Trying Korean Corn Dogs in Arizona because of British 8th Graders

One day while mindlessly scrolling through YouTube latest suggestions I landed on a video who’s title alone sucked me in immediately. “British 8th Graders try Korean Corndogs for the first time”. Intrigued, I had to find out what made a corn dog Korean.

I am desert born and raised. I live in Gold Canyon Arizona. Tucson is known for a Sonoran Dog but that’s an entirely different meal altogether and it definitely wouldn’t stay on a stick very well. I’m very familiar with Hot Dog on a Stick, the 1980s style mall food famous for young pretty girls in goofy uniforms doing crazy pogo like moves while making buckets of fresh lemonade. They made really yummy fresh coated, fresh fried corndogs I would dip into half ketchup half mustard. They also made “cheese on a stick” but rarely, if ever, did I eat one. I don’t tend to go to the fair but on those occasions that I have I didn’t enjoy the oversized over coated over priced semi warm ones I bought.

As I watched the video I could tell immediately the coating on these Korean corn dogs came with a really nice crunch. Being a big fan of fried foods, they had me at that irresistible crunchy sound. The British boys with their cute manners giggled realizing these magic corn dogs were covered in sugar! Personally my brain exploded at the thought that someone finally heard my prayers and put salt and fried and sweet and meat and hot sweet dipping sauces all on a stick! Hallelujah sugar coated corndogs!!! Genius!

I grew jealous as I watched the boys devour their corndogs with delight. My last corndog from Sonic was so awful and misshapen from what looked like they put it in a panini press I didn’t eat it. I refuse to buy the frozen ones. There is no Weinerschnitzle around here and they don’t put sugar on their corndogs anyways. No, these special sugary hotdog on a stick treats were something I needed to try!

Maybe it’s an American thing, I don’t know , but my brain was pretty confident that even though I was in the middle of one of the hottest deserts on the planet, no where even remotely near Korea, I would be able to find a legit Korean Corndog if I Googled it.

In Mesa!

I might be in Arizona but yes of course the Valley of the Sun has Korean Corndogs in multiple locations! We chose Mesa for our first try.

We stood at the outdoor sign for a minute trying to decide but figured let’s just go inside and look around.

Dipping Combos

Cheese Mustard. I can say it over and over but it still doesn’t seem to make sense. Cheese Mustard.

I tend to chat with whoever is helping me either at the counter or the server who takes the order when it’s my first time and I’m really not sure what to get. I want to enjoy my experience. Sometimes just hearing what is or isn’t on an item helps me decide. The young lady that helped us was great. Obviously it was our first time by our gawking at the menu but she didn’t call us out on it! I truly hate staff that condescendingly ask “is this your first time?” No, I eat daily. I am at fault for being too preoccupied with corndogs and fillings to catch her name so please excuse the random ways I’m referring to such a sweet girl. She aimed us at the ones that were half cheese half hotdog, one original, one with potatoes on the outside, so we could get a sample of quite a few varieties and dipping choices. A great way to get started! We chose bottled water as our drink. Keep the liquid simple so all the new flavors could shine.

Where to start first ?

I decided to try my first bite with no sauces. Hot gooey cheese comes stretching out of the crispy sugary coating nothing like a standard corn dog coating at all. My mouth is at first confused then wants to smile. Textures and flavors seem to go together when they shouldn’t? The Siracha and Mayo dipping sauce made the most sense to me so I went for it. Sugar, Siracha, Cheese, Salt, Crunchy , Chewy Cheese… eyes close.

I yank the stick out and flip my sugar coated wonder over to get to the hot dog side.

Next up was the corndog with the potatoes and sugar on the outside. I really liked the potatoes and hotdog combo. The stretchy cheese becomes too much for me but I also didn’t have a beer. That might be the game changer for me and the cheese.

One Korean corndog was more than enough to fill me up. The prices were very affordable. Would I go back to Myungrang? Absolutely. The staff were friendly, the place was clean, the food was fun and yummy at a price you can afford. Next door a new dessert place is going in! That’s reason enough to make a trip back over to Mesa.

Entertainment while you wait for your corndogs!
Yummmmmmm

Emotionally What It’s Like to See a Rattlesnake

youtube.com/watch

https://youtu.be/ZWjbsEIARTs

I would love it if you popped over to my YouTube channel Oh So Stace and the Desert Nature Alliance for this video and more. I started making videos to work on my public speaking at first but started to enjoy it more and more. The education I can share for free and in my own style with no editing feels liberating! My channel has over 400 videos now. Some are of me sharing my desert love and safety tips, but most are of the wildlife living here in Gold Canyon Arizona. https://youtu.be/ZWjbsEIARTs

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

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

https://adesertviewwstace.com/2021/12/17/1-dead-peacock-2-rattlesnake-encounters-3-bearded-dragons-and-more-a-look-back-at-my-strange-2021/
— Read on adesertviewwstace.com/2021/12/17/1-dead-peacock-2-rattlesnake-encounters-3-bearded-dragons-and-more-a-look-back-at-my-strange-2021/

Is there Something in the Water? The Rise of the Full Bellied Man

If you ask anyone currently living on this planet “whose body has had the most influence on women?” before you could finish your sentence, answers starting with a K would come flying at you! And I would argue rightfully so. Whether it is Kim or Kylie, Kendall, Khloe or Kravis (🖤) they all can easily be identified as influential bodies. Tiny waists, full curves. Magazine cover worthy bathing suit bodies that women across the globe envy and pursue at all costs.

But when it comes to men, who would you say has their attention? What male form is thrust at the young men of Instagram or Tic Tock destroying their self esteem? Who has the body men are starting to emulate en masse?

Real Store Mannequins

Shape wear for women is nothing new. Pain is part of beauty right? Corsets to shrink your waist, push up bras, padding here and there, women have been amateur contortionist since the dawn of time . Foot binding anyone?

Foot Binding. Remember this photo always ladies. Never. Again.

All for one main purpose of attracting attention, sexual attention. To be considered wanted, desired, the ultimate female. Modern science has given us ways to make our boobs bigger or smaller, bubble that butt, suck out fat and move it else where, insert, lift, tuck , you name it ladies, if you got the cash or are willing to travel, we can get it done! Bathing suit worthy body baby !!Just in time for summer! If you are especially brave enough to order a K bathing suit made with the sheerest fabric ever, god love ya 👑👍 I’m sticking with more industrial strength supportive material! I ride water slides, I don’t wear heels to the pool.

Pool worthy 🖤👑 me

Most of us women come no where near K level of air brushed photo enhanced hotness but we try. Look around and you will find no shortage of fake eye lashes, excessively long dagger nails, high heels or overly lined lips in the general Walmart shopping female population. No matter the height weight age color, ladies are giving us looks👑

But men have gone a different direction it seems. No shape wear brand flooding the male market. No sir! Men have gone aggressively the opposite direction from fit and fabulous!! Stretched t shirts, bellies hanging over the belt, flip flops with toes that can climb a tree. We won’t call this latest look “grunge” , no that was an actual style , attitude and music all it’s own. I’m not sure who is leading this latest sloppy, pregnant looking male effort.

I guarantee it’s not Chris Hemsworth nor was it his name who you shouted out!

Though Chris ( can I call you Chris ?) is obviously putting in the same amount of effort and dietary restrictions any K does in making his body as close to perfection as he can, he is not being emulated anywhere near to the same degree by his fellow man . Why not boys? His body is million dollar Hollywood budget movie star worthy. Find a flaw. Go ahead, let’s all scan his photo for the next 5 minutes and see what we find!

Lately when I go anywhere, more often than not, there is an abundance of men with what appears to be a pregnant style belly! The complete opposite of what Chris has! So if he or his body is NOT what the average male is striving for, who’s body is it? Shouldn’t this full bellied leader be out and proud and have the same spotlight and scrutiny any K has? Is he some hidden secret? Where are his magazine covers? When did he start making this kind of influence on the male form? The Dad Bod was no longer good enough??? Apparently a fuller male belly is now the trend.

Sorry bro your Dad bod is no longer cool

Maybe I don’t have a large enough social circle, but none of my girls or guys who enjoy guy, have told me they think a flat butt combined with a hard, round, hair covered, protruding belly so big they can’t see if his penis is hard, is sexy as hell and quite the turn on. Haven’t had that conversation yet.

I can remember growing up watching TV and seeing “Rerun” Fred Berry and his suspenders on What’s Happening. He was the “big one” on the show. When I rewatch Rerun now he doesn’t seem so large at all. He also danced!!!! A lot! And had a fun personality that people wanted to be around.

Nowadays when I see one of these full bellied bros out in public they are proud and they are angry. No dance moves here. Just outwardly trying to antagonize anyone with an ill fitting slogan shirt of the flag or even by decorating their vehicles. Having the full tight belly is not enough. Are the suspenders making a comeback?

Look, if a T body is what you want your body to look like, I say go for it! By all means you don’t have to hide your want! Us women fully understand wanting KKs body! If you, as a man, want to choose a T body with extra belly button lint then I think you have every right to do so! If covering that shape with red white and blue makes you less angry then by all means please flag it up! Shorten that life span! No one is stopping that.

Thick

Being perceived as having an “attitude” comes with the focus on your looks. Women get accused all the time of being superficial, snotty, petty etc. She’s a bitch. She doesn’t smile. If you are too nice as a pretty female it’s taken as flirting. Too serious you are bitchy. “Emotional female” is the favorite slur of a certain brand of over due men.

As a man, why hide the fact you think the 70 something year old T man has a great body and you are actively pursuing one of your own? It’s ok to have a crush. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. If you enjoy a T body in a pair of shorts and no shirt plus a stiff, dumb, never been in style red hat, have at it. I say order up a supersized fast food meal with extra ketchup and a side of blue pills, Diet Coke. Grease is the word ….

There are plenty of hard bodied men on the big screen that could and should be used as the every man’s goal to the delight of women and gay men everywhere! But our American men seem to have said NO to that idea all together.

Yes please

In the original movie Top Gun, Val and Tom play beach volleyball shirtless to the delight of millions. For the most recent Top Gun remake, they also included a beach volleyball scene that most of the men stayed on a strict diet to film. For the Baywatch remake, Zac Effron showed us a spectacular washboard. Magic Mike has amazing male dancers… No one got an award, just saying. On the flip side, if a man gains a tremendous amount of weight or muscles ( Matthew , Christian?) or loses a ton for a “serious” role he is up for awards by the film academy.

ALL of these male actors have openly spoke about what it takes, what they could not eat, what is does to their bodies , how hard they work out in order to be on screen, cheat days and huge amounts they eat afterwards. Yet there is zero written about what these men are doing is as bad an influence as any K. Men manipulate their bodies or not and still expect to be considered award winning leading men. Of course us women should find them attractive no matter what! Money fixes all male shortcomings right?

K lost weight to fit into a dress and got the full attack from the press , the internet, the pope. How dare she get that waist any smaller! How dare she look good wet! Jealousy is a bitch.

I find it odd that men with such large bellies believe so strongly in their superiority over women .

Across the board, any subject, the man belly holds all wisdom. Born that way I guess. Otherwise I have no clue where this supposed man only be best knowledge comes from. Silly mansplainer, our phones are light years smarter than you and un like your small penis, in a woman’s hand constantly. Realize I can out run you! I’m in great shape! One hundred percent know I will use you and your belly to hide behind as needed in the event one of your friends starts shooting up the place.

Sure boss, anything you say….

What? Am I not allowed to say I don’t find men who should use suspenders to hold up their pants attractive? Sorry, I don’t. I find it gross. You can take one look at me and go throw up in a trash can if that’s how you feel. Write about it. It’s a free country, for now.

The Inflatable Escape

No Relief in Sight

The sun had not officially come up yet and it was already too hot. Out on the patio trying to wake up, hoping for a gentle breeze to help cool me down, my coffee tastes lukewarm compared to the 90 degree morning start. Our heat wave has backed off for now but our local news promises the triple digits will return. Sleeping has been rough. At night I wake up, neck sweaty from hot flashes. The only sleep I get lately comes when I lay next to a fan blowing directly at my face.

Mindlessly I scroll through ads on my phone. Ads for pools. Above ground pools. Escape from the heat I could order now and have delivered to my door or I could pickup in a few hours.

I close my eyes. I picture me, three inches taller, two sizes smaller, my butt is firmer, my skin is flawless and golden. I look amazing in my tiny swim suit, huge sunglasses and hat, effortlessly gliding on clear tropical water. A palm tree swaying nearby. Big blue sky. The smell of coconuts in the air. Instagram Perfection.

I open my eyes and squint.

Obviously weeks of Arizona’s triple digit heat has brought on hallucinations of grandeur. There is no water anywhere in sight. No pool. No palm trees. Just sweaty me in cut off shorts, sticking to my chair on a hot patio with morning sun rays now piercing through my eyes.

There is a saying “Crazy from the heat.” I believe it is true. I just might go nutty if I don’t cool down soon.

I see it. The ad I’ve been hoping for. A 7ft. White and blue inflatable pool with two seats, head rests and cup holders! I am only 5 foot 6 so that leaves plenty of room for my feet. On sale now at Big 5 marked down from $50 for $29.99! My heart raced! I knew if I could get my husband to agree, I was positive I could create a relaxing vacation type environment somewhere on the side of our house and it would not cost very much at all.

But it wasn’t going to be as simple as buy it , inflate it, flop it down and grab a hose. I was going to need his help to make this happen. I head inside and walk over to Jay’s desk and slide my phone to him. He looked at the advertisement then looks up at me and smiles. The answer is yes. Let’s go get you a pool.

Deal Breakers

Our house is old and small. According to the paperwork at least some part of it was built in the 1940s. It sits on 3 acres including a hill, giving us incredible views of the Superstition Mountains and the surrounding valley. However,6 years ago when we first came to view this well priced, one bedroom home we were informed it had no tub, shower only and no pool to go along with all the other quirks old, privately built homes come with. Due to the type of solid granite like ground, putting in a pool would be costly. The home uses its own well for water. A built in pool would require truckloads of water to be brought in and steep $$ to initially get set up. A full bathroom remodel would need to take place for me to have a tub.

In my mind, as someone who was born and raised in the desert, you need to have water nearby not only to cool off but for the mental health it provides. No pool or tub to soak in had always been a major deal breaker when it came to where I could live happily. So there I was, faced with the real possibility of owning an adorable little old home, on a hill with a million dollar view, in an area I should not be able to afford to live in, only if I was willing to live without a pool or tub. To ease this minor setback I bargained with Jay. He would need to keep me semi sane during the very real heat of AZ by taking me away semi regularly to a hotel to be able to fulfill my strong desire to simply float in water. He could go golf or hang with me or do whatever he wanted to but just let me float in a pool. He agreed. It seemed very doable at the time. I signed the papers.

Reality set in fast as our work schedules, pets, timing, bills, etc. life in general kept getting in the way of my pool getaway.

The Cost of Doing Business

A hotel stay is expensive. Period. Room fees, fees for pets, food and drinks, entertainment, tips, it all adds up. Oh I’m sure if you are fan of a particular large fancy hotel chain you would argue that there are plenty of perks and free vouchers that make the cost seem minimal. Convince me. I’m a freelance writer. I call it as I see it and experience it. I would love to write all about how I got spoiled rotten by your hotel for free.

But going to a hotel also requires getting there in the first place. Freeway driving comes with stress free of charge. Gas prices, even for a local staycation, can now cost well over $50 in your tank and forget about driving for hours to stay overnight somewhere. Consider the wear on your vehicle, and what road/travel stress does to your mind body and soul. By the time you unpack and truly relax it’s time to turn around and head back home.

Flying? The “cost” of todays flying experience can’t truly be measured in dollars alone. From arriving at the airport and either trying to find parking in a maze or getting dropped off without getting run over by a bus, to your full body cavity and luggage search, to sitting snuggly on your plane next to a snoring stranger, to actually safely landing at your destination unharmed by a fellow passenger or flight attendant to navigating a city style transportation drop off system to search for your luggage on rotating carousels could only be described somewhere between terrifying and laughable and in an entirely different article I can write about later.

In Jays defense he would randomly offer to take us away somewhere but I would shut him down giving this list of practical reasons why we shouldn’t even though I’m the one who really wants to go cool off in a pool in the first place.

Down Time

In 2020 the plague hit. COVID stopped the world in its tracks. No longer was it even a question of when we could get away from this intense desert heat, travel everywhere was restricted. The entire nation now ordered to stay home . For some, being “stuck at home” or even working full time from home isn’t too awful. For others it was their worst nightmare coming true. At first I felt the isolation. Working from home I had no one to talk to besides my husband and I didn’t want to drive him nuts. For a long time in my life I would have said I was very social, a “people person” . However, given the forced time away from “it all”, it didn’t take long for my creative brain to enjoy quiet.

My wants and desires started to change too. Oh I still daydreamed of a pool but now I wanted less people around it. Now that I can hear it, silence is lovely. The idea of going to a hotel for a loud pool party with DJs pumping dance tracks , lined with hot girls in high heels and bros spilling drinks seemed exhausting. Privacy and the sounds of birds in nature has moved up higher on my list.

That’s Not Hot?

There has always been this weird stigma about an above ground pool or an inflatable pool, not being a hip thing to have. I’m not exactly sure why. There are actually quite a few practical reasons for owning one.

-The Cost.

-What if the ground you have available is unsuitable for digging into?

-Not everyone can or wants to make long term commitments like a built in pool, that require long term maintenance, on their property for a few months of “fun in the sun”.

-Some folks don’t own the property they live on so making permanent decisions like digging out a pool isn’t an option.

-Unlike a built in pool, if you move you can take it with you.

-You can easily incorporate an above ground or inflatable pool into your yard with a deck or patio furniture if image is an issue.

Still, above ground pools get little respect. It will take Internet Influence to switch the image around to Instagram Worthy.

Dose of Reality

To be honest, I had no understanding or care what a few thousand gallons of water looked like, how it arrived somewhere or what it costs until I owned a home with a water tank containing all the water my home would use. As a young adult I had always lived with city water and the supply seemed endless. Now, not as young , owned a home with a built in pool and sold that home, I know a bit more. Selling a home with an older pool can be a struggle. Everything seems to focus on the surface of the pool and its equipment and zero focus on the actual house. Luckily our pool was still in good shape but the deck would need repair. I now know better about all of it now. Water is a valuable resource we here in Arizona and other nearby states are running out of. Water Conservation in the desert is crucial.

A real life rumbling tanker truck comes to fill the water tank for our small house. How often he comes depends on our usage. When my husband explained to me that some of the metal sided above ground pools I had been looking at would require multiple trips from our tanker truck driver I felt my chest tighten. Size does matter. Simply affording the initial lower cost of an above ground pool wasn’t the only thing to consider. Just because the pool is above ground doesn’t mean the water wouldn’t need a filter or chemicals. Where I wanted to put a pool mattered as well not only in terms of convenience but also safety. A large above ground pool holding thousands of gallons of water, if punctured, would certainly destroy parts our hillside.

I asked myself the honest question “What did you really want or believe you needed out of a pool to make you happy? Is it to cool off? To tan? Swimming? To float? To relax? Use it for exercise? What would this pool need to give my soul peace?”

My answers:

-100 percent it was for my mental health. A pool helps me to relax.

-Not having the ability to go soak in a hot tub for awhile when your body parts ache sucks.

-I want to just lay there. Do nothing. That’s all.

-In enough space to not feel silly.

-Bigger than a standard tub.

-Long enough my toes couldn’t reach the side.

-Large enough for water to cover me.

-Privacy.

-A pool to myself. No need to question “is there pee in the pool?” The answer is NO

-Low to no maintenance.

-Inexpensive but built to withstand this intense AZ sun.

– Cheap enough to replace if a wild animal destroyed it.

-Bathing suit optional.

Blow Time

Once we got back from Big 5 we still needed to go get sand from the local fire department. You can shovel sand bags to your hearts delight over there for free. We didn’t need much so we figured 5 sand bags worth would do the trick. To set up our pool we cleared the rocks down to the hard ground and then put sand. The biggest hurdle we now faced was how to blow it up. We used a small air compressor, a hand pump and our mouths. It wasn’t the fastest way but still we got it done. Threw the hose in, turned on the water and before we knew it our pool was ready for action! Grabbed two bright beach towels, a couple of chairs and small table from the patio, and a grass pad we had from our daughters recent baby shower and VOILA!

I slid into the warmish water and let out a sigh. Then I giggled. My husband slid in next to me. He sighed. Then we both giggled. What took us so long?!? This inflatable pool literally was doing everything we needed it to do and more! For $30 and a days worth of work, we had what felt like the impossible, the perfect place to soak.

Thank You Bestway and Big 5. So far our pool has held up a solid week in this intense AZ sun. We have used it daily if not more than twice a day. Every time I climb in, I still let out a huge exhale, and a giggle.

Baby Shower Games

My daughter is pregnant with her first child. Our family is over the moon excited for her and her husband. As she announced this fantastic news I’m positive I didn’t miss a beat or check with my husband before shouting “I want to throw the baby’s shower!”.

Cucumbers Sandwiches and Pixar

Once she was far enough along in her pregnancy with an ultrasound or two under her belt, we discussed what type of shower to throw. “Like, I don’t know, a garden tea party with cucumber sandwiches sounds fun?” she pondered. We would be inviting both husbands and wives plus babies to the shower. A total of around 40 guests. There would be no gender reveal. No pastel colors. The baby’s room was being decorated with nods to several Pixar films. Favorite flavors are lemon and raspberry. More than one close friend is Vegan. More than one friend has a baby who will need to be breast fed with some privacy.

It all seemed doable, I was just going to need to get creative in some areas…ok all areas.

We live in Arizona. The Valley of the Sun. Temperatures climb to 100 as a high by June. We have zero moisture in the air. A light breeze isn’t really a thing. Water spraying misters on your patio are. So, having an outdoor tea party is an entirely different concept here than if we lived in a mild climate like the East Coast or England. Not only is grass hard to come by but a slice of bread unwrapped dries out to a crouton in approximately 3 minutes. The internet is filled with advice about how to make sure your tiny tea sandwich’s do not get soggy! HA! Not one article on what to do if the bread on your tiny cucumber sandwich feels like 40 grit sandpaper before your guests arrive. I was ready for the challenge.

Before I could even get started with the fun stuff like decorating, serious cleaning of the entire house top to bottom took place. Floors scrubbed. Windows washed. There was not a spot of this house that did not receive a good once over. Cleaning is crucial. We removed things like our wall clock, our tv and certain personal items that would distract from the theme.

Dinosaurs, Balloons and Babies

Decorating started happening in my mind as soon as I got the go ahead to have the party. I love Pixar films. Toy Story is one of the best ever made. Rex seemed to fit the part as our main attraction perfectly. I ordered a life sized cutout, around $50 and figured I’d find him a home once he arrived. He wound up fitting perfectly on the mantle in our living room. But, after staring at him for a few days, frozen in the position he was in, he looked like he needed to be doing something more like holding balloons. A lot of balloons. The Pixar movie UP came to mind. Our house is small and white. What if Rex had run into the house with a huge handful of balloons and they kind of got stuck on the way? We ordered 100 balloons. Done. Concept in place. We simply strung ribbon along the ceiling and attached all the balloons to it!

Next up, outdoor décor. Online I found a wall sized fabric mural of the entire Toy Story gang running at us for around $50.

I knew where it would go I just didn’t know how. Problem solved by using poster board taped together to form the exact size. We taped the fabric to the poster board with painters tape. We hung the entire thing with Gorilla Tape. I was also going to need to create a safe area for all the little ones, roughly 9 of them, coming to the party. We live on a hill in the desert. We have plenty of cactus and even lots of trees but zero grass. We do have a large wrap around brick patio with a lot of space and fantastic views but no where near the actual seating for 30 adults. Creativity was critical in keeping everyone from getting hurt. We bought a patch of fake grass from Home Depot for around $80 plus grabbed $20 worth of misting hose while we were there. The grass worked perfectly as a play area along with a small table from the house filled with toys and bubbles from the Dollar Tree. Spinning Flowers also from the Dollar Tree hung upside down were a great effect.

Our best advice to help keep costs down on the big stuff is to go on Craigslist. We found a huge wooden picnic table and benches that seats 9 easily for only $125. It is so heavy I think I still have a hernia from moving it!

( side note : If you are like the rest of us and are an average working person (non millionaire) and want to decorate and afford that “next level” look, you need to start ordering things in advance and on pace for the date of the party. Having all of my decorations in hand a month ahead saved me a ton of stress and anxiety and helped me to budget along the way. It also allowed me to take my time decorating like I would for Christmas. Disney level decorating comes from setting aside time specifically for concept drawings, choosing colors, layering ideas, readjusting and finishing small details, all of which simply can not be achieved day of the event.

Buying things last minute tends to lead to over spending on things you do not use or need and paying for faster shipping, never to the items we really wanted. Plus if you have to wait to decorate at the last minute you become rushed and it shows. Other important things like getting yourself ready or answering the door are no longer done at the pace or attention they should be.)

A Quiet Place

Being a mom I know how trying to soothe a fussy baby can really stress you out when you are at a gathering or an event. Even a happy baby enjoys some quiet Mom time when feeding whether bottle or breast fed. That in mind, we set up a room that was specifically for moms to head off to if needed. Quiet with light music on, much cooler than the rest of the house, with a cozy chair, bed, pillows and blankets. This room has a small bathroom as well making it easier for mom or dad to wash up. It was appreciated.

Let The Games Begin

To me the harder, more pressing question was “What games were we going to play?” There will be at least 9 small children ages 6 and down attending the party. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 adults give or take. Some adults may be holding babies but want to play the games too. My daughter, like most of her friends and co workers are in their 30s. They couldn’t possibly still be playing the same games in 2022 as we did back in my days like “identify the baby food in the jar” right?

I go online to search.

I’m going to be honest here. Besides being amazed that the exact same games are still being suggested, some versions have gotten worse. For example:

Bobbing for Pacifiers

This concept literally has me dumbfounded. What planet are you on that you can invite your beautifully dressed up friends over for a day party and tell them to stick their face in a bucket? Its over 100 degrees here and not a one of my guests are going to be told to do a face plunge with their full makeup and hair and come up with a pacifier in their mouth. Who is this fun for?

There were games suggested like “What’s in your Purse or Wallet?”

The obvious rudeness of this game is appalling. We showed our guests where they could set their purses. I can not imagine asking them all to dig around in them telling everyone what they did or did not have as a game! I literally felt a smack in my head just now from my dead Italian Grandmother for even suggesting it.

Or the ever popular “lets melt different candy bars into a diaper” and then what? Insult my guests some more I guess. Maybe they can stick their face into a diaper and then go wash off bobbing for pacifiers? Oh hey! lets blindfold people and change dirty diapers.

Exhausted and Disgusted I ended my search realizing me and my husband, my partner in crime, would need to come up with our own version of games. These are the games we came up with.

20 Words or Less Baby K Version

The popular game show hosted by Meredith Viera 25 Words or Less was the perfect solution to playing a game with everyone included when you have a large group. The concept of the original game is fairly simple : You have a card with 5 words on it. You are given 45 seconds on the clock to get your team to yell out those five words. You have 25 words in which to give them clues. You cannot act it out or say the word. If you’re not sure you say “pass” and it does not count as one of your 25 words.

For our game we started at 20 Words or Less for the first round, 15 Words or Less for the second round and 10 Words or Less for the final round all with 45 seconds on the clock. We did not tell anyone but all of the words were somehow baby related. After all our guests had settled on the patio we visually split them in half as two groups. My daughter had one side, her husband the other side. In prepared gold envelopes they could not see, they chose their card with their words. We also used the theme music from the show! Believe it or not they tied so we had to do a final word. Gifts for both teams were candy.

Blue Sour Punch Straws for the winners. Blue Mike and Ikes for the second team.

For our Second Game:

Baby Duck Toss

Babies need bath tubs. Why should it be some boring regular tub when you can actually have an inflatable duck as your tub!? We ordered a Duck Tub online from Munchkin. Good Quality. We then ordered a dozen small ducks, smaller than the average tub duck.

How to play: First you will need to determine exactly how many people are going to play. Example:

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We set our bracket up for 8 teams of 3 which means you need 24 people playing. We put numbers in a bucket 3-1s, 3-2s and so on up to 8. We asked everyone to pick from the bucket. This is how we selected teams and kept it fair. You picked a number then had to locate your team. During this break as our guests found their teammates and grabbed snacks, we were able to set up the duck ( pre blown up of course! also had a bucket of soapy water ready and waiting to pour)

Music was ALL duck! The Duck Song ( got any grapes?) Rubber Duckie, Disco Duck, Darkwing Duck…..

Two teams would go head to head trying to lob 6 baby ducks in to momma ducks tub by using a long sleeve baby onsie! One team member holds the arms. One team member holds the legs. One team member gets ducks

In 2 minutes the team with the most ducks in moves into the finals!

Winners took home large sparkling rubber ducks found at 5 and Below

.Got any Grapes?

Inside Games

We chose to play only 2 games outside due to the heat and to allow more time for socializing, eating and watching presents being opened.By our fish tank we had filled a large clear bucket with Goldfish Crackers and a sign saying “One fish Two Fish How many Gold Fish are in the Jar?”.

Guessing games are extremely popular and anyone can play. In advance I counted out 1422 goldfish. It was a lot of fun to hear the guesses and how wildly off they were! Our Winner took home the container.

And finally we had a corner area you could write your baby name suggestions.

FOOD!

My daughter had told us a story awhile ago about an event her and friends all attended where no arrangements were made for those in their party that were vegan. Simply a plate of lettuce (no exaggeration) was given. Such a ludicrous story they all still talk about it years later. Though I am not vegan I was positive there are plenty of foods you can offer besides lettuce. By using hummus as my mayo I found I could make all kinds of variations. Bread, depending on your guests and dietary needs was still easy as pita, pumpernickel, whole grains etc. We eliminated meat entirely from our party. Nuts, fruits, veggies, I even bought Lemon Curd! We filled up a kitchen with Vegan friendly things none of which were fake versions of anything. Drinks were Green Tea, Simply Lemonade and water.

Now the cake…I have to admit, I was obsessed with making sure we got a good cake. As hard as it might be to believe living in such a popular place as AZ but we do not have tons of local bakeries here like they do in some parts of the world. Our bakeries are few and far between and more often than not you’ll be getting cake from the grocery store or Costco. I refused! Not for this party! We need yummy lemon and raspberry. We searched on line and found Sassy’s bakery in Mesa. We said baby shower but no pastels, make it pretty. And they did. You’ll need to figure about $3 a slice per guest to give you a budget on a fancy cake. Now the next hurdle was keeping the cake and most importantly the frosting and filling from turning into a soft mess. Though our house would be airconditioned, Arizona heat wasn’t going to let a cake sit out for the entire party. Buttercream frosting and raspberry mousse filling have their limits. Sassy’s did a beautiful job on the cake. We took the cake out of the fridge after the Duck Game ended. Had I not cut a hunk of it to save for me and my husband to eat later we would have had none! Proud to say our guests enjoyed every bit of it! Bravo Sassy’s!

Thank You

While presents were being opened and guests started to leave, we gave each flowers and a yummy Trader Joes Mango Tangerine Candle from the guests of honor, my daughter and her husband.

They have great prices and I can count on them for having a good selection with unique flowers and colors. I bought cellophane and ribbon that was also used for decorating Rex, then bundled 3-4 flowers each .

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Probably the best piece of advice I can give to anyone planning something this big or this special is to enjoy the entire process. Every step of it. Do not wait until the end and the party is over to get fulfillment. If you are waiting for your praises and applause, the honest, smaller compliments you get during the party and moments of joy will be lost. You will be left in the empty silence that falls upon any finished event. Enjoy the ride. Celebrate for others. Give. Love.

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.

Bobcat on the Patio?!? My FOMO is now in full swing.

We are in the living room watching the Suns lose Game Six. Dejected I get up and go to the kitchen, mostly to walk away from the loss when out of the corner of my eye I see something flickering by the tree outside. I can only see it’s back, but a large animal is getting water at our water bowl! First thought was maybe a neighbors dog until I saw the spots on the ears!

“NO WAY!” I semi yell whisper to my husband as I literally RAN for my phone and to a better filming spot.

Having absolutely no idea what has gotten into me, Jay follows me into our bedroom where I am glued to the window, motionless with my iPhone on video. There under our tree is a young looking, fairly thin but still good sized, bobcat! Tail flickering from the excitement of birds chirping emergency calls announcing this predators arrival. Panting from the heat, the cat settled in for a nice, long drink of water.

I fell in love instantly.

I couldn’t move.

I couldn’t breathe.

Right there before my eyes was a wild cat bigger than either of my two dogs. Gorgeous colors. Stripes and markings like a small tiger. Paws the size of my husbands fists. I wanted nothing to scare this glorious creature away.

When the bobcat was done it turned and walked toward our kitchen. I flew passed Jay to not miss any action! Sure enough I was met with possibly the prettiest, biggest cat eyes I have ever seen staring right back at me. Not alarmed, it looked me in the eye, curious, just not as equally enamored. With the nonchalance a cat that size can afford, it turned away from my stare and wandered down the hill out of my sight. I was outside of myself with excitement! Did that really just happen?

Timing had been everything.

Now all I could think was “How much was I missing regularly?”.

Of course I posted the bobcat videos everywhere I could, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Linkd In, fully expecting millions upon millions of views! HA! Nope. Though popular with my friends and followers, my bobcat sighting had only changed MY world. For everyone else, where viral videos come at you in multiples daily, it was more of a “That’s really cool Stace, your house is crazy” type of response. Oddly enough, my slow motion video of rain drops has over 4k views on Instagram and climbing but my incredibly gorgeous bobcat only made it to a little over 2k. I really don’t get algorithms.

If I thought I suffered from FOMO ( Fear Of Missing Out) before, well this experience just magnified it! How was I supposed to walk by any window and not look to see if by chance my love was nearby? I can’t. I don’t. I’m still looking.

Tubing The Salt River in Arizona

Crashing while tubing in the Salt River…a true recent event

Take Me to The River…drop me in the water…

“The water is flowing fast and high today!” yelled our bus driver as a word of caution to all of her riders packed on board the old school bus converted as a shuttle, bouncing and rattling it’s way down the all too familiar road to drop everyone off for a day of tubing on the Salt River.

“Stay to the RIGHT side unless you want to lose all of your belongings today…” she continued with only half in attendance listening. Too excited to party and have a good time, plenty of folks chatted over her solid advice. “…you are going to want to stay to the right side…” “SO WE DONT DROWN!!?” Yelled out a college aged female with a group of friends as they laughed and continued joking. I felt that twinge in my stomach. Good luck girls, I thought to myself, I hope you are good swimmers.

” Stay to the RIGHT…” my brain recorded those valuable words “Stay to the RIGHT!”

I have had my share of trips down this not so lazy river. Listening to and actually paying attention to the suggestions of those who work around it daily is smart. Laughing off the power of a river is not.

It is a complete Captain Obvious statement to say Arizona gets HOT in the Summer. Triple digit heat is why Phoenix is called the Valley of the Sun. Our Basketball Team is named the Suns. Outdoor water activity is a fantastic way to combine cooling off and exploring the natural world around you. But water can also be deadly. Time and again we learn about drownings and how to prevent such tragedies. It does not take much water to drown.

The more we, as a society, entertain ourselves with online, virtual, controlled experiences, the further we distance ourselves to the real dangers in the real world. Amusement parks and resorts have to ensure your safety to stay open. Period. Too many people get hurt and its over. Shut it down. Headlines screaming lawsuits pending, insurance rates go up forcing those parks still in business to control and buffer their rides even further. Safety first or make no money! Online games and virtual reality again are allowing the user to experience a very safe, almost real environment, sanitized from all the things that would actually end you, not just the game. The blur of reality versus entertainment is upon us with serious consequences. The shrug of the shoulders and the “meh” attitude prevails as another trendsetter falls off a cliff for a selfie.

Plopping our oversized tubes in the water, we were off to spend the day relaxing and tanning. Being a twosome, we tried to gain some distance between us and the louder, larger party groups. My husband and I both truly enjoy seeing and hearing the wildlife along on the river and don’t bring music with us. You never know what wild animal you might see at the rivers edge drinking or cooling off. The birds sing and the water flows. Its a beautiful place. Its un groomed and wild. Branches grow into the river that force you to navigate your tube or risk impalement or a good scratching.

The Bus driver was absolutely right. The water flow was faster than we normally float on and the river seemed full. Noticeable enough that inside I was slightly alarmed by it. My husband assured me it’s fine and we settled in for our 4 hour float adventure.

Rocks on the bottom of a river can cause all kinds of issues as you float. Where the water flows are lower, the rocks hit your butt requiring you to lift up to continue moving forward. In some areas of the river, large rocks create divides and ripples in the current asking you which direction you want to take. These decisions can and do make a difference on the overall quality and safety of your ride. Knowing my mantra for the day was “stay to the right”, that is exactly what I intended to do.

Almost 20 years ago now, when we moved from the beach in Southern California to Arizona, some people I had just met were taking a kayak trip down this very Salt River, just launching from a higher spot up. Told it was a blast and asked if I wanted to go, I jumped at the chance even though I had never kayaked in my life. Looking athletic and being in reasonable shape does not make up for a complete lack of training, experience or talent yet that is what I went with. Add a healthy dose of ignorance for good measure. Complete with helmets, life jackets, other large rafts and groups that would travel along with guides. Something about class 2/3 rapids was discussed but I had no idea what that meant, I told myself it couldn’t be that bad of a trip as I surveyed the groups climbing into the rafts. Not everyone I saw was fit as a fiddle nor did they seem to have anymore knowledge than I did. Ignorance mixed with arrogance put on a helmet and vest, grabbed her paddle and wobbled into the water. It took mere minutes before I had a good wake up call about how seriously I had misjudged what I had signed up for.

With the first drop in and turn I slammed sideways into the sheer rock wall. By the lunch break my hands were reddish purple from the death grip I had on my paddle the last few terrifying hours. I watched as a Dad with a young girl who appeared to maybe have special needs, request to get out of their two man Kayak and go to a large group raft. I should have done the exact same thing. I should have raised both hands in surrender and rode the rapids with a guide and a group. Again, my ego, newer friends, not wanting to be “that person”, all those things played into me making a very bad decision for the second half of my afternoon. I stayed in a single kayak heading for class 2/3 rapids…whatever those are.

Fear. Blood chilling, bone deep fear overwhelmed me as our group pulled over to the side of the very fast moving river, to hike up above and watch the large rafts take the rapids so we could chart our course! The sound of the raging water, the screams of terror and excitement as the larger rafts “tacoed” in sections, bending and flopping along as they sped down and around and out of view. My body went numb.

As our guide asked if anyone felt they couldn’t do this my hand shot in the air ready to take the first bus outta there. But that was not an option. No, there was no other way out. The guide had simply wanted to know which less experienced kayakers needed extra help, not that a never ever been in a kayak before idiot was now staring at him terrified. There was no answer for me. I had to figure it out. He stayed at the top of the falls as long as he could with me and another kayaker until you simply run out of rom and the water takes you. Over his shoulder he turns and yells “follow my line…” and he was gone! The rocks slowed my forward progression literally requiring me to scoot myself and kayak almost hopping it to my doom. I looked to the sky and said my prayer and my apologies to my family for having put myself in such an awful predicament.

As I scooted forward, my kayak starting turning. I’m not sure who said it earlier in the day but I distinctly heard “a kayak is a kayak, let it flow but NOT sideways!” Turning sideways in a kayak on a flowing river is a sure way to give yourself a tumble. I wound up learning that the hard way earlier on this trip, flipping myself over and having a hell of a time getting back in. Now, staring at serious rapids was not the time to try it again. I felt the back end of my kayak swing around and I simply closed my eyes and took the initial fall facing backwards, convinced I was heading into my death.

I have no rational explanation as to why or how I survived. The river spit me out at the bottom bruised and bleeding and in shock. My group and guide cheered with relief I had made it! I vowed never to sit in a kayak again.

To everyone I talk to or share my kayak horror story with their answer is always the same, tubing is different. It shows up as the “safer” option on peoples minds as a fun outdoor river activity. Everyone goes tubing. Still, it took me years before I was even willing to go near the river again let alone in it.

I am married to an individual who loves to be outside and athletic. His entire life has been spent doing physical activities. Sports, basketball, golf, tennis, biking and hiking, his smile gets bigger the more he sweats. Flip huge tires? Sure! Hike to the top of the Superstition Mountain just because? Sure! With a Marine Corps mindset of simply throwing me over his shoulder if I go down, he sees me as his favorite action buddy. I remind him often I only play the part on tv.

So there we are, floating rather fast on a river I most likely should not be in. My partner in crime smiling and lightly teasing me about only going to the left the entire way, trying to build my confidence back up. We had not made it to the curve the bus driver warned us about yet and I’m not even sure we knew exactly where it was besides “before the bridge.” There are no exits or areas to pull over until you reach the bridge. Often it is directly under the bridge where your tubing adventure starts if you are only going tubing for a few hours. But this day we had started at the first point of entry that is not always an option due to the water flow.

Having been on the river for probably almost an hour at this point (I’m now guessing) we see an area that looks like it could be trouble. The right side is shallow and rocky. The left side is full and the water flow is fast and taking you straight at a curve and thick branches. Navigating that type of situation practically laying in a tube became serious in an instant. Obvious to both of us, we needed to paddle our arms legs whatever to move us over enough to make the curve. Standing up on the rivers edge at the water impact spot is a man watching the river as if he’s already seen enough mayhem and is concerned. I see him only for seconds before I see a large sharp branch sticking straight out at the curve, directly in my line of fire. I’m going to be impaled by this thick branch directly into my face or neck if I don’t do something immediately. Though our tubes are tied together loosely for our cooler to hang between us, its my tube that is being sent into the strong current and forced towards the trees at high speed like I’m at the end of a whip. I instinctively grab for the branch coming at my eye level and the water flips my tube into the current forcing it , pinning it in place. I’m terrified. Its happening so fast. The water is pummeling me. The rocks are beating my legs, Screaming in absolute terror I lunge myself at my husbands tube. His strength, both mental and physical plus instincts pull me forward, dragging me along the rocks and river until we reach a point I can breathe. My worst nightmare come true.

One would assume I got out of the water at the first chance I had. I did only to re adjust myself, realize I had lost my shirt and now only had a bathing suit top, and got right back in for the remainder of the float. Why? Shock. My adrenaline was so high, my husbands cheering me on that I had made it and it was ok, all of the same things that kept me in the kayak kept me in the tube. It wasn’t until later that night when the reality started to set in but not fully. The next morning I made a video talking about the exact things I write about here. I can see I’m in shock but I’m not fully aware of it just yet.

Because of my post, friends comment that someone had just drowned at the very spot we launched from. I am also hit with stories of much the same experience I had. By the end of the month there had been 3 drownings. No numbers on the people like me who no official record ever happened. Just a near miss. It took a news report about faster response times to near drownings before I fully understood why my mind, body and system was having so much trouble with what had occurred. Had it not been for my husband, I would have drowned out there. This is not for dramatic effect. It is a true statement. I had no life vest, did not have the strength to fight off a river, and was pulled to safety by a man who loves me intensely. It took him awhile to admit seeing that level of fear in my eyes was not something he wanted to repeat ever again.

Do I think tubing is dangerous? Yes. Should the general public get to go tubing? I still say yes. But with a better understanding that its not controlled or even safe. Most outdoor activities come with risk. Adventure. Whatever word you put on things like sky diving or mountain climbing. Where I think we as a society fall short is we have allowed so much virtual reality to slip in, the perception of what is “safe” and the idea of someone immediately coming to your aid is skewed.

The month of June 2021 would turn out to be filled with life changing events for me. This one, in the river, believe it or not, was second only to the rattlesnake I encountered at 4 am only a week later. That’s another story for another time.

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Intruder Alert… a true story

Depending on where you live, and the general safety of that area, sleeping with a window open or with a door even slightly cracked could be considered normal, everyday behavior when you want a cool breeze or totally reckless behavior that could get you killed.

I don’t sleep well. When I was very little, maybe 4 or 5, I rolled right out of bed one night crashing on to the floor face first into my dresser, popping my lower lip open. At the hospital my parents were interrogated for child abuse while I got a couple of stitches. They were not the cause of this injury. Moms feelings over even being asked would never heal.

Growing up I had reoccurring nightmares and often walked in my sleep. More than once I woke up outside, confused and scared. My parents blamed the heat and my daily overactivity. The solution was to put a chain high up on the front door. There’s nothing like knowing the safety chain on the front door is for you, a little girl, and not because the family is worried about a bad guy breaking in. Considering my entire adult working life has been fueled by coffee and sugar, driven by an over active, artistic and now menopausal brain, I blame everything and anything on why I don’t sleep more than 4/5 hours a night. It’s just me.

We live in a small house built in the 1940’s up on a hill in Gold Canyon Arizona. If you are not familiar with this part of the United States or any desert, the desert you might immediately picture could be a barren sand dune or you could picture something sparkling and visually out of control like Las Vegas. “Desert” is not a specific enough term, it simply describes a climate really. Out here in Gold Canyon we are tucked up next to the Superstition Mountain. It is quiet with an abundant wildlife population including deer, coyote, bobcat and even Mountain Lions. It is truly a beautiful area with large expensive homes and golf courses that dot the area giving the animals mini oasis to find shelter and water. It is hot and dry here most of the time. The summer high heat daily hits triple digits and stays there for months at a time with overnight lows only dropping back to the high 80’s or low 90’s. Air conditioning is a luxury/necessity with a monthly bill that can also cause nightmares with the worst being “what if the air-conditioner unit breaks and we have to replace it?” I wake up screaming from that one.

Most of my nights are filled with me flipping my pillow over and over to find the cold spots. I go from kicking off all the covers believing I’m about to spontaneously combust to being frozen and rolled up in them like a swaddled new born. I usually give up around the magic hour of 3am and head out to the couch. I have no idea how my husband sleeps near me. I credit his Marine Corp boot camp experience as his pre training for me, not war.

My recent creative solution to the intense over heating is using an old window screen jammed into the tracks of the sliding door at night when I’m desperate to cool off. This type of random creativity has been employed because our house is old and has its share of idiosyncrasies. Some windows are permanently sealed shut with only a few having screens. We have fans and air conditioning going almost 24/7 but again, because the house is old and it’s layout is odd, the air doesn’t circulate like you want it to. My main objective with the screen, it seems now looking back in hindsight, was only to prevent something lower to the ground, like a rattlesnake, from slithering in. Looking back at this strategy it is glaringly apparent, I discounted anything bigger or smarter lurking in the night from easily coming in.

When you are sleep deprived for any length of time, your rational thought takes a hit. After months, if not years of worsening sleep habits, all I care about is getting some sleep. Any sleep. Napping daily is mandatory. Being sleep deprived makes me grouchy and irritable and confused. It is this state of mind that I developed my dangerous, now nightly pattern of, as soon as my body over heats, sleep walking the two steps over to the sliding door and popping in the half screen, letting the cooler night air blow in, then flopping back into bed to get hopefully another hour of sleep. My husband, sound asleep next to me, blissfully unaware I have yet again stripped him of any of the basic protection he put into place before laying down for the night. The closed, locked door he fell asleep with is now wide open with only a tiny, flimsy, old screen as a barrier and he has no idea. For that alone I should be locked up.

A few nights ago the inevitable happened.

Deep asleep for one of those brief pockets of time where I am actually getting some rest, I am startled awake by the sound of something hitting the screen in the open sliding door… hard! As if it had not seen the screen at all and bounced off it! The metal vibrated and rattled the entire sliding glass door.

I have horrible eye sight and wear either contacts or glasses for all things. I keep my glasses on the nightstand next to my bed alone with a glass of water. It is this nightstand and only this nightstand that now acts as any barrier between me and the open sliding door while I sleep. As I retell this story I am embarrassed repeatedly by what is so so obvious and such dumb behavior. I again blame lack of sleep for total lapse of judgment. Have pity on this tired soul.

Vision, a total blur in the dark, roughly three or four feet from my sleep deprived face, a large something just hit the screen for the second time as if it is trying to see what it just ran into! My adrenaline and senses kick into overtime. I pop up ready to face off with this home invader unarmed, barely dressed and virtually blind. I hear a deep grunt. For a half a second, my body freezes in panic mode, locking me, paralyzed next to the nightstand. My brain knows what is on the other side of the tiny screen is not a good thing and it is having trouble formulating what to do next. There has been no emergency plan put in place for an event such as this.

Instinctively “HEY!” flies out of mouth as my weapon of choice.

I am now awake enough to know I am facing off with a good sized Javelina (Collared Peccary) who, for whatever reason, has decided to wander around the patio and take a closer look into our house! It’s sensitive nose must have hit the screen initially, then, with the stubbornness and curiosity of a wild animal, pushed again until I popped up startling it in the process.

Now for a moment, let’s imagine this wild animal having succeeded the first time it pushed its snout against that screen! It could have literally been inside our small, dark bedroom with us trying to get it back outside!

As luck would have it, “HEY!” is the magic word to yell to make a Javelina turn and sort of run off! It shuffled over to a large tree to regroup. It did not simply run away. The night air now thick with that energy that comes from real fear, we both simply stood there in the dark, only a few feet apart from each other, trying to figure out what just happened.

My husband slept through the entire event which, of course the next morning, made me question my sanity, especially when the trail cameras didn’t have any confirming video! In my defense, only one camera could have picked it up depending on the route the Javelina took.

For now I am going to try sleeping on the couch where the air conditioner can blow directly at me, I’ll have two dogs sleeping on either side of Momma ready to bark at outside noises and hope my husband gets a better, less dramatic, nights sleep.

Roadrunner, Harris’s Hawk and Hummingbird kind of morning

3:30 am was the time given to be able to see the Sagittarius Full Moon Eclipse…whatever, I’m delirious and without a doubt need to get some more sleep. 3:30 am our normally cloud free, Arizona desert skies turned into a fuzzy haze covering the eclipse and stayed there long enough for me to miss the entire Lunar event. Wide awake with coffee already brewing, I figured I will just stay awake and try to catch up on some sleep later if possible.

Fear of missing out is a significant cause for my lack of sleep ever since moving to Gold Canyon five years ago. It only magnified once I committed myself to starting a non profit entirely dedicated to showcasing the animals who live all around me. I had no idea how many different species there really were here ( our count is up to 56 species seen on or flying above our 3.5 acre property) and just how active they are at all times of the day and night. I just knew that it seemed like there was always an animal or reptile or bird doing something fairly cool and I wanted to share it with as many people as who were interested!

I poured a cup of coffee and made the simple mistake of looking out the window. The roadrunner was there! This made up for the clouded over eclipse if I didn’t scare the bird off! Roadrunners are unique birds. WE have one that sleeps in the garden gazebo thing on the property over by our bedroom. The water bowl has been active from the minute we put it out right in front of our living room window. The location makes for great observations of birds who otherwise wouldn’t come close if I was actually sitting on my patio. Some birds couldn’t care less who is around and will happily hunt for seeds at your feet. Other birds won’t land at all if a human is anywhere near. We have a combo here. I don’t like to video from inside the house because you can’t hear the outdoor sounds, just the hum of our fish tank or music from the stereo. But if a quiet video allows me to catch baby Gambel’s Quail coming for a first drink of water I’m fine with that.

I needed to get outside and down before the roadrunner took off. Slowly, in bare feet, I crept outside barely breathing. Surprisingly, the bird seemed like it recognized me and with eye contact and a slight nod just fluffed into a ball and sat there! I laid on the ground quite a few feet from it so I didn’t disrupt hunting. I got some video but nothing I will win awards for. I only use my iPhone so live action with wild animals as my subjects is not easy. I’m lucky I catch what I do. Being at the right place at the right time with a lot of patience and endurance for no pay off is more accurate. Today was no exception. Yes, I had a Greater Roadrunner feet from me, as I often do, but it still doesn’t translate to good viewing. Todays audience needs action! A bird can’t just be beautiful and sitting there relaxing! NO! Make it hunt or “do something”. I gave up after about twenty minutes. I needed more coffee and my body was feeling every bit of laying on the ground.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a brown flash fly by. Its a hawk and I know it. But I’m tired. But its a hawk. I slowly walk around the corner and see it sitting up on the telephone pole. Will it stay long enough for me to video it? Arms up, camera on video zoomed in, I creep closer and closer. Even perched safely high on a pole, hawks do not like to be closely watched or even be around humans. For almost 8 minutes this gorgeous juvenile Harris’s Hawk sat up there with me standing below. My arms and neck on fire. There was no way I was hitting the stop button! Not until it flew off. I committed. It’s not the same if you have chopped up video. No editing, straight video is the goal.

My neck has a weird, painful crick in it now, my shoulders are sore but I got to spend a chunk of my morning with a roadrunner and 8 minutes with a Harris’s Hawk, alone. To me, that is a blessing that comes with the obligation of sharing. Sharing to those who may not ever get to see. Sharing for those who are curious and studying. Sharing for those who love birds and watching them. Sharing for those who keep track of the birds and know they tell us about our planet.

Too tired to fall asleep, I set up my phone on the tripod aimed at a lone hummingbird feeder and hit time lapse for a half hour while I found food. The larger birds are drinking all of the hummingbirds jet fuel ( sugar water) lately. This seemed like something I should monitor and document how the hummingbirds responded to losing their water source. Though I have videoed a hummingbird at the large water bowl, 99% of the time they go to a flower or feeder. I took away the other 4 feeders that are normally out leaving just one. I caught the action but hated the angle of the shot. The clouds looked great but the birds were not easily identifiable. I’ll try again later.

A couple of hours of sleep came with the help of a herbal pill, a full belly and a purring cat and a brain fairly satified with a full mornings work.

Building “dNa” the Desert Nature Alliance a non profit’s start up story

Jay and I moved to Gold Canyon Arizona roughly 5 years ago now. Immediately, the surrounding nature and wildlife let us know that, not only were we not living ALONE out here in the desert but, they had ALL been here for a lot longer so THEIR regular habits were NOT going to change overnight. If we didn’t want javelina or rabbits in the planters, rooting up and eating everything, well, we shouldn’t plant green flowery things like its a buffet in them should we?! I knew from my time working for the Phoenix Zoo that this was no ordinary patch of desert we had landed on. This eco system was thriving! It wasn’t long before the entire cast of usual and unusual suspects made their appearance. Literally the first night we moved in there was a huge scorpion on the wall by the front door greeting us. It was a sign of what was to come.

The first time I saw a bobcat was by my living room window. All alone in the house that day, out of the corner of my eye, I saw what appeared to be a tiger casually strolling by! It was the stripes that threw me, stripes and the white dots on the ears. I froze, terrified a tiger was next to the house! Not sure why but I was relieved when I realized it was “only” a bobcat. I said to myself “uh wait…that bobcat just walked through here without a care in the world…” obviously this wasn’t this cat’s first stroll around “our” property. Sighting’s like this prompted us to buy trail cameras to hang around the property so we could see who, or what was coming by for a visit day or night! I have to admit, to this day it’s a mix of fear and excitement every time we grab the cameras to view the footage.

One morning a coyote walked up the steps and casually crossed over the patio after a failed attempt at catching a rabbit. It stood on our hilltop majestically scanning the area below as the sun glistened off its thick fur. Glorious moment indeed. I felt like I was in the presence of an Alpha male or female. So far the largest group of coyote we have seen together at one time on the property was 6 of them cruising through the lower acre in the back one early morning, most likely heading into the wash to go hide and sleep off a night’s worth of prowling. But on our trail cameras at night, at the water hole we provide, there has only been one coyote coming for a drink at a time. We cannot say for certain whether it’s the same coyote coming every time, however, the more footage we get, the better we will be able to recognize subtle differences. Coyote look like coyote. If I told you I saw a dog you would ask what kind, how big, color etc… If I told you I saw three coyote, what do you picture? Three of the same animal right? They aren’t that easy to identify if you don’t have them all in a line-up.

I had no idea what a Mule deer was until I moved out here to Gold Canyon. I thought deer in Arizona lived in the higher elevations. I was wrong. They seem to happily and safely live on the nearby golf courses where there is plenty of shade, water and grasses to munch and hunting is not allowed. They might get hit by a golf ball, but actually the real danger locally for the deer are coyote, bobcat and the Mountain Lions or a fast car. Mule deer are good sized deer and will easily feed a large predator or pack. We have watched a few of these deer travel through our property from time to time but we have not seen any during the day or night on camera near the water bowl. Nor have we seen a Mountain Lion either but we know they are in the local area from photos shared online.

Honestly most of my desert life growing up I hadn’t seen many animals at all, just lizards. Born in Las Vegas and raised in the high desert of Southern California, I would have been that person who would have said “the desert sucks, its boring, Baker has a huge thermometer… blah blah blah…” I hated it and openly told everyone “If I die and you bury me in the desert I will come back and haunt you!” I can honestly say even while working for the Phoenix Zoo I avoided the Arizona Trail like the plague, especially when we had to walk over for “Creature Features” where I was expected to talk about the animals for 15 minutes straight! I knew virtually nothing but the basics anyone could look up like how long they lived. Studying didn’t seem to help me at all. I would always try to include a Zoo guest by asking them questions about things they had experienced or knew first hand getting them to fil the time with a much better story than mine! All I wanted to do was get back over to the Giraffe deck and feed Giraffes! It took moving way out to the East side of the Valley, long after I had left working for the Zoo to travel the states a bit, to discover I would fall madly in love with… the desert! We just hadn’t officially met yet. Apparently I needed to live in THIS part of the desert, live with it ALL and by all I mean ALL OF IT before I would wake up to just how magical being “desert” really is. I was a part of it and had been all along. I was born in the desert. Try as I might through the years to live by the coast, I simply can’t be transplanted successfully for long. I need hot dry air, lots of space, rocks and things to hike over and climb under big open blue skies. I am desert.

We have a roadrunner that sleeps in our garden gazebo in the top left or right corner depending on it’s mood. I enjoy roadrunners and will watch intently whenever one is near. They make unique sounds and their quirks and their mannerisms are fun for a rather large bird. Roadrunners beat the hell out of their prey. I’ve filmed a lizard beating more than once while simultaneously fascinated and horrified. The other birds don’t seem to care for roadrunners period and will sit up in the tree tops screeching at it if it comes near. I had the same response when I zoomed in and found out how a scorpion eats! Watching their claws/pinchers is nothing short of terrifying and I’m beyond grateful neither are not much larger creatures!

Nature is brutal there is no denying that. From my perspective here on the hilltop, it seems animal code is still more fair than humans. I can’t say that I’ve witnessed violence simply for violence sake when it comes to all of the animals I’ve seen and videoed out here. Killing is a result of hunger or protecting a territory, not personal anger or jealousy and overall ends quickly. It all appears pretty straight forward. I have watched as the javelina herd protected and successfully fended off the coyote pack who had circled them and were getting too close to their babies. It was a face off ending with no animal hurt and the coyote giving up and trotting off figuring there was no need to fight to the death. Physical power with sharp teeth and numbers versus slick, fast moving, semi vicious gangsters. It became too much effort for not enough pay off leaving the gangsters to go find a meal elsewhere. Done. Everyone back to normal. It is was it is. The food chain. Where you are in it matters and effects daily life. How you behave in it matters. How well you see and hear and smell all matters. How well you can run or fight. You don’t have to be big in size in the desert or in nature in general to be able to ward off an attack. Some creatures send that serious signal of “you don’t want to play with me” simply by what color they are. Rarely can a creature in the desert get away with bright colors unless it has no need to camouflage. Prime example is a Tarantula Hawk. Bright orange wings, blue black body, immobilizes a tarantula and drags it off to use as a host. Comes with one of the worst stings known.

There is extreme beauty and harmony in the deserts natural rhythm as well. The Saguaro bloom flowers for roughly the entire month of May. Those flowers bloom feeding countless birds and bees. In the arms of the Saguaro we have filmed baby Great Horned Owls, Screech Owls, Cactus Wren, Gila Woodpeckers and more all creating homes while creating babies safely up high. The Saguaro’s flowers, very much like the fruits and flowers from the prickly pear, wither and die leaving a fruit that again multiple animals including humans consume. Those seeds get spread allowing more Saguaro to grow. Saguaro only grow in a very limited area of the desert, known to live for a good hundred years withstanding extreme heat, high winds and drought. It takes a lot to not only live in the desert but to thrive in it. The sunrises and sunsets are pure art. The shadows over the mountain, the clouds rolling through, the smell after it rains, the chorus of birds, Gold Canyon is beautiful.

Day after day we were either seeing animals, hearing animals or finding parts or bones of animals. My collection of parts, pieces, and now even full animals grew rapidly. A jaw here, a bone there, lots of cottontails tail only. Signs the eco system was at work. But I also knew that though there were other nature lovers around me, this area had no center, museum, anything that would help a new comer to life in the desert. Subconsciously I knew I was collecting to become something much bigger but time would need to play out longer.

One day I went outside to contemplate building a raised bed for a garden out of wood pallets I had found. I had left them in the back yard by my bedroom in the hopes my garden could be close to my windows. It was roughly 8 in the morning. I had on the usual shorts and no shoes. I walked over to the pallet and decided I should flip it over and use it from the other side. I lifted it up and flipped it to the other side of the walkway. That’s when I saw it. Some sort of tube like thing was sticking out of the edge of the pallet. Confused I took a closer look. The patterns… I grabbed my phone. Taking pictures so I could zoom in…sure enough I had flipped a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake up over my head inside that pallet and now it was under it like the Wicked Witch under Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz! I had flipped it in the air and dropped a pallet on it! Is it dead? Stunned? or now seriously pissed off? I cannot say I handled this situation well. It scared the living daylights out of me! Once the rattler came to, it started wiggling itself from under the pallet! I ran and jumped over our side fence and called 911. The operator tried to give me a non emergency number but there was no way I was going to agree with her that THIS was not an emergency! I just hurled a Rattlesnake over my head! At bare minimum send some oxygen I can’t breathe!! I’m having an out of body experience and so is that snake!

The fire department came, patted me on the head and told me I would be fine, scooped up this poor confused snake and relocated it down the road safely.

I couldn’t sleep. I had nightmares.

Two days later I drove over to the fire station and spoke with them. Was I supposed to be able to handle this myself? I live on 3 acres of desert. Snakes do too. Assured that help is always available at multiple sources and it was a normal reaction for a lot of people around snakes, I went home not confident at all. Jay wasn’t any more equipped than myself at removing a rattlesnake from an unwanted spot. I wasn’t sure he had even seen a live one in his life that wasn’t at a Zoo. Reality check had happened.

Living in any beautiful area, with wildlife, in a healthy ecosystem, you have predators. Period. You cannot remove one for your comfort. It doesn’t work that way. You mess with the chain and it becomes weak. Balance and respect are how you cohabitate. You create boundaries that keep everyone safe. You wear protection. You educate yourself.

And if you are me and Jay, you realize you should share this much good with as many people as you can. You recognize the abundance the Superstition Mountain is providing. You simply can’t take and take and take.

We both felt a purpose. It was too obvious to ignore. How did we even land on such a good deal on property surrounded by mansions when we are simple working class people? Our friends and family had never seen anything like this either. Jay was finding his share of things when he would go out looking for golf balls or even simply driving home. More often then not he would alert me to go see what he had thrown in the bucket in the back of the truck this time. But somehow dealing with all the dead animals and parts didn’t seem like the same calling for him as it was for me. He was my support. He is already a teacher, Math. I was the one who was the desert kid, the former Zoo employee. I asked myself “how and where do you share?” When we moved here in 2016, I still was not on social media. I liked to write and was trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself career wise. I heard about WordPress and it was easy for me to sign up so I began writing about the things around me, but on a personal level. I wasn’t getting much interaction and felt like I was simply writing my diary for public consumption, so after more than 200 posts, I wandered away from WordPress.

Videos and photos were filling my storage and WordPress was now not their home so I went to over Facebook. Wrong place again. FB format is for your friends and family to say “happy birthday!” or “I got a puppy!” and keep you in a loop of the same four friends you had in elementary school. I’m truly not a FB fan but still go to see all my people who refuse to hear what I’m doing anywhere else. Instagram is more of my home. It welcomed me and my desert view with open arms! The format screams “post all of your photos here!” Immediately I made friends who loved where I lived and all the nature surrounding me. With my computer skill level still painfully low, I would make one minute videos and just ask viewers to scroll to the next. Someone suggested I develop a Youtube Channel. I figured why not. Its just as easy to load videos there also.

After my encounter with the rattler I had challenged myself to collect the dead snakes off the road and keep track of what I had found. Could I even pick a dead one up? What would I do with it? No one I knew encouraged this effort and pretty much thought I had lost my mind. I was now bringing home dead rattlesnakes to identify and measure and skin and do anything scientific I could think of to add value to this poor dead creatures life. Having absolutely no background in any form of taxidermy or skinning anything, my first attempts were slow and rough with finishes not necessarily worthy of the amount of effort I had put in. I looked up tips and tricks online but then also questioned what and why I was doing any of this for.. Not to create hat bands that was for sure. Simple. I had that answer. There was/is too much education surrounding me not to figure out a way to do something bigger and positive with it.

Real desert education like this; observations, identifications of species, behaviors, anatomy, the sciences, the math, the art, the botany, all of it, shouldn’t have to come at a huge financial cost to those who seek it or be found in a typical classroom. Not when we have so much readily available with no end in sight. I grew up middle to lower income in the middle of the desert. No one told me when you grow up you could work at a Zoo. I grew up believing Zoo employees were special magical people and I wasn’t one of them. Had I been offered different career paths earlier on would it have changed me? Or would I have still needed to go through all that I did in life to appreciate what was in front of me in order for me to truly make a difference. All I did know was I had been called to do something and it was definitely on behalf of the nature around me.

With love and support, Jay fully encouraged me to take over as much of our house, garage, property, whatever I needed to create what was obviously coming, I needed to create a non profit with a small museum dedicated as a permanent home, a final resting place where they could be honored and we could learn from the animals we had found. A study zone, a work zone, whatever it needed to be. Funding wasn’t and still isn’t the primary focus. There is so much money out there to support real honest quests that financial support will, and has come, as its been needed. Not in an abundance sort of way but in a measured, natural way which only solidifies our belief that this idea, this venture, this goal is being watched over by the Superstition Mountain.

The official paper work came, appropriately on Jay’s 55th birthday, on that special number day that added up to 555. The Desert Nature Alliance had the things the IRS said it needed. They hadn’t rejected the paperwork I had cried over. With a puffy face and smile, Jay took a photo of me holding my legitimacy in my hands. Friends and family poured love at the post. They had watched from the sidelines. They had viewed the weird photos and videos. They feared for my safety as photo after photo I posted was me carrying another dead rattler home. They watched and continue to watch me fumble through my own videos where I teach and explain and share my relentless enthusiasm. And now they know none of it was a show or fake or made up internet photoshopped trickery. It was simply Jay and Stacy all along, falling in love with each other again and the desert for the first time.

Yesterday we went for a much needed walk, get away from the constant grind of working from home. Half way across the golf course I told Jay I wanted to go and look around an area I hadn’t been to in awhile. When the weather gets hot the rattlers come out. It’s no longer safe for me to hunt for bones so I don’t! Plenty of other work to keep me busy. Usually he will just stay around the course and putt or whatever while I wander off into the bushes but yesterday he came along figuring I would be quick then we could go on walking. I don’t think I was more than a few yards down the wash when I spotted something large out of the corner of my eye. I am always terrified I might find a human. It was a full, completely intact coyote that, for whatever reason, had laid down there and died. Its remains were dried and withered. This coyotes death happened awhile ago but the smell still lingered. Sad. Recently there was a coyote in the golf course lake. I doubt this was the same one because it wouldn’t have been so dried out and so far along in the decomposing. I record and document this type of thing around here for the dNa’s records. There may not be studies now or even a need, but if there were to become one we, the Desert Nature Alliance, are ready with the observations to help.

We would love for you to follow us! Be a part of our growing and changing and exploring and sharing and educating. Please find one of our social media platforms that works for you. We are on Instagram: Stacy’s @oh_so_stace or Jay’s @the_ozone_experience and exclusively animals and nature photos and videos @desert_nature_allaince or follow on FB or YouTube channelhttps://youtu.be/UUKuxrPbC1Q “oh so stace” Like, share, comment, subscribe or simply watch and send love! We appreciate it ALL! This journey has just begun. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your time and spending it here. If you have questions, would like to visit us want to support the dNa head over to our website www.desertnatureallianceaz.org.

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