The Kind, The So Very, Very Kind

May 31st, 2007

My friend Scrubbed Innocence recently wrote on her blog about kindness, and I just spent some time in the land of the kind, Western Pennsylvania, which is the land of many things, actually (and in many cases, unfortunately), but it is also the land of the kind. People say hello, they wave you in front of them in line or on the road, and they do really nice things for you, be you the friend of a friend, or a stranger, or even a stranger who doesn’t like George W. Bush and who is therefore bound for Hell for your hatred of America. I would like to publicly thank these people:

my sister, Cheryl, who sacrificed a half day’s work (and pay) to take me to the doctor’s office, where she filled out the forms for me, accompanied me into the examining room to help me, and even took care of the filling of my prescription

my mom, who called to get me a doctor’s appointment and kept an eye on me, despite everything going on for her at the time

Dr. Meyers, my family’s physician, who squeezed me in between appointments

the nice people in the phramacy at CVS in Latrobe, who made a lot of phone calls to sort out the misinformation I had given them regarding my pharmacy coverage

my good friend Tracey, who was kindly on standby to take me to a doctor and who offered her nursing expertise

and finally, my delightful nieces, who obediently washed their hands with soap every 15 to 30 minutes in my presence, and who i love despite their having smeared on me the toxic snot that made me so ill in the first place

Where Would You Go?

May 29th, 2007

We need your advice. Stevel and I are in the enviable position at this moment of having no children, a little disposable income, and vacation time aplenty. We need a vacation that …

- is a good getaway for the two of us to spend time alone together
- requires little in the way of serious travel or airplane travel, as we find its logistics drain our spirits (we’re thinking under three hours’ flight, if any)
- is just right for about a four-day stay in August
- offers opportunities for good (GOOD, delicious, high-end) dining for Stevel and some shopping for me (so nothing too out-of-the-way)
- balances these opportunities with a lack of crowds; while we don’t need to get out into nature, we do want to escape the city, and we’re not looking to relive Spring Break
- ideally (but not necessarily) offers warm sea-water
- offers some nice places to stay (e.g. we want to treat ourselves right)

Basically, we want to enjoy each other’s company for a few days in a place that feels like a getaway but that doesn’t require a lot of effort toward the getting away. We like to read by the pool or beach, explore a little, have a late dinner, and sleep. We’d like a light hike, maybe, but nothing super outdoorsy. We like a little culture, if it’s available, but mostly as a distraction, not as a destination. We want to be warm.

We went to Kuwaii in Hawaii, and it was nice, but too much of a flight and too sparse on the nice restaurants. Cabo San Lucas has been encouraged, but we’re not sure if we want to do the language-thing again like on our honeymoon in the Yucatan (yeah, I know some Spanish, but not a ton). We’re also looking at South Padre Island in Texas, a stay on Catalina (VERY nearby), and “the desert.” We’ve had some trouble finding vacation ideas that pan out into actual fun and relaxation, where we don’t start to feel “trapped” in the resort or on the island after a couple of days. Yeah, it’s nice to get away and to chill, but so far, our vacations have left us a little … disappointed. Do you have suggestions and/or feedback on any of these ideas?

Announcing …

May 29th, 2007

The blog of my sister, Cheri [pronounced "Sherry"] Kresic, a woman who, as a child, had an androgynous imaginary friend named “Perry”


The blog of my friend, Tracey Findling, who I’ve known since the THIRD GRADE, and who is now a nurse and mother of two

If you’re ever interested in which blogs and Web sites I read, there are links to all of them on my personal Web site.

The Cuties

May 29th, 2007

I posted my photos from my visit to my family. You can see them here. Remember to click on “Start Slideshow.”

There are also some fantastic pics from our visit to the National Aviary on Dave’s Flickr site. You can see them here. Click on the photo thumbnails to the right to browse through the collection. (Dave takes great photos.)

And now, some highlights from my neices:

Erica (8) found my old acoustic guitar, the little one I begged my parents to buy me for some elementary-school-age birthday (I never learned to play it). I said, “Do you know who plays the guitar? Uncle Steve.”

“Is he good?” she said.

“Yeah, he’s real good.”

“Like rock-n-roll-good?”

Yeah. That good.

One morning I walked her up to the bus stop. She has particular “rules” about what her bus-stop chaperone may and may not do in order to maintain her cool status. No hugging, etc. So when we knew the bus would be coming pretty soon, I started teasing her. I wrapped her in a big, restraining hug and pinched her cheeks and said, “I wuv my wittle neicey!” She wiggled free, and the bus came around the corner. Just as it was approaching us, though, she turned and plowed into me with a hug so enormous, and so totally unexpected, we went right over backwards onto the driveway. The bus-driver opened the door, and there we are, looking up at him from the ground, where we are entangled and scraped up and laughing.

I was driving my nieces along in the car, and Dani (4) opened her window with the electronic button on her door. I told her to close it, since the AC was on. She put the window up.

“Is it locked?” she said. I hadn’t engaged the feature that lets the driver lock window-control.

“No,” I told her. “Do I need to lock it, or can I trust you to just be good?”

“Better lock it,” she said.

Another time, she was making a bunch of noise and running around when I had told her to take it easy.

“Dani,” I yelled, “are you being good?”

She stopped, paused, and shouted back, “I forgot!”

Moms, Dads, etc.

May 27th, 2007

I’m in Western Pennsylvania. Been here a bit longer than planned. Here’s what happened:

We planned a trip here to celebrate my sister’s thirtieth birthday. My dad and stepmother, Pauline, planned a visit from their home in Atlanta at the same time.

The day before the trip was to begin, we learned that my stepfather, Mike, needed to have a sextuple bipass in five days. (Mike and my mom also live in Western Pennsylvania.) This was very unexpected, especially for Mike, who was feeling just fine, really, until when, during one of his routine procedures for ongoing heart troubles, the doctor found severe blockages throughout his heart. Mike lives a very healthy lifestyle, but heart disease runs in his family. The doctors also think he may be diabetic. This, too, was a surprise, since he’s never experienced any symptoms of diabetes.

We flew here. I changed my return-ticket so I could stay longer. We changed Stevel’s return-ticket, so he could stay shorter (Mia still requires a lot of medicating and care, and we don’t want the neighbors to have to attend to it for too long—or for Mia to be alone too much).

We all (ALL) celebrated my sister’s thirtieth birthday. She had a cookout at her new house (which is terrific), and my four (FOUR) parents attended. Mike was in good spirits, not too nervous at all.

I started to get kind of sick.

Mike went in for his surgery and came through it like a CHAMP. The surgeon was able to do only a quadruple bipass, due to some of the veins he needed to graft being too difficult to access. But he assures us it shouldn’t be a problem—that he got the four most in need, and Mike should be just fine. Mike’s not in a lot of pain, although he’s uncomfortable. For anyone out there who doesn’t know what’s involved in bipass surgery, he’s got a lot to recover from. Not only has his heart undergone major changes that require adjustment, but veins have been removed from his leg, and he has a big old broken bone in his chest. Ow. It’s going to take some time before he’s back up to speed, but he should be a new, improved model of his old self by the end of the summer. We’re hoping he can come home from the hospital tomorrow, but if not then, Monday.

In other news, my sickness got worse and worse, and by Tuesday—the day of Mike’s surgery, when I was planning to wait in the waiting room with my mom—I could barely stand up. My sister left work to be with my mom at the hospital, and my long-time friend, Tracey, who is a nurse now, was to take me to a doctor. But my mom insisted my sister do it, so Cheri came and got me. It turned out to be tonsilitis in the right tonsil, the result of (and in addition to) a severe sinus infection. The timing could not have possibly been more inconvenient. Here I was, wanting to be a help to my family, and instead needing help from them on the worst possible day for it! And no wonder it had been so painful to swallow. Madness. But I’m much better now.

I should mention that highlights of this trip have been seeing my sister and her family’s new house, hanging out with my neices a lot, and getting to see Tracey and the Deckers (including Leela!). Best of all, though, is seeing for myself today that Mike is doing fine, slowly improving and heading towards more improvement, and that my mom and family are all OK. So I can go back to California tomorrow knowing that.

Budding Talent Abud

May 11th, 2007


This semester, the college juniors in my creative writing course at Otis came up with some impressively imaginative, articulate, and interesting works. We’ve put together a Web site to show off this amazing poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on it. So here’s the link:

You’re welcome. :)


May 7th, 2007

Some great terms: Drapery Formation · Twilight Zone · Karst · Ice Age · Mescalero Apache · Pod Formation · Guano Miner · Dark Zone · Steleothem · Bat Pup · Underground · Cave Cricket · Bell Canopy Formation · Flowstone · Stalactite · Drip · Stalagmite · Helicite · Guano Bucket · Aragonite Crystals · Echolocation · Prehistoric Coral Reef · Gypsum · Column · Wingspan · Cave Pearl · Roost · Canyon · Spiral · Salt Flat · Rattlesnake · Mexican Free-tailed Bat · Grotto · Calcite …

This weekend was our adventurous trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We traveled with Sarah-Architect and Jeremy Sr., who had been before and were wonderful guides. Today I am aching from a lot of hiking around, but it was SO WORTH IT to see a completely different world underneath the one we see every day, one with insane formations—some of them 80 feet tall—sculpted over hundreds of thousands of years by water, all existing unseen in a surreal darkness until relatively recently. And to see thousands of bats spiral up from the cave at dusk to head out into the New Mexican desert-scape in search of moths. The cloud of them was seemingly endless and magically close overhead. Their little wings made a whisperish papery sound, and this was truly one of those inspirational nature moments in life. My imagination is fed fat by this whole experience.

We started our trip with a morning lantern tour of the Left Hand Tunnel. Why lanterns? Because this was how the caverns were first explored in the 1930s. Amazing. We took the elevator up from the Left Hand Tunnel, had some lunch, and then walked back in via the massive, natural entrance. Cave-swallows chirped, dove, and pooped overhead until we were out of the range of natural light and into the realm of the cave’s spectacular formations.

On Day 2, we trekked up a steep hillside trail to the entrance of Slaughter Canyon Cave (named after some guy whose last name was Slaughter). This cave is older and closer to the surface than the Main Cave, and our ranger-guide was spewing so much cave-knowledge, we were loaded up on facts. Although no bats have lived in this cave since it began actively dripping minerals into amazing formations, the floor of the cave is comprised of THIRTY FEET of prehistoric bat guano (poop). We were also treated to a special sight: 800-year-old charcoal and ocher drawings on the cave wall made by Mescalero Apache.

We finished our trip with lunch at Rattlesnake Springs and flew home exhausted and impressed.

I’ve posted my photos here.

Jeremy Sr. got some amazing shots of the cave’s formations, and I’ll give you the link when he’s posted his.

Since I highly recommend a trip like ours, here are some tips, aka …


Things we did that I’m glad we did …

- went while the bats were there (they migrate South for the winter, and although there are perks to visiting in the winter, like more water in the caves, you just don’t want to miss these bats)
- planned our trip VERY EARLY and ordered tickets online to the tours we wanted (even so, some of the tours had already sold out, months in advance)
- flew into El Paso via Southwest, rented a car from Avis, drove about 2 1/2 hours, and stayed two nights at the Days Inn in Carlsbad—all good situations
- started with the Left Hand Tunnel tour, a great introduction to the history of the caverns
- thought ahead before starting any tour or hike, because bathrooms and food are in many places not available; this is a park in the desert, and parts of it are more “tourist friendly” than others, which are more rugged—it’s a good idea to know (a) how long a tour will be, (b) how far/difficult of a drive and/or hike it is to get there, and (c) what facilities are/are not available once you arrive; there’s no eating inside the caves
- picked up a picnic lunch at Subway/Wal-Mart (styrofoam cooler) before heading to Slaughter Canyon, for example
- wore layers: It was 90 degrees on the surface and less than 60 degrees inside the caves
- wore good sneakers or other hiking shoes with grippy soles
- saw Rattlesnake Springs
- did some geocaches along the drive

Things I didn’t do that I wish I had done …

- invested in MUCH brighter headlamps
- gotten in better shape before going, so I wasn’t so sore
- gotten up early to watch the bats come back into the cave before sunrise
- gotten gas in Carlsbad before heading back to El Paso (brings new definition to the word “boonies”)

Other thoughts …

The Main Cave visitor center has a lunchy place, and the main cave entrance and tour is subtly lit, with moderately easy (although still steep and long) trails, and with the alternate option of taking an elevator directly down to the Big Room tour (fairly flat). Anything else you do will be more difficult. A disabled person or someone a bit older would definitely still enjoy the experience, via the elevator, of seeing the Big Room (about a two-hour tour). However, we saw a number of (TOO MANY) crying little-ones. Their cries echoed around the cave, affecting the experience of every single person there. They were cold, hungry, bored, and stuck, and they had long ago seen their attention spans expire. While I’m sure the first 15 minutes was magical for each of them, after that they likely wanted to run free and couldn’t, and these tours and trails are TOO LONG—and many of them MUCH too dangerous—for little kids. A liberal estimate for a minimum age for a kid who is actually going to (a) enjoy the experience and (b) be able to follow the many rules meant to preserve the cave is, in my humble opinion, ten. AT LEAST ten. If you want to show this amazing place to your kids, wait until they are old enough so it’s going to be FUN for them. The kids I saw who were about sixth-grade level had just enough patience and curiosity to be totally into it, and still had plenty of imagination to be bewondered. I overheard two little girls chatting before the bat show. They were discussing not Barbie, not video games, but echolocation, how cool is that for variety?

Was that a rant? Ug. Moving on …

Know right now that Carlsbad is a small, desert town. It has your typical fast food joints, a Chili’s, a Wal-Mart, a bunch of motels, and some ratty looking restaurants. El Paso is also a pretty small city. There is nothing between El Paso and Carlsbad. Don’t expect resources or “entertainment” of the city kind. Bring what you need, and be ready to enjoy moments of complete silence, to see stars overhead, and to really commune with nature.

That said, the Days Inn has free wi-fi and a pool. The margaritas at Chili’s are nice and big. Although we didn’t do the Living Desert “zoo,” many people recommended it. In case you need some evening or alternative things to do.

You can’t talk or take photos during the bats’ exodus from the cave at dusk, and your cell phone has to be turned off. Electronics can mess with the bats’ echolocation.

And now this computer is messing with MY echolocation. It was fantastic (and so needed) to get away from the city and spend a little time out in the quiet. Stevel was glad to get back to tasty food, but today I can’t help continuing to imagine a life without the traffic, competitive pushing, and noise. I’ll have to ease back into it. Maybe I just need a little jaunt to the Third Street Promenade for some shopping—you know, to remind me why I like calling this place Home. :)

Support our National Parks!

Visual DNA

May 3rd, 2007

Read my VisualDNA     Get your own VisualDNA™

How fun! Thanks, Megan!

Jaws Ate My Woobie!

May 3rd, 2007

My sister is a mommy. Here’s how I know:

We’re IMing, just chatting along, and she ends our discussion abruptly with these three lines:

“i have to go, we are having a meltdown”
“blankie missing”
“MAN DOWN!!!!!!!!!”

Science Un-Fair

May 1st, 2007

Over the last week, these chemistries have conspired to make me insane:

[1] my usual cocktail of moodiness
[2] migraines
[3] the moon

I hide it well in the company of others, other than Stevel. (It seems only fair that if I’m going to have to have his tender skin in my face all the time—taunting me, taunting my collection of Lotion bottles—he should have to tolerate something equally difficult to endure.)

I have eaten the traditional medicinal chocolate. I am eating it right now.

I have been listening to PB&J:

“And the question is, was I more alive
then than I am now?
I happily have to disagree;
I laugh more often now, I cry more often now,
I am more me.”

You should too:

Objects of My Affection
Young Folks
Amsterdam Lyrics

The whistling is cool, no? My grandma taught me to whistle (same grandma with the bargains and the organizey drawers). We are outie whistlers. Innie whistlers seem to do better, overall, but my grandma can whistle like a champ. I did not inherit the family’s musical talents. Or the curves. But I have the best vision.

Can you whistle? Are you any good?