1 dead peacock, 2 rattlesnake encounters, 3 bearded dragons and more. A look back at my strange 2021.

Long ago a friend told me that how you spend your New Years Day is a reflection of, or sets the tone for how your year will be. True or not, I have spent most of my adult life actively avoiding being painfully hung over or in jail, just incase. This year, 2021 was no exception. I stayed home for New Years Eve, got to bed early, woke up feeling perfectly fine. Until I checked my Facebook…

2020 and 2021 have been 2 hard years on all of us to say the least. 2 years of a world wide pandemic consuming entire countries, forcing us to separate from everyone and everything. We quarantined away while we lost family and friends. We grieved alone. Jobs shifted to working from home or ended entirely. Socializing moved completely to online. Masks. Vaccines. Climate Change. The Election. Schools. Guns. Racism. All of our pain shoved to the top of the never ending Breaking News cycle. 2 Years of an entire planet feeling stressed, scared, confused, angry, hurt, isolated and filled with an overall sense of dread literally forced some of us into our very own cocoons to completely melt and come out entirely new beings.

I emerged at the end of last year from my cocoon as a nonprofit. With my love of nature and animals as strong as ever, I dedicated my unemployed self to supporting desert inspired, nature based education and safety. I named my new non profit the Desert Nature Alliance or simply the DNA.

Spending so much time alone and bored turned into going on long walks or hikes through the open desert around my home. On almost every trip I would find bones, parts of skulls or even entire animal remains. I started collecting them turning it into a small museum. I knew there was too much value and education in what I was finding and was positive it had become my calling. I started making videos of me on a hike or showing my “audience” the parts, pieces and even live animals I was finding and then posting online. This led to creating a Youtube channel “oh so Stace and the Desert Nature Alliance”.

What I had not anticipated was how my friends, family and those who followed me online would now see the newly hatched me, or more specifically, how they would treat me. Un like Instagram, Facebook calls everyone your “friend”. Instagram gives you “followers” which has always sounded like a cult to me. Youtube scares away half of your audience by using the term “subscribers” even though no one pays for a subscription. Social media has thrived through the pandemic and turned into the primary way of staying in the loop. Facebook Messenger set the tone for my 2021.

So lets go over some of the highlights of my 2021 shall we?

1 Dead Peacock: January 1 2021 one of my “friends” messaged me with hands down the most jarring statement I’ve read in sometime “Our Peacock died last night because of all of the fireworks. Do you want him for your collection otherwise I will just get rid of him.”

I sat stunned. I re read the text. A dead pet peacock? Did I want it?

Immediately my eyes filled with tears. I barely knew this friend, I’d call more of an acquaintance. Don’t get me wrong, I like this person but I am not close to her at all, just follow each other on FB. The reason I even know her is a weird story in and of itself. A few years ago I assisted her in purchasing a very large amount of glassware (50 crates worth) from a family member of mine who committed suicide last year. Odd circumstances for sure.

Now she is offering me her deceased bird? a Peacock?? New Years Day. She lives a good hour away.

Do I want it?

That is a unique question with very hard answers.

I cried. Then I walked over to my husband and cried some more. Crying because I was scared. How do I even start to tell him our plans for the day had now drastically changed. I knew in my heart I wouldn’t say no. The opportunity to have such a glorious bird on display in my tiny museum as an actual example of how bad fireworks can be was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Yet my skills in taxidermy are no where near peacock level. I mostly stay in the land of skeletons and articulation. What if I messed up? What if all the feathers fell out? This meant handling a very large dead bird. Where was I going to work on it? Why did she think of ME when this happened?

My brain was swimming through the tears.

My 2021 had started with someone else’s dead peacock. What kind of tone was THAT setting for my year to come?

An accurate one.

So much random craziness happened to me this year that I am only going to cover what I would consider the events worth reading about.

May and June became the two worst months I’ve probably ever had in my 53 years of life. Hardly a day went by without something significant or extremely scary happened to me.

Almost Drowned: On a trip floating down the Salt River my tube got caught in the strong current and pinned me into a tree branch, trapping me, beating me against trees and rocks seriously banging me up. If not for my husbands strength and ability to fling me forward I most assuredly would have drowned. My knee to this day still has issues. Terrified by almost drowning, then hearing on the local news of actual drownings in the Salt River right after, I haven’t been back tubing the river nor plan to.

Trash Talkers: At our only local grocery store one early morning during a holiday weekend I got the privilege of over hearing two clerks (male and female both older than me) who were simply standing around, openly talking massive amounts of shit about the customers that morning who had dared to complain that only self check was open. I decided to not hold my tongue. I turned around and looked the female dead in the eyes and said point blank “are you really standing here right next to me talking shit about all of us customers while we self check our own shit?” to which she promptly walked away to a register and opened up! I refuse to go back. I drive 15 minutes over to Apache Junction now and go to the Frys there.

A Bad Neighbor and Heat Stroke: During one of my solo hiking/bone collecting trips on an extremely hot Arizona day I encountered a man who I hope I never encounter again. Most everyone worries that some wild animal or a rattlesnake might hurt me. I have always said I carry my stick for protection against men. I guess folks think I am just kidding. I am not. I personally have dealt with too many of the same type of man who seems to think I enjoy their awful banter (old, angry, inappropriate white men with bellies that looks about 6 months pregnant who want to flirt with me) and I have had my fill. So there I am alone in a local wash where I tend to find parts and pieces and often see coyote and javelina when I hear a mans voice say “hello!”. I cringe and turn to see an elderly white man. I tense up. As soon as he starts talking my senses go into overdrive and I want to get away. I want nothing to do with him or his conversation that I’m positive I wont be agreeing with. Sure enough, within mere moments of meeting, his topics of choice turn quickly from the local wildlife to racist political nonsense. He informed me multiple times he was a gun owner. He used the N word. Most of what came out of his mouth I am not going to type out. I refuse. Lets just say I was NOT the female he had hoped for. My head started spinning because of the heat and now I was feeling very un easy about the situation I was in. He reached a point in his verbal vomiting I could no longer take and I wound up exploding, cussing him out like no other being in his life ever has. I know this by the look on his face when I unleashed on him. You can thank all of the men I worked with at the golf course doing maintenance for my creative cussing ability. I stomped away in my steel toe boots still cussing fully aware he just might shoot me as I told the entire planet he was a complete waste of skin.

By the time I made it home I was very close to severe heat stoke and spent a few hours vomiting and shaking. I wont go back to that area alone and now take my husband (a Marine) and the dogs (no real protection what so ever just barkers) with me.

Intruder Alert: The triple digit heat in Arizona is legendary. Summer nights can be brutal even with air-conditioning. I made the mistake of letting my guard down, thinking it was reasonably safe to prop my bedroom sliding door open with an old half screen, trying to get cooler night air to help me sleep. Menopause hot flashes seriously suck during an AZ summer.

One night I’m laying in bed and hear something hit the screen. I wear contacts and have horrible vision so I couldn’t just look over and see what was there. Again I hear the screen being pushed then I hear the grunt. It’s a Javelina at my door trying to figure out how to get in!!!! Now if you are not sure what a Javelina is ( pronounced Ha vuh leen a ) its a collard peccary. It sort of looks like a pig but not and has wiry hair and very sharp teeth. I jump up to close the door and that startles the Javi causing it to run off. I no longer prop my door open and bought 2 extra fans to keep me cool.

Rattled: Our heat brings out the snakes for a good part of the year. It is part of living in Arizona. Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are common here along with around 12 or so other species of rattlesnakes, the most species in any state. A few are even protected. We live on 3 acres of desert so seeing a snake from time to time is normal but still scary and must be handled properly. My first encounter ever with a rattler I did everything wrong, called 911 and had them send me the fire department! I have since learned more, seen a lot more and even have grabbers to move a snake if needed. But that doesn’t mean encountering a rattler no longer frightens me. They are deadly and deserve respect.

It wasn’t too long after my encounter with the old man in the wash that I had back to back encounters with rattlesnakes.

One afternoon a monsoon was heading our way with winds sending the patio furniture flying. I ran barefoot outside to grab the cushions and chairs. As I ran around the side of the house I ran straight at a WDR ( Western Diamondback Rattlesnake) trying to make its escape from the storm. We both reared back as I had equally startled the snake. I ran back inside the house to grab shoes and my phone but only managed to watch the rattler cruise down our back hillside.

The next night I slept on the couch trying to get closer to the air-conditioning. Around 4 am the dogs woke me up to go outside to pee. Instead of grabbing my glasses I simply wandered over to the back sliding door and in the pitch dark opened the door to the immediate sound of a rattle! In the dark, can’t see, obvious rattlesnake somewhere by my feet, I stood frozen in terror. The first noise to come out of me was a half scream half groan. I managed to scream for my husband who tumbled his way out of bed as I screamed “turn on the lights!” Sure as shit there was a medium sized WDR coiled on the outside of the sliding track, probably had camped out there because the metal track was cool. Once I could breathe again I got dressed and went out side and moved the snake with my grabbers.

Shock set in the next day. I was now a jumpy mess. It had all been way too much on my system in such a short period of time.

Stress, hormones, life and family took a toll on me this year. Menopause is no joke. Mood swings range from teary to hostile. I haven’t spoken to my son now in a few years. We don’t get along at all. My sister tried to contact me via FB Messenger after 20 years of silence. I told her to continue staying away. I dropped “friends” I no longer relate to. I watched my social world collapse into a pile of dust. Once outgoing and busy I now find myself alone and not that mad at it. I am hopeful new, fun loving energy comes my way but not running to find it.

3 Bearded Dragons: Online I seem to “know” more people than what my day to day life would reflect. I’ve kept in touch with lots of people I used to work with or met along the way. About 5 years ago, while volunteering at a local museum, I met Kimberly and David. Both about 10 years my senior, David was a volunteer at the train station and I worked in the barn. Kimberly didn’t volunteer but she popped by often. Nice couple. At the beginning of this year Kimberly reached out to me asking if I would do a photo shoot for them for their anniversary. I only use my phone for my pictures so I was flattered by the request and told her yes but considering I am not a professional and use an iPhone, no charge, it would be my pleasure. So in August when I got a call from Kimberly, I picked up thinking it was about the photo shoot. It was not. She was frazzled and spoke super fast. Seems things had drastically changed in their world and they were selling their home and moving back to the south to be by family. David wanted me and ONLY me to have his beloved pet bearded dragons. I went numb as she talked. Did she just say “dragons” as in plural? I had no idea they even owned bearded dragons let alone I was the God Mother to them! She continued on talking as though of course I would happily take 3 adult bearded dragons each with 75 gallon tanks! Oh and we needed to pick them up soon as the house was being shown to buyers. I got off the phone in shock, confused and totally afraid of telling my husband that not only did he need to help me with moving 3 very large tanks but that I/we were now their owners! I had no real reason for not yelling HELL NO !!! at her and simply saying it was not my problem except my heart couldn’t do that. We asked another friend for help and went and loaded up Atticus, Cate and Dino, requiring me to completely redo my living room to accommodate such large tanks with stands. In our one bedroom house we already have 2 dogs, a fish tank with a gold fish and snail, a tarantula, a gopher snake and a cat . We needed 3 bearded dragons like we need holes in our heads but they are cool and interesting enough that they quickly became family.

This is where this story takes a very sad turn. In November Kimberly’s daughter posted on Facebook that her mother had an accident at home and sadly passed away. We were simply meant to have those 3 dragons.

Though it sounds like nothing but negative happened for me in 2021 that isn’t the case at all. One afternoon we saw a gorgeous bobcat on our patio! So inspired, a bobcat study started and I was able to go volunteer with bobcats for a short time. We created pamplets for the DNA about desert safety and gave advice about the whats and wheres out here. I made tons of educational videos for my YouTube channel. My nonprofit kept me focused on what really is important to me. I love sharing my little corner of the desert with the world online or wherever. I love being outside, with all the wildlife around me. Our planet needs help. Our creatures need protection. Our friends and family need to be able to come visit my desert safely and get back home. This year again saw visitors to our Arizona trails that died while out there or needed serious assistance to get back down safely. I made a series of videos talking about drinking enough water, the heat, hiking and when to not go. My mission remains clear. I am a voice and presence out here in Gold Canyon Arizona. I may not have known I was already influencing others and making an impact as I tumbled my way through 2021 but looking back it becomes very clear that I am. The animals needed me. I guess so did some of my friends.

My final project for the year was designing a beautiful calendar for 2022 featuring my adopted/rescued desert tortoise Sherman, the mascot of the DNA. AZGF have over 100 tortoise that need homes. Part of our mission is to let the public know they can help. The peacock turned out really well and is on permanent display in my museum. Right now visiting is by invitation only but as my DNA grows so too will my workspace.

Do I have plans for New Years this year? So far no. I just wont be checking Facebook Messenger until Jan 2 2022.

Love Celebrated

To my younger ones in love, I want to share something with you.  Something that I want to help preserve. Something that I don’t want you to miss.

Traditionally friends and family would throw rice at a newly married couple as a symbol,  “showering” them with blessings of love and support as the couple started their journey together.

Styles change. Ideas change.

Rice, deemed no longer a safe option to wildlife, was replaced by confetti. Glitter and plastics created colorful and magical visual effects rice could not compete with.

But soon it was realized this type of “shower” was hard to clean up, a hassle, destructive to nature. No longer seen as a symbol of spreading blessings, confetti became banned at many places. No longer necessary as part of any celebration.

Now  everyone is  told to simply use digital celebration instead! It’s easier! It’s quicker! An emoji. A heart or two. A horn. No mess. The warmth is simply not there. Real. Tangible feelings.

LOVE is an energy. It is so powerful it has demanded that those of us who do know, remember and understand what it feels like and looks like to actually “shower love” with rice or flowers or leaves, find a way to celebrate it properly and responsibly once again.

Love is a gift. Love is shared. Love radiates.

Seek it. Cherish it. Emit it. Flow in it. Spread it. Speak it.

There is nothing wrong with feeling so wonderful in someone else presence that you are simply happy they were ever born!

YES! Celebrate the love that’s bursting out of you! Live in that moment that feels like forever! Throw flowers in the air and yell I love you! Stare into the eyes that meet your soul and don’t question it!

It is THAT feeling I can’t imagine we let slip away. Feeling so full of love and joy for another that we would toss flowers in the air!

Why is that pure emotion being suppressed ? Another rule, another limitation, another stipulation to what defines love? Give up on creating or finding that better way? Never.

I’m too rebellious to tolerate watching something  pure and good get sucked away into the land of it doesn’t matter anymore.

I saw an abundance around me and knew it was there for a reason. I felt it in my soul that this gift was not a blessing if not shared.

Celebrate love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Blame the Jetsons

In 1962 we met George Jetson… Jane his wife…his boy Elroy…daughter Judy… We watched George fly from his skypad apartments off to his job at Spacely Space Spockets. His maid was a robot. The family of the future as seen through the eyes of Hanna-Barbera.

We wanted it.

The generation that knows these cartoons and can sing the opening song is now living it. But Hanna- Barbera gave us the cartoon version.The reality isn’t as fun.

I don’t recall George crashing his flying car/saucer drunk, wrong way or even purposely driving into a group of people because he could, though in one episode they did clone him.

I don’t remember his daughter Judy glued to a device that  incouraged her to ignore her family, take a million pictures of herself, distract her driving or told her it was time to walk.

I don’t remember  floating trash or pollution in the air.

The robot maid Rosie was close.

I volunteer at a school. I see kids with computers, phones and head phones, all the latest technology. I see what 8 to 10 plus hours a day on a computer or phone or internet is doing to our kids.

Its not the Jetsons thats for sure.Image result for the jetsons

I see less and less motivation. I see kids who don’t want to read further than a sentence before they scroll let alone pick up a book. I see less and less interaction between the kids. Less laughing. Less playing outside. Just more time staring at a screen. I see boredom. I see and hear how little they truly care. I see numb.

For all that this technology has brought in terms of good and advancement, it has brought bad.

Did the Jetsons have to know someone or even see them in person to say something horrible? OUR computers allow it so it must be ok.

The Jetsons world was sterile. Pure air, clean everything. Touch a button and its yours.

Elroy didn’t have active shooter training.

What was Jane doing? She had a robot maid. She was pretty? I don’t remember anything else.

We all assumed that given advanced technology our society would become smarter. Yet I see more and more kids born into a world with technology everywhere. Covered in it, smothered in it , consumed by technology and yet struggle to achieve.

Constant advertising. Consume Consume Consume. Sit there longer. Play more games. Eat more processed snacks for the next few hours. Talk to others online only and have no empathy or concern unless they entertain you. Watch images of death and horror as long as you can stomach live by helicopter. Ride in a self driving car and let it run someone over. Fake Fake Fake. Lies lies lies. Do whatever it takes to get yourself on that screen so everyone can see… even if that means taking a life. Fame is now more important.

So, Jetsons of 1962, let me introduce you to The Jetsons  2018.  What does the Jetsons of 2074 look like?

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You need down time…”  Simple Life Suggestions from Momma Stace

 

When was the last time you went a few days completely without your phone or any internet… on purpose?

Yes, I just said “days” and “on purpose”. For me it was a few weeks ago. This particularly shitty Saturday at my job pushed me to the point where I simply handed my phone to my husband and said, “Do not give me this back until Tuesday.” then walked away.

The expectation that you should always be attached to a phone, available and ready to respond immediately is now the norm. Society is on permanent heightened alert.  Stay tuned.

My advice as Momma Stace? I say a person needs “down time”. A break. No, not a weekend on the couch with endless video games or binge watching the latest. No, when I say down time I mean real time to rest, gather thoughts, find balance, perspective, replenish etc. Shake off the dust. Step off life’s spinning wheel for a few. Get back to the real you.

Down Time.

Giving yourself permission to take the necessary time to make real decisions and not respond based solely on emotions. Allowing yourself the needed space before internal and external pressures mount into a full eruption.

It seems as though having that real, heart to heart, gut wrenching debate with yourself of, “Should I?” as a concept and basic lifestyle rule, has been obliterated on the information superhighway. No soul searching! No stopping to pause!

You are to Answer NOW! Respond NOW! Why don’t you have your phone?!?!

Our gadgets hum. The roads hum. Our refrigerators hum. Never-ending humming of useless information coming at us from radios, tvs, computers. So much humming we are becoming numb.

Uncomfortably numb to the hum.

Selective hearing engaged at all times. Multi-task or die. Keep on keepin’ on. Long term this can’t possibly be good for our species. We already see the harsh effects…streamed continuously online.

So why does the mere thought of walking away from your phone cause anxiety? Reasons, excuses really, running rampant through your mind…

See kids, back in Momma Stace’s day, no one had this problem because everyone left the house without a phone. We did it all the time. Moms yelled when it was time to come inside. We walked or rode bikes sometimes miles to find out if a friend could hang out much less hear any gossip. Yet somehow, we managed and lived to tell the tale.

I say this to you as Momma Stace. I’m not that old but having lived life in both the worlds before and after Apple Computer, technology has come with blessings and curses my loves.

Please explain to me how these phones are not a corporation inspired, greed driven, mass produced addiction. Now, all photos and music and memories are controlled and stored. Conversations have become shortened into terse texts messages. Someone else’s lame words and phrases repeated so many mind-numbing times, stuffed into your subliminal memorization you have no choice but to sing along. Line after line of repetitive, unwanted, throbbing, beating into that dizzy, smoke filled bar being passed off as your brain. The room spins as it gets smaller and smaller. It’s out of control!Somebody open the door and let some fresh air in here!

Momma Stace’s advice is to step away from it. Shut everything off. Get you some down time. You will be able to actually FEEL the silence. I promise, quickly, you will realize you are still able to sustain life without your T-Mobile sized appendage.

There is enormous power in shutting everything off.

In a world like ours where visions of every horror imaginable can be found at lightening speed, in vivid color and sound, where literally every human on earth of any level of intelligence can comment on any subject with no regards for the truth, decency or respect to any set of universally recognizable morals, yet behave as if every single one of those thoughts, desires or demands matter, the off switch is an act of pure sweet rebellion.

Turn the control switch off.

Somewhere in the silence is the answer, your answer. Find it in the down time. You need some down time.

…it’s about the animals

I knew I had a calling for the Superstition Mountain Museum right away. My first walk around the property where Apacheland Movie Ranch once stood, just minutes from my house, left me with a such a strong personal experience that I wrote about it, photographed it and then went to the Museum and Volunteered.

Believing my calling must have something to do with that certain time in movie history, I watched the Elvis movie Charro! twice every shift so I would know the details and could explain why we had the Chapel on the Museum grounds.IMG_0001.JPG

I began learning the history, ordered the tshirt (seen above in picture) listened to  the stories and even met a few actors who had filmed there. I learned about Pasty Montana, first female country artist to sell a million copies of her single “I want to be a Cowboys Sweetheart” and the men who found her lost foot prints. I tell every girl I meet about her so we don’t lose valuable female history.IMG_0168.JPG

Though extremely comfortable in this “Historic Old West” style land I was now immersing myself in, I knew in my heart I wasn’t the right puzzle piece…not yet.

Then in April and May I met my first rattlesnake, then my second…my third…my fourth. And though my enthusiasm was still in full swing for Charro! happily playing on the mini T.V. in the General Store, my tales of snake encounters were what was truly exciting my guests. Such a common question “Do you see snakes out here?” I simply would tell the truth and show pictures.IMG_0397

I offered to work on Fridays inside the main museum gift shop. I wanted to learn more and the barn wasn’t going to help teach me to become a Docent. No, my dear friend James “Jim” Swanson and a few others would teach me and had already offered.IMG_4202.JPG

When I asked my boss Jeff aka “Crispy” about becoming a Docent, he handed me a few pages stapled together with something that had been reprinted multiple times. My eye sight is so bad I strained and with my usual tact said, “What the hell is this?

( Jeff aka “Crispy” with our self appointed Union Leader Karen)IMG_4789 (1).JPG

Long story short, the manual had been a work in progress and a really good one at that, but my buddy Jim’s health issues got in the way and time had passed. Could I fix it?

What better way to learn all about something then to read and write about it? I would change no words just update, add my pictures and learn a ridiculous amount of history with the help of an amazing few Docents we have.

But once I started working inside the gift main shop, I quickly realized I hardly belong near expensive one of a kind pottery that I know nothing about. Or the amazing jewelry I don’t wear. It’s not me.IMG_1430

Instead I would hover by the animal exhibit. With my Phoenix Zoo background, being born and raised desert and now living in crazy town Gold Canyon photographing every critter possible plus my recent snake encounters with pictures, I was right at home.

Then it happened.

I hear excited shouts over by our side patio. A grandmother, mother and child have their faces pressed up to the glass “Baby Roadrunners!”

Now to be honest, and I have two resident roadrunners on my property that I see regularly, I cannot say I have ever seen a “baby” roadrunner in the wild in my life. If there are baby roadrunners on the museum patio I’m running over there with my camera (iPad).

What I see when I look out are nothing more than what, for lack of a better term and it doesn’t matter anyways, I am going to call generic desert birds. Not baby roadrunners. I attempt to use my zoo training and go to tell them these are not in fact baby roadrunners but are…

I get a mad Grandma insisting that those are indeed baby roadrunners and they have them all over their property! Hmph!!

No, you don’t have baby roadrunners all over your property you nit wit is what I wanted to say but I smiled and said, “Oh really? Nice.” and walked away.

Later, same day, I over hear someone who should know better say a Javelina was a rodent. (uh…no)

A small pop happened at the base of my skull. It’s the animals! Duh! I love animals! My favorite part of being at the zoo was helping bridge the gap between the general population and the animals. My local animals obviously need the same help!

I go to Crispy and tell him I have an idea. I made an “animal fun facts” sheet, could we post it so our guests could learn a bit more? Much to my happiness it was received so well from our Museum Queen and leader Liz that it was mounted on the exhibit!

Then I ask about the display. If you know me this is not a surprise. I’m going to want more. Can I get more snakes? A jackrabbit? Turkey Vulture? What can we do? I am told to call the taxidermist but I make Crispy do it.

Between my personality and the taxidermist…let’s just say more than a few people were excited to see us meet. Fascinated by anyone with this career I couldn’t wait. We hit it off beautifully.

My enthusiasm and respect for the animals met a talented, artistic and unique man more than generous in spirit and kindness who understood my collecting of dead animals I find. I have been told he claims to have visited other places outside of this planet. I will be grabbing my spoon for those tales. If someone is smart they would film us chatting.

Starting in August I will be doing Animal Fun Fact talks in front of the exhibit we have at the Superstition Mountain Museum! From 10-2 I will hang out on Saturdays and share as much as they will let me!

I am also still in the process of helping update the Docent Manual they currently have with more information and pictures. Jim is always my helper as my legitimate historian. A walking tour handout for the inside of the museum I am just finishing up and hope our guests will soon enjoy.IMG_4474.JPG

I contribute to the monthly newsletter “In the Loop” by creating a way to introduce the volunteers to one another called “have you met…?”. When you have over 200 volunteers it’s easy to feel like you don’t know anyone. Trust me, I’m going to include everyone! My least favorite thing on the planet are people who exclude others.

I have come a long way since becoming a volunteer a year ago. I cannot wait to see what this next year brings. It’s going to be awesome. Come see me. I’ll show you around.IMG_0701

…just sayin’

Dropping off a tourist determined to hike up Camelback Mountain during an excessive heat warning should be illegal. “We took a shuttle from our hotel!” shouted clueless who looked directly into the t.v. camera yesterday and exclaimed “We aren’t from around here!”

Really?  Because your flushed white skin, your half empty 8oz. bottle of flavored water and the fact that it was 2 in the afternoon wasn’t a giveaway. I still have a twinge on my left side of my face from that eye roll.

Right there on the evening news last night, as reporters gleefully announced we did it again! we broke records with our extreme heat of 119 in PHX! so hot that planes cannot land and must be diverted!  interviews with people who have no business even being outside in this heat let alone hiking in it.

There are Park Rangers now stationed out on the more popular trails trying to stop the madness, handing out water and sound advice but mostly getting ignored. Local news camera crews sit in air conditioned vans, waiting patiently to film the next “over eager to prove us all wrong that it’s not too hot” group walking up to a sweaty and frustrated  fully uniformed Park Ranger…

“Breaking News! Hikers ignore all warnings and climb up Camelback anyways despite record breaking heat!” “Breaking News! Rescuers called to retrieve stranded hiker…”

Camelback is not an easy hike. Stop lying locals, you know it’s not easy, it’s a couple of hours round trip of deadly hot during this time of year. I can tell you from experience, if you pick the wrong time of day and put the wrong fuel in your body, you can plan on a severe headache and vomiting if a hospital visit isn’t required. And don’t think you can just wander off and create your own trail up there, you will be lucky to live or even be found.

Oh, and be thankful your hotel had you dropped off at Camelback and not Four Peaks like you asked because you thought you could get a beer after your hike.

Honestly you will find hikers on the local mountain trails everyday regardless of the weather. I have been on Piestewa/Squaw Peak and had a man at least 20 years my senior run by me carrying hand weights! Ok, this is also the type of person who does it regularly, lives here and can rescue your dumb ass for even trying it in the heat.

I call Squaw Peak the stair master.

Uh, so hey, non-local, non desert tourist types, we are not impressed that you came here at the worst time of the year possible to show all of us your incredible athletic abilities or lack of. My heart sinks knowing that at a minimum, 4 to 5 of our rescuers will be sent to risk their lives because of you, your lack of respect to us, the heat and our desert.

We are not amused to see you holding your diet coke and arrogantly claiming how you hike all the time.

Let’s be honest. We can LOOK at you and know you are not in shape for doing anything in this extreme heat. Have you ever met anyone who trains or purposely does their workout outside, in 100 degrees plus temperatures with 5% humidity regularly? The intense kind of work out required to be able to rescue hurt individuals?

They seem to have much less fat deposit under their skin,  wear better shoes  have less air in their heads and carry more water…

 

 

 

 

 

Poking the Bear

I call it poking the bear. Keep at it, just keep it up long enough till the bear reacts. Then blame the bear.

Oh, you may not poke but you will damn sure watch. You have to see what happens…played out on every screen…repeated until memorized.

Innocently watching, secretly cheering. Just a spectator…

Why! Oh! why do these things happen?!? asks the microphone shoved into the face of shock and fear. More concerned with hearing the grief stricken response than waiting for a more appropriate time. Can’t stop filming long enough to be human, that’s not the job. Show every last detail while it’s still fresh all the while knowing the shelf life has already expired

The impact never lasts long for those watching from afar. Boredom sets in immediately after the feast. Comfortable and numb staring at a screen, big or small…waiting…do something…entertain me. Someone go poke a bear.

The hunt for the next “thing” becomes almost robotic…scrolling…surfing…searching.

What is it, this intangible thing that innocent souls cry for? The thing that comes and makes “it” all better? Why hasn’t “it” arrived? What else needs to happen? Who will be first to see and tell us all about “it”?

The cries grow louder demanding change yet the screens stay on. The seats stay filled. The spectacle no longer confined to the Coliseum. The world is the stage and we are watching from every angle, commenting, reviewing, waiting…

Who next will enter for our entertainment!?!

Thumbs up or down?

Who is next to poke the bear?

Remember what the wise man said…there’s nothing to fear…

It is so easy to give a “thumbs up” to the quote “Do what you are afraid of.” The most popular of the overused yet under realized current online “positive messages”.

I include myself in the group of individuals who have kicked themselves out of a self-imposed safety zone and stepped into the land of fear.

Do not for a moment confuse this with recklessness.

Fear comes in all forms. Confronting fear does not always include a danger to your personal safety. Speaking in public can be as debilitating for some as the rattlesnakes I face.

Due to the pride I feel, the free education I receive, the friendships I have formed and sense of community that comes from volunteering at the Superstition Mountain Museum, I will not give up  simply because the reality of where I will be doing it might be unsettling.

Volunteering in the barn requires me to face my greatest fear as a life-long desert kid. I will see live rattlesnakes on a regular basis.

The quote “Oh someone else will do it.” should actually be what gets hundreds of those easily given “thumbs up” online.

“Someone else” seems to live in a magic land “somewhere” and shows up magically when everyone else decides not to bother or care.

You see, magic individuals moved the barn I stand in piece by piece over to the museum. Each slat of wood numbered so it could be rebuilt exactly as it was before fire destroyed everything around it. The barn holds memories I am now proud to help protect.IMG_0701

For free.

Why should I get paid to stand in that amazing old barn for a few hours every Saturday? In an air-conditioned shop, selling trinkets and ice cream and watching Elvis, why should I receive anything when around me are people who don’t and have given so much more?

Because there are rattlesnakes and “someone else” can do it.

Well guess what?

No, there isn’t a line of eager people who can seem to give a few hours of their time. Nope. Too busy. Plenty of excuses. Someone else can.

My most recent encounter with a very aggressive rattler had a profound effect on me physically once it was all over. I don’t want you to think for a moment it didn’t.

Facing your fear is bigger and means so much more than a stupid “thumbs up” from a stranger online.

As evil as I can be at times, being completely alone facing a rattler who has reared back is not anything I would wish upon anyone.

Blessed with a combination of born and raised desert instincts, prior Zoo training and being a Mom, fear stepped into another realm so focus could slide in. Though I was alone, the Museum grounds were not closed, so an unsuspecting person could walk up at any time and I can guarantee they will be wearing flip flops. The rattler was in direct route of me getting help and at the entrance to the barn. My boss was not answering his phone so once the rattler settled back down and started to move on,IMG_0392.JPG I made the decision to RUN as fast as I could to get help while still trying to watch the snake to see where it would go into the Blacksmiths area. I am the only one who knows where this loaded weapon is and I have to get help and get back over there before a child finds it.

In steel toe boots I am a blur across the desert.img_8533

When all was said and done, I sat in my car to go home and I burst into tears. I am not for a moment going to let you think I am some non-feeling desert robot. I got home and threw up. The reality of what I had dealt with, including a sandal wearing idiot who insisted upon leaning over the wooden Blacksmiths counter to take a picture of a loudly rattling snake before the Fire department could arrive, had set in. This man was really lucky I used my stick to move him back and not knock him up side the head with it.IMG_0397

It took hours for me to feel relatively normal again.

Now after that story, not even complete with all of the details, and knowing this was my third straight week in a row of facing a rattler, I am positive there are plenty of you who would say I have every reason to not go back.

Except I am needed and qualified. And as it turns out I am one of those “someone else” who can be counted on to show up not because she’s getting paid but because she said she would and picked up a few more shifts because no one else did.

“Do what you fear…”

So, what are you afraid of really? Less time in front of the T.V? Less computer time for you to give a “thumbs up”? Weight loss?

Afraid of an ounce of inconvenience? A minute of un comfort?

Are  you afraid to sweat?

Or are you afraid I am talking honestly and directly to you and you now feel a need to answer…well don’t. I’m not looking for your thumbs up or your why.

I have two shifts this week…you can put money on it I will see at least one rattler.

Remember what the wise man said…there’s nothing to fear…

Ignore All Warnings

Ignore all the warning signs. Ignore the suggestions. Don’t read any signs. Go about your day oblivious to your surroundings only concerned with your own personal immediate happiness.IMG_0694

I’m starting to not care anymore. I’m starting to hope you suffer the consequences.

No, not a healthy mindset is it? But it’s true. For every eye roll I have received, for every “oh I know”, for every mock laugh I have heard when giving out honest words of encouragement and safety, I now hold a special place in my evil little heart.

I wear boots while working in a barn for a reason. We post signs about rattlesnakes for a reason. IMG_0322We suggest you stay on the trails for a reason. We tell you to drink water for a reason.

But you insist upon shuffling your way through the desert with tiny flip flops, open toed sandals, even high heels.IMG_0549 You proudly tell me your plans to hike at one in the afternoon to a destination you haven’t even arrived at and it’s already 90 degrees. You carry a bottle of Diet Coke and tell me you know all about staying hydrated.

You have no idea there is not a gas station for miles if you continue on the road you are on or that reckless driving on that same road helped three cars go off the cliff last weekend. So yeah, go ahead and check  Google maps on your phone.

Continue being dismissive to friendly locals who just might know a thing or two. The ones that suggested closer, shorter trails. Only partially listen to the those who have the desert ability to rescue you when you get lost.IMG_2092

Don’t take a second out of your oh so busy and important life to hear that if you take two more steps forward you will get impaled by the cactus you aren’t paying any attention to.IMG_1739.JPG

Don’t smile or be considerate as you travel. Don’t say thank you or please. Openly make fun of the things and people around you. Oh, and be sure to throw your plastic tooth pick right on the ground. No need to locate a trash can…IMG_6425.JPG

I love the desert I live in.

I will continue to protect it and offer words of wisdom from an honest and pure heart only looking to keep you safe.

…roll your eyes…you’re on your own…

I’m a believer

In 1979 I’m nine years old. Sony releases the “Walkman” making  personal portable music a real thing. President Carter has solar panels installed on the White House showing the world the United States was using the Sun to collect energy. My family has a microwave to zap our food just like on the Jetsons and I blow up hot dogs in it regularly. I have seen the original Star Wars in the theater at least ten times by this point and now believe all things, including mind blowing space fighter jets, are possible.

Technology is amazing.

I have lived most of my life in the hottest parts of the United States. Born in Las Vegas, raised in the deserts of S.California and now in Arizona. I have asked this question my entire life “Why are we not covered in solar panels by now? There is plenty of open desert. We could power the whole United States with the amount of sunshine we get!” (still with the enthusiasm of my nine year old self)

PBS recently aired this amazing show about scientists using origami folding patterns to send huge, complicated and ridiculously expensive equipment into space. Trust, we have the technology.

Then just the other day I hear the current president talking about coal and using coal. It’s 2017. Coal? Really? I know so little about coal that the first thing that pops into my head is Derek Zoolander complaining about the black lung after less than a day in the mines.

Coal? Isn’t mining dangerous and bad for the workers? Isn’t burning coal bad and causes pollution? The argument in favor says it’s cheaper we will always need to use coal and well, see, there’s new technology…

Imagine that.

I am not familiar with the hazards of solar panels. Nor am I familiar with any deaths caused by solar panels, the collapsing and trapping of workers or the pollution solar creates. Honestly, I have never heard of anyone dying because of their solar panel. But as I type that I am aware that somewhere out there, Uncle Bob decided to install his own solar panel he got half priced at the swap meet and fell off the roof carrying it and his six pack. That doesn’t count.

I am fully aware there are parts of our country that have had industries leave destroying once thriving communities. I still believe all things are possible. Why can’t we get over any hurdles in the way of moving us forward? We have the technology.

People have to be trained to go work in a dangerous mine. Explain to me why those same people can’t be taught a different, safer, better system where they can breathe fresh air?

Coal is the only way? Yeah so was my 8 track player 50 years ago.

thoughts on the line

During the final walk-through of buying our house from Gerd and Elwood, Gerd handed me her old bag of clothes pins. Much more than a simple gesture, she looked in my eyes with a knowing I understood and needed what she was really giving me.

I love how sheets smell when they have been hung on the line outside to dry. Fresh. Crisp. Extra clean from the wind blowing away bad dreams and nights of restless sleep that would have been trapped inside the dryer. The bed feels amazing the first night you climb in with line dried sheets.

The clothes line is on the side yard of our house and is part of an area I claimed as mine immediately. Everything about that side is just a little off…slightly odd but to me in a good way. The curve of the paths, the untouched clusters of aloe next to the extremely large and groomed agave along with a wonderful work space/gazebo that’s just high enough off the ground to have god only knows what living under it with slats open just enough that I might get a quick glance.

(I have shed snake skin I found over there)

Hanging clothes or sheets on the line is no joke and fairly labor intensive especially when the line is not just a foot away from the washer.

See, Gerds’ old bag holds magic, not just old wooden dried out clothes pins. It’s the kind of magic that takes the breeze coming off the Superstition Mountain and blows memories and long forgotten smells, taking me to my grandmas back yard.

Flashes of family sweep through with images of a woman standing at a clothes line. You do the laundry. It’s what you do. Your back and shoulders feel it the next day. Hopefully you don’t have another round of laundry to hang up so you can give your body a break because there are plenty more chores to do inside. Dreaming, as worn fingers turn down corners of fabric held in place with a wooden pin,  one day someone would create a way to make this work easier.

Oh, the luxuries we have and take for granted today. Think fabric softener.

I am blessed. I have a washer and dryer inside my house. I don’t have to hang my clothes or my sheets outside. I do it because I dare say I enjoy it.

(Even writing that I dodged the slap upside my head from my long since passed Italian Grandma…“ENJOY it?!?!”)

Hanging the laundry on the line forces you to go outside. Going outside is never a bad thing and honestly, I don’t usually need to be forced.

Going outside means I must stop doing whatever work that, in this busy, stress filled life we all lead, I thought was more important than getting to climb into clean crisp line dried sheets at the end of the day.

It put’s everything back into perspective for me. It connects me and I feel it to my core. The wind blows and I am no longer alone at the line. I have a deeper appreciation. An awareness of all that I truly have and the women in my life who did not.

Line drying requires from me the strength to carry heavy and wet laundry in a basket. The old wooden pins test my patience as they randomly break and go flying when I’m trying to clip them on. Multitasking and timing are a must in order to get a load hung and dried before the next one is ready or before the sun goes down.

I  breathe fresh air and enjoy the sunshine all while my power bill goes down dramatically.

(Insert a very happy husband face upon seeing the low electricity bill then a worried and confused husband face wondering if I’m ok. I am to make sure I only hang clothes on the line if I want to because I already work really long hours at home.I am told I am loved and respected for all that I do.)

Grandma, we have come a long way. Thank You and Gerd for reminding me.

The Need to Prune

Defined as cutting away dead or overgrown branches and stem, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.

Removing superfluous or unwanted parts.

There are times when the noise from the TV gets to me and I need to go do yard work. Living out at the base of the Superstition Mountain surrounded by this much beauty and peace it’s easy to pretend all is wonderful in the world… but we all know better.

This morning I chose to keep the TV off. No internet news either. I have seen enough politics, car chases, robberies, crashes, shootings and more yuck.

No what I need to do is grab my wagon and tools and go prune.image

The big blue sky just starting to warm up, the birds tweeting and chirping, the dogs finding things to sniff, the new morning air fresh and clean.

The first few snips my wrists feel stiff but soon I get going. I can feel the tree thanking me for clearing out its branches so it can breathe. Now it’s not sending extra valuable energy to wasted areas.

I feel the same. With every snip I feel the emotions I carry go away little by little. The pent up worries, fears, anger, all the things we hold inside now flopping onto the ground as a removed thorny branch completely unwanted.

A few more snips and I can see through the clogged branch to the next. I can get to the bad patches easier now that I’m not being overwhelmed with thorns coming from every direction.image

The scrapes on my arms I don’t even feel. The tree and I are happy. We feel the freedom, that heavy weight is coming off.

There’s a scene in my all-time favorite movie “Mommie Dearest” where Joan Crawford played by the brilliant Faye Dunaway is so mad she goes and just hacks her way through her roses! Pruning gone mad! She’s in an evening gown! I eat up that scene with a spoon. I love it. I get it.

Todays need to prune didn’t stem from anger. Some days my brain just feels full. It needs to be pruned. I can’t create, enjoy or share love if I’m full. I have to empty or snip off the unneeded or unwanted.

I finish up the tree and take a step back. I don’t feel the same need inside anymore. The tree no longer needs me either. Both of us are now standing taller.IMG_0771.JPG

Jethro and some magic oil…

For a variety of reasons, I don’t sleep very well. Caffeine, too many pillows on the bed, an overactive brain, random middle of the night Javelina visits. Sleep for me comes in broken up pieces. I’m positive it’s not considered healthy but I still seem to manage.

The biggest obstacle stopping me from getting a full night’s sleep is a 17-year-old dog named Jethro. My J-dog.

We have had him since he was a puppy. Matter of fact he just slept through his 18th Christmas! He is family. I call him my love dog.img_0020

At one point in his life he was sharp, fast, obviously intelligent. One of those dogs that people stop you and want to know what he is. Most common question being is he a wolf of some sort? No, Jethro is a white pure bred Shiba Inu we got from begging an old friend whose pair had their final litter.

Now, at 17, he has lost that sharpness. Confusion looms in its place. No longer happy on a leash, no longer the center of attention walking along the beach, no longer interested in being pet by strangers. This from a dog who I marveled at for the endless patience he had for a little neighbor boy who would come by regularly to sit and torment, I mean “pet” Jethro.img_0596

Everyone loves Jethro. He’s a good dog.

Like most of us as we age, the need to pee comes frequently. Oh sure, I could put in a doggie door and hope that my basically senile old dog bangs his head around enough to find his way in or out at night, but instead I wake at the slightest jingle of his collar. I’m not going to let my very old man of a dog go it alone at this stage of his life.

We live on a hill. Early one morning right after we moved here last May, I was in the kitchen making coffee and looked out the window to see Jethro, wobbly legged, trying to lift one to pee and rolled right down the hill! I ran outside barefoot, t-shirt and underwear, still waking up, to find a very confused dog on the side of the hill, unhurt and unfazed because well, he’s not all there anymore. ( Full original posted June 27, 2016 “Monday Morning”)

He now has a fenced area he goes to in the back.

I talked to my doctor about how in the last year my lack of sleep was affecting me. Being an animal lover herself she understood what I was dealing with and suggested I go natural. Agreed.

My daughter Chase gave me a few tiny bottles of oils and said all I would need to do is put a couple of drops of “Vetiver” on my skin and that should do the trick. I had never heard of it, did no research, and honestly didn’t care what it was if it would get me some rest.

Tiny drops of this thick oil on my temples and my brain settles. Tiny drops on Jethro’s nose and he gets sound rest as well. Neither one of us are going to get 8 hours straight but what rest I am getting has been significantly better. I’ve heard him snore.img_0178

Don’t worry, I don’t sell the stuff. I didn’t even pay for the tiny bottle I have so I can’t tell you if it’s expensive or not, but I know it doesn’t take much at all. Drops, barely. I don’t even care if it’s just all in my head and I just “think” it’s working, neither does Jethro.

Just sharing that I have found something that is pretty simple and that seems to make a big difference. Look it up. Vetiver.

It’s helping me and Jethro quite a bit.

Capture My Arizona

Growing, changing, recreating me here in Gold Canyon has been nothing short of scary and painful. Unwilling to limit myself to what had been available, I set out to make some serious changes in my world determined to find what I was looking for before it was too late and my time was through.

Small battles I wage against myself daily. Can my mental withstand what it is going to take to move to the next level? Or will I become weak and give up, turning around with my tail between my legs defeated? Will the harsh reality of what it takes to make real change stop me?

Well that answer is no. NO! Hell no. I’m just too old, too stubborn and to determine to not live a life that wasn’t meant for me. I have a purpose. We all do.

Not exactly sure my purpose has a specific title, I run towards it anyways. The fire inside too strong to ignore I just continue on, knowing that I know for once it is right.

Fear consumes every second but it will not control me. I’m starting to believe it’s what drives me. My talents will be found and put to use where they belong. I know it.

My journey has taken me into territory so foreign I barely speak the language but seem to get by with my smile and goodwill. The generosity of spirit, love, and energy to continue on sent to me from across the globe is astounding. To think my energy and love was received and felt a world away via the internet is powerful. Even if it went to one person it was worth the effort.

PBS has a contest for photos of Arizona. http://www.capturemyarizona.com They pick the best photos and put them on the T.V screen behind their information. Beautiful pictures from some really amazing photographers.

Everything in my life right now is about taking that extra step to see just what might happen if I did. So I wrote down the information and went to look at my collection of pictures I have taken since I started all of this.

Fear screamed at me so loud I almost fell out of my chair. “What? A contest? You can’t be serious. You use an iPad. Have you seen the photos on the website? Seriously?”

But my heart said do it. So what if they don’t like any of your pictures? YOU DO.IMG_1635.JPG

I refused to put out the ones that I saw as my best work. So damaged from life, I hold special things very close. I could handle the rejection if it wasn’t my “best” work. I could give them “really good”. So I did.IMG_2498.JPG

No I didn’t win anything. I just put my pictures up a couple of days ago. But the community of photographers that have viewed me in the two days I have been in the contest have been nothing short of amazing. Votes and likes and loves and positive comments came from out of nowhere at me. People who have no idea just how hard it was for me to get to the point that any of this was possible.IMG_2282

I can live through the uncertainty. I can create scared. I can create through tears. What I can’t seem to do is stop. So I won’t.