coffeehouse. Keep those lattes coming, barista!

As said, I love to shop at farmer's markets and thrift stores. However, I'm not much fun to shop with, because...I don't really "shop". I hunt. I go into a store...scope around, aim, shoot, drag it out. If I don't see anything in a store that I like, I will...well, leave!

My big thing is shopping local. I've loved going to the Ogden Farmer's Market because it's in the historic downtown district, and there are lots of other fun, eclectic shops to browse. I love local coffee roasters, and will buy a bag of fresh-roasted beans. I love to try new, exotic foods. visit international grocery stores, and try to develop all of my senses in recreating different cuisines using different spices and herbs. It's so much more fun than a mall, or getting "Walmart (or Costco) Anxiety".

If you've ever been to my home, like I said...most everything is uniquely "me" and meaningful. So I shop for me and meaningful. There's Native American art. There are [East] Indian-style mandala wall hangings. There are vintage kitchen appliances. There are a lot of coffee mugs...LOL!

The take away:
Everything in this life is temporary, so I try to surround myself with things that I've actually taken some thought in acquiring. However, I will always believe that the best things of life are free (or cost very little), meaning...a hike along the river...or through a meadow picking wild flowers for a particular vase on my dining room table. A favorite blanket, crocheted by a dear friend. Art that speaks to my soul. Custom-made jewelry made by talented friends who know my tastes and style (which I'm still trying to figure out, LOL). Sorting through seeds for my garden with my Auntie. The smell of sagebrush on the high plains, the wind on my face, rushing through my hair. Watching birds make a nest, or spying a hawk or owl in the tall pine trees in the front yard. And, of course...nothing compares to the big Wyoming skies with their amazing cloud formations during the day, and the vast, star-studded skies at night.

Perhaps the best thing in life is time well spent...because, quite frankly, time is all we have. To me, time is more precious than all the gold in the world. Yes, a paycheck is a good thing, and there are things we must have in order to live and be connected to our tribes. But the best things in life are the best, simply because we've invested the time to do them.

I actually semi-slept through the midnight of the New Year. When one is truly (and finally) happy, believing that each day and every day is a gift and celebration...a "New Year's Day" is really just another day to be grateful for time to do the things you want to do...think about the new places you want to go...and appreciate the people who have become a part of the journey. Some of the Nouns will be better than others, but my mantra will always be: Be good, be nice, be strong. After all, it has helped me through an entire decade of being able to say:

Well, that was interesting!

Some of these are already posted on my Facebook, are some of my favorites "Nouns".
Friend me! 

Grand Tetons

Crowheart Butte

Split Rock

Wind River Canyon
Vanilla Latte at Crux Coffee, Lander WY

At my farewell party at Jose's Mexican Restaurant, Jackson CA

With Brandy LaRae

With Tory Carr
With Larry Frint and Diane Lane, AMR Fremont County

With Rhonda Berg

With my Auntie Carol

With the "Old Coots"...

Butterfly on tiger lilies in the backyard.
Coffee With Cops, Sutter Creek, CA

"Bird Cloud" between Farson and Rock Springs, WY
Bison grazing outside of Kinnear, WY

My beautiful grand-puppy, Emma!