We're back from the Grand Canyon (part 1)

We had a fantabulous road trip. We all got along so very well -- the boys included. Yes we were tired at the end of the day (or middle of the day), and being tired made us cranky, but it was just great.

I made the last-minute nighttime drive to Williams with no problems at all. Ron kept calling to make sure I was okay (sweetheart that he is!) and to schedule his arrival in Tucson (this coming Friday! yippee!). The train ride up to the Grand Canyon was great: The scenery isn't spectacular, but it is beautiful in its own way. The train had entertainers on board: a cowboy who ambled down the cars, talking to passengers, answering questions, posing for pictures and a Navajo with a guitar who sang traditional songs from his culture and from other cultures around the world. I really liked him a lot: He said that finding a full-time job as a musician was hard for him because he refuses to work for an establishment that derives its primary income from the sale of alcohol -- that would not be in keeping with the spiritual nature of the songs he sings.

(The ride back featured a train robbery: Men on horseback chased the train firing their six-shooters. As the conductor said, This is the only train that stops for the robbers. The robbers boarded and walked through the cars, guns drawn and bandannas masking their faces, demanding money. Finally the marshal came through and saved us! It was very exciting.)

HardPlace's first words on seeing the canyon were Wow. Wow! At dinner that night, he said that it was impressive: For the first time in my life I have finally seen something that impresses me. On the one hand, his saying that was very "cute"; on the other hand, it should give you some insight into why he is my HardPlace.

His other comment, which really was funny was, I have learned one thing: Grand Canyon gift shops are the best. No, we didn't buy out the store. But HardPlace saw, fell in love with, and acquired genuine Indian weapons. I bought him a gorgeous decorative bow with two arrows, made with wood, beading, feathers, rabbit fur, deer tendon ... stunning. He bought for himself two separate arrows, one long and one short, and several arrowheads. Rock, of course, chose an Indian drum made from buckskin and wood -- some day, he'll understand that I was happy for him to have that because his Uncle Leroy, my brother, was a sacred drummer.

Rock was ... well ... Rock. Full of indefatigable energy, with no respect for where he was. No respect for the sacred beauty or the awesome danger.

And of course, Mother and I loved every minute of it. That place. That place. LOOK at where you are. We stayed at the Kachina Lodge, and our room was 20 yards from the rim of the canyon. We worked hard to keep Rock close by and to keep HardPlace's attitude from killing the joy. HardPlace was too tired to walk too tired to talk too tired to smile too tired to be pleasant too himself to think about others. I really hate that about him.

After a 2-mile walk along the rim, we boarded the train on Wednesday and said goodbye to the Canyon. I wasn't ready to leave, but I had gotten my "fix" and I know I'll return. The next day, we went to the Museum of Northern Arizona, which gave the boys a very good overview of the Indians of the Southwest. HardPlace, in particular, was fascinated by the descriptions and models of the kivas, which are not so theologically different from our Melkite churches.

Then we went to Meteor Crater -- a very impressive hole in the ground! The visitor's center is new since Nick and I were there 10 years ago, and it had wonderful interactive features that really engaged both boys in the science of it all. The hands-down favorite was a computer program that allowed you to design your own meteor (size, velocity, density, angle of impact) and then simulated what would happen if it hit Earth. My meteor created a crater 11 km across; HardPlace blew up the planet. Even Rock got into it, asking the tour guide intelligent and relevant questions.

From there we went to Slide Rock State Park. Yippee! The boys had a great, great time, and the setting was so beautiful, Mother and I would have stayed there much longer, but the sun was going down and it was getting cold. So we drove to our next hotel through Red Rock Country at sunset, breathing deeply the beauty of the earth.

Friday, we made quick side trips to Montezuma's Castle and Montezuma's Well. Mother and I were both somewhat disappointed, because the Park Service has radically limited visitor access to the ruins since the last time either of us visited. It was okay though, because we were all ready to head back to Grandma's house.

And we were all so glad to get home and collapse.

Here ends the narrative portion of my travelogue. The next entry will feature pictures.

Macro


For those of you who are interested the new camera is an Olympus SP-510. This is an example of it's macro mode. Anybody care to hazard a guess what this will be when it grows up?

Jack Penate - Torn From The Platform

Nice song, bit of a nick from the Housemartins though.

Finish the sentence meme

Maybe I should…… Drink less
I love…... Wifey, the kids, my mum.
People would say that I’m…...Arrogant & aloof
I don’t understand….. French people
When I wake up in the morning….. I’m usually up and at ‘em
I lost….... Some brain cells today
Life is full of…........Things that happen
My past is…... In the past
I get annoyed when…....Cats shit in my garden
Parties are….. Hiding in a corner and drinking lots
I wish…... For good health for me and mine
Dogs …...... Go woof
Cats…. Shit on my garden
Tomorrow….. Is the day I do most jobs (ask Wifey)
I have a low tolerance…....Of most people
If I had a million dollars….. I’d change it into Sterling

The above meme was originally found at Catch's blog (see sidebar)

My first time



It's the new camera! Top picture is the garden early this afternoon after it had dried out a bit. The second picture is taken from the same place but with 12 x zoom, now that I like.

Not just 'Ull


Don sent me this, taken today in York.

More Rain



These are 2 pictures I borrowed from the local rag, both are less than a quarter of a mile from our house. Our garden was flooded as you've already seen, but our house was ok, for that we are very grateful!. It has now stopped raining, time to start clearing up.

Unbelievable!

Yet again I have screwed up my travel plans.

We're spending the night at the Grand Canyon tomorrow... I knew that. And we're catching a morning train to Grand Canyon Village. WHICH MEANS WE HAVE TO BE AT THE TRAIN STATION AT 8:00 A.M. I knew that. I have reservations at the hotel by the train station FOR TONIGHT.

It's now 7 p.m. We are madly packing up the car and should hit the road in the next few minutes, reaching Williams, Arizona, by midnight.

Tomorrow night, the Grand Canyon. Wednesday night, Flagstaff. Thursday night, who knows? Back to Tucson or up to Page. You'll find out when we get back.

Meanwhile... here are some photos, without the commentary and order I had wanted to give them.

Wet, Wet, Wet



We had a bit of rain today!

Yahaay!

I have finally managed to wear wifey down and she has agreed to let me have a new camera. Yesterday I went to Jessops to purchase the camera, which they had on special offer. Unfortunately they didn't have any in stock, lots of posters on the wall advertising the offer, but no actual camera. So I asked if they could ring their other store to see if they had one in stock. Yes they did hooray! but it's £20 more boo! I ask why it is £20 more, "because it's silver" comes the reply, I refrain from asking how much a pink one would be, and decline their offer to save me one. When I returned home I rang the Beverley store (8 miles away) to be told they didn't have any either, but the man very helpfully informed me that they had 7 in stock at their York store (35 miles away). I eventually ordered it on line, so like me you will all have to wait a while for new improved photos to appear on this blog. Oh, and if you ever need anything related to photography, don't go to Jessops!. Mind you Currys were no better but that's another story.

Pictures, finally

The drive up to Mount Kitt Observatory was spectacular! On top is a huge complex of observatories and research facilities -- and real telescopes open to the public.












We got to look at the sun through a solar telescope -- but not the one with the focal tube running 300 feet into the side of the mountain.










HardPlace was riveted to the whole thing. Rock, not so much! Here's HardPlace watching the observatory dome rotate, and then looking into the lunar telescope. The detail was amazing!





more photos to come after our Grand Canyon jaunt...

I is what I is

Or as Dame Shirley would put it "I am what I am". I've just had the pleasure of watching Dame Shirley performing at this year's Glastonbury, absolutely fantastic.

Report cards are in!

Below is the email my mother sent to her sisters and some of her friends.
Subject: Pentha's boys

You have been selected for this message because you are the ones who have heard me express unvarnished opinions about the real-life behavior of the above-referenced individuals. After one whole week of 24/7 with them, although I have no other news to tell, I felt I OWED these boys the following report card -- on scales of 1 (dismal) to 10 (angelic), with 8 being waaay above expected.

Attitude: 8+
Cooperation: 9
Interaction between the two brothers: 9
Interaction with others: 8+
Behavior to adults (respect, Respect, RESPECT!): 9+
Obedience (Blind, instantaneous) It breaks down here:
-- HardPlace: 8+
-- Rock: 7+

I know you don't believe a word of it, but that's o.k. What matters is HOW THEY ARE. I can't believe it......I waited this long before submitting this rhapsodic report, to give them plenty of opportunity to be awful.

I sent Pentha shopping this morning. I told HardPlace (9) I'd like him to vacuum for me. HE DID IT! No whining, protests, or "NEGOTIATING" (the part I hate most). He JUST DID IT. So of course, Rock (5) had to help too. As the gods would have it, I possess an old-fashioned feather-duster, so Rock DUSTED MY POTTERY, and then the electronic stuff, and then the fireplace (no, I did not open the screen for him, no matter how much he tried to tell me it was really dirty back there), and then the chairs, and then the walls, and then I was really tired of following him around -- at a proper distance, of course -- so we quit for the day.

Does Grandma have magical powers? Well, of course she does, but besides that, I have the ultimate threat: disobedient or disrespectful boys DO NOT GO TO THE POOL. I only had to enforce that ONCE, -- with Rock, of course.

Love all the way around, M.

Of course, I had to hit "Reply All."
I have to agree with you, Mother, on your performance evaluation of the boys.

But where's MY report card? Haven't I earned good grades too?

Attitude? check
Cooperation? check
Interactions? check
Respect? check
Obedience? Blind Obedience? Blind Instantaneous Obedience? Ummmm... never mind. Maybe I don't need a report card after all!

Seriously, it has been wonderful all the way around, and we're all getting along better than anyone has the right to expect!

Love, P

Simply exhausted

A scorching hot day at the Breakers. Great and glorious fun. Sheer and utter exhaustion.

Why do you call it Tiny?


Because it's my newt, ha ha. Spotted 3 newts in our pond, 2 males and 1 female. The female was in the process of laying eggs, carefully wrapping them up in the pond weed. I will keep an eye out for the pitter patter of little webbed feet.

Wonderful great good news

My sister had another CT scan last week, 6 months after being diagnosed with a malignant stomach tumor, 5 months after her entire stomach was removed, 4 months after she started to eat real food, 3 months after she started being able to walk the dog every day.

She got the results today: All clear. No sign of any cancer anywhere in her body. No chemo needed. No radiation needed. Next CT scan scheduled for 6 months.

For now, all that is required of us is gratitude. Profound, life-changing, life-giving gratitude.

Handy Hints

Don't waste money buying expensive binoculars. Simply stand next to the object you wish to view.
Always poo at work. Not only will you save money on toilet paper, but you'll also be getting paid for it.
Weight watchers. Avoid that devilish temptation to nibble at a chocolate bar in the cupboard or fridge by not buying the f**king thing in the first place.
Recreate the fun of a visit to a public swimming pool in your home by filling the bath with cold water, adding two bottles of bleach, then urinating into it, before jumping in.
Don't buy expensive 'ribbed' condoms, just buy an ordinary one and slip a handful of frozen peas inside it before you put it on.
An empty aluminium cigar tube filled with angry wasps makes an inexpensive vibrator. Vegetarians coming to dinner? Simply serve them a nice bit of steak or veal. Since they're always going on about how tofu, Quorn, meat substitute etc 'tastes exactly like the real thing', they won't know the difference.
Invited by vegetarians for dinner? Point out that since you'd no doubt be made aware of their special dietary requirements, tell them about yours, and ask for a nice steak.
A mouse trap placed on top on of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep.
Avoid bickering and petty arguments by immediately punching anyone with whom you disagree.

A matter of degrees

According to today's paper, the weather in Tucson will be "warm" for the next few days: 103-104. Yeah, that's warm all right. But on Thursday, it will be "hot." Uh-oh -- 109. Yes, that IS hot.

I'll let you know if 109 really does feel hotter than 103 -- I would think that once you're hot, HOT won't feel too different.

Final Day



Our last day was spent at Clapham a beautiful village with it's stream and traditional English church.

Triggered

I collect refrigerator magnets. Well, it's not that I "collect" them as in buying them all the time, but when vacationing I buy a special magnet, and I ask family to find magnets for me when they travel.

My mother brought out recuerdos from her January trip to South America -- clay critters for the boys and a magnet for me. It's copper with a map of Chile, just perfect. Except I will never put it on my refrigerator; I won't even pull it out of the little bag; I don't ever want to see it again.

I looked at it and immediately started sobbing for my brother. Mother was in Chile when he died. I had to call her in Chile to tell her that her only son, her beloved son was dead. I had to meet her at the airport when she came from Chile for his funeral.

Just looking at that magnet brought those memories flooding back, the pain, the tears. I can't bear to look at the magnet again.

We're here!

Yesterday's travel across country was uneventful, just the way airline travel should be. We even got to Tucson a half-hour ahead of schedule. The boys were great travelers, with hardly any whining or fussing. It was 103 when we arrived, but I swear it felt cooler than Maryland because there's no humidity.

We took a long walk in my mom's neighborhood this morning (7 a.m. before the heat sets in), and a coyote crossed the street right in front of us. Very cool!

Not much else to report yet, other than that it's just so nice to be here.

Hardraw Force

As promised

Wake up, Mommy!

ergrl, whuhhuh?
Wake up!
umph
Time to get out of bed, Mommy!
Why?
Because we're going to Arizona tomorrow!
Uh-huh.
Get up!
grglschmks
Get up! You have to pack! So we can go to Arizona!
You're right. I do.
Get up, Mommy.
ughimph
You have to work all day so we'll be ready to go. Get up!
Ohhhh, all right.

I roll over and focus my bleary eyes on the clock. 6:08 ryohhhohump

Day 5



This morning whilst driving along we came across the village of Malham, were we met these 2 characters (and a whole host more!)

As time goes on

I realize just what you mean to me.

A small group of the local widoweds went to see Chicago in concert at Wolf Trap last night. Tara had sent me an email asking if I was going to be able to join them. I said no, and asked her to cry during Colour My World for me.

Around 8:30 my phone rang: I heard the single notes of the piano and started crying. I stood there listening to the whole song, sobbing my guts out.
As time goes on
I realize
Just what you mean
To me
And now
Now that you're near
Promise your love
That I've waited to share
And dreams
Of our moments together
Colour my world with hope
Of loving you.
I should note that this song has no associations with Nick whatsoever -- after all, it dates back to my high school years. It always brings memories of young heartbreaks, but it is a timeless song and evokes all the love I've ever known, ever lost, ever wanted.

The emotions of last night's tears were multilayered: The overwhelming ones were profound gratitude for the woman who called me, gratitude for my widowed friends, gratitude for all the love that surrounds me.

Yes, I have lost so much, endured so much, survived so much. But always there is love, and where there is love, there is hope.

Buy this book NOW!

My grief counselor just showed this book to me. It's supposedly a children's book, but it's really too abstract for young children. But it is stunningly WONDERFUL. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your teenagers to find on the shelves. Buy it for a friend. Buy it for your parents. This breathtakingly beautiful book talks about The Next Place we go ... a place where there is no pain, where our bodies are perfect, where we don't break any rules, where we are embraced by the all the love we have ever known.

It's astonishingly profound.

Day 4 part 3




After the caves we went to Hardraw Force, a waterfall that you get to through a pub. Just as we got back to the pub after seeing the waterfall it started to rain quite heavily, so we had to stop at the pub. I wasn't complaining. (will post a video of this waterfall at a later date)

Poor kid: A haiku

Is anything worse
than 3 a.m. vomiting?
Not when you are 5.

So the day after I use his true name, Rock reveals himself to be nothing more than a sweet little baby boy. Picture him putting his face down in his hands and crying, "Why did I vomit, Mommy? When will I feel better?"

It melts the coldest of hearts. Even HardPlace is being nice to him today.

I have to say I'm annoyed, though. Quite apart from not being too happy to have to mop vomit off the bedroom carpet until 3:45, we had to stay home from church today. We have missed so often lately -- between various illnesses, travels, and out-of-town guests. I really really wanted to go this morning, because we leave for Arizona on Friday. The next time we will go to church will be when we come back in August -- and after Divine Liturgy will be the 3-year memorial for Nick. That's going to be strange: Not having been in church for 3 months and then going back and having his memorial. Ugh.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

day 4 part 2



After our early morning walk we went caving, Harry wasn't sure about the headgear, but some of the caves were very spectacular.

Day 4


A nice easy start to the day with a walk along the river, just near the cottage.

Names have been changed ...

... but NOT to protect the innocent.


One of my favorite pastimes is bloghopping ... going to a friend's blog and following links or comments to other blogs. I've found myself at some very "interesting" places! And I've found myself some new favorite places. One recent discovery is Jenn, who refers to her two daughters as Wild and Unruly:
I've admonished Wild to not be so mean and ugly to Unruly, to just be nice for once, just be nice. But it doesn't help, sometimes it even makes things worse. Wild wakes up in the morning yelling at her sister and spends pretty much the entire time she is home being mean and hateful towards her. And what do you do about that? What? I don't know. Wild is 15, Unruly is 6...how the hell do you force the two of them to just fucking get along? Or at least get Wild to act like she's 15 instead of 5.

Aside from the fact that my boys are 9 and 5, Jenn could be describing a typical day at my house. It was so perfect, that I knew I needed to reveal the true names of my children. Since I've started blogging, I've been protecting their identities by using their initials. Well, no more. It's time to introduce you to the boys as they are.

Meet Rock.


He'll be 5 in July and he has broken at least one major item in every room of the house. He's rough and tumble, wild and unstoppable, irrepressible and relentless. And oh, how I love him!

This is HardPlace.


He's as introverted as Rock is extroverted, as emotional as Rock is physical. I never know what's going on in his mind: Is he plotting the overthrow of the household or designing the world's most amazing Lego creation? He's the original sweet boy -- who can be the rudest and most disrespectful beast in the world.

And here I am, caught -- as always -- between a Rock and a HardPlace.

day 3



Today we spent most of the day at Leighton Moss (top picture) an RSPB reserve. Whilst there we saw a Spoonbill and a Marsh Harrier as well as some deer. After that we went to an old slate quarry to see a Peregrine Falcon nest. Sadly I did not take the picture above (my camera just aint good enough, take note wifey), but we got some great views of the birds and their 2 chicks through our scope.

A vulture!?!?

Not exactly what I was expecting ...

Your Power Bird is a Vulture

You are always changing your life and the lives of those around you.
You aren't afraid to move on from what holds you back.
Energetic and powerful, you have a nearly unlimited capacity for success.
You know how to "go with the flow" and take advantage of what is given to you.

On the other hand, it does fit me...

Meet Thomas Edison

HardPlace's class held a "wax museum" today. Each student dressed like a famous American and came to life when a button was pushed, giving a short autobiographical speech. I was so proud of my boy: He really worked hard on memorizing his text, and o! how he worried about getting his hair just right.



The other 3rd-grade classes came in, as well as all the 2nd- and 4th-grade classes and whatever staff were available. The children were all so excited, and so proud. I have a movie clip, but the background noise (of 15 other children giving their talks at the same time and parents talking and kids walking around) makes his speech very hard to hear. I can understand it because I know what it says.

I guess that's what love does: Understands even when things are muddled and overwhelmed by life's cacophony.

Day 2 part 2




After Hawes we went to see the "Buttertubs" (top picture), then on to lunch at the highest pub in Britain the "Tarn Hill" complete with tame lambs ( I checked the menu, they weren't on it!). Finally ending the day at Aysgarth Falls.

Day 2



This morning we visited Hawes (another intriguing name!). I can recommend a visit to the Wensleydale cheese factory, especially the shop where you get to try all the different cheeses.

Bank Holiday weather


This is Storey Reservoir which we visited on our first day, which was a bank holiday. Fortunately we were in a bird hide when I took this as it was chucking it down.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Price of replacement windows throughout house: $13,050

minus Federal tax credit for energy-efficient windows: $200

Cost: $12,750


Average monthly utility bill (heating/cooling: gas + electric): $274
Projected monthly savings (25% - 30%): $68.50 - $91.30
Time to recoup cost of new windows: 15 years - 11 years

Hmmm... am I going to be in this house for 11 to 15 years? Maybe yes, maybe no.

But wait! New windows improve resale value, allowing a 50% return on the investment. So the cost goes from $12,750 to $6,375, which brings the number of years required to recoup my expenses to 6 or 7 years. Am I going to be in this house for another 6 or 7 years? Hmmmm... That's a lot more likely.

Now, suppose I say I am going to move in 5 years, not enough time to recover the investment in new windows. I am enjoying the benefit of the new windows: more comfortable room temperatures and aesthetic improvement. $6,375 divided by 5 years equals $1,275 per year, or just over $100 per month. Am I willing to pay $100 per month for comfort and aesthetics?

Hmmmm... I spend a lot of time looking out my windows. I love looking out my windows.

But wait! One more benefit: Energy efficiency. Even if I don't recover the monetary cost in 5 years (or 7 years or 15 years), I would be using less energy to maintain my home, using less fuel, causing less pollution.

And that is worth $100 per month.

If only all of life's decisions could be reduced to such basic calculations.

Been Away




So, yes, we've been away to the Yorkshire Dales. We stayed in a cottage in a lovely village called Giggleswick (is that a great name or what?) The pictures, in order are, at the top, Malham Tarn, in the middle, meeting some of the locals and finally, at the bottom, Katie and Harry try to work out how long it will take dad to get from the cottage to the pub (yes that really is our cottage)

I'm not a hero, either

I read an opinion piece by Colleen Shaddox in the Washington Post this morning and found myself agreeing through and through. If you read an earlier version of this blog entry, you saw an adaptation of what she wrote.

Ms. Shaddox asked me to remove it, which I gladly did to honor the integrity of her words. When you read her article in the Post, simply think widowhood instead of cancer, and you who are widowed will be nodding in agreement along with me.

We (speaking for all the widows in the whole world) are so tired of being told how strong we are, how noble, how inspiring, how amazing we are. We are simply doing that which life requires of us.

Like people with cancer, we also get treated as though we are somehow different, that God chose us for widowhood because we could handle it or needed to learn something from it. Some of us have said that they are treated as though they might be contagious; many of us have been abandoned by friends who don't want to be reminded about death, about the possibility that widowhood could happen to them -- nay, the inevitability that it will happen to them.

If you are not a widow, remember this: 100 percent of all successful marriages end in death.