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Western New York: Little cemetery on a hill

By Robin Dearing
Monday, August 18, 2014

While re-reading this post Randee wrote last month, I was reminded of some photos I took while we were on vacation in western New York in June and July.

Several times, we drove by this tiny cemetery surrounded by a farmer's fields:

Only the grassy drive up to the little plot of land was not being farmed.

Driving on the grass is something so foreign for those of us in the west. We treasure every blade of grass, but it grows in very nook and granny back east. 

What's also common in rural New York, are tiny, old cemeteries tucked into odd, little plots of land. I saw a new housing subdivision flanked by a small grassy area which held 30 old headstones. It reminded me of the vast history of the area and little, self-sufficient communites that used to dot this region. Would you buy a house next door to a charming little graveyard?

While several of the 19th century headstones had fallen over, the graveyard was well manicured. It looked more like something out of central casting, than a knoll in the middle of a famer's soybean crop.

I was also taken by the inscriptions. Many of these from the 19th century didn't have birth dates. Instead, the stone — like this one for John L. Wilson — included the death date and Mr. Wilson's exact age, 28 years and 24 days when he died.

When looking through these pictures, I thought I had captured ghosts in this one. Then I remembered it was windy that day and I was having a hard time keeping my hair out of the frames.

There's something about visiting cemetaries that reminds me of how we are just here, living on this earth, for a tiny fraction of time. It's both sobering and comforting. Time goes on with or without us. 


Pitter patter

By Robin Dearing
Thursday, August 14, 2014

I haven't been sleeping well lately. My mind won't quiet. I lie in bed listening to Bill saw logs while I toss and turn.

Out of desperation, I downloaded an app on my phone that plays soothing sounds. I set the timer for 15 minutes, get comfortable and put in an earbud. I focus on the sounds instead of the crazy floating around my gray matter. It's been working pretty well. I've been getting to sleep much easier. 

Last night, I set up my phone and put in my earbud. I was getting lulled to sleep when I realized the earbud was on the floor. I was no longer listening to the sounds of the electronic app. I was listening to a rainstorm blanketing our high-desert valley with always-needed rain.

I've not found a more soothing sound than rain. But living in the desert, we don't get much ... until recently.

I moved to the Grand Valley 18 years ago this month. I remember someone telling me that the monsoons were wonderful in late summer. Ever year I would wait for them. Every year summer would end hot and dry, like it started. 

Fall would cool down, but the monsoons were always missing. Oh, we'd get a few showers, but they never lasted long enough though. They were always just a tease.

This year, we've had rainstorm after rainstorm. It's crummy for camping and hiking, but it's been great for my psyche. The rain is so refreshing and healing. Plus, it's a great excuse to lie in bed reading instead of getting out and walking the dog. Also, I heard that the peaches have never been better.

The desert always needs rain and I know exactly how it feels.


Wordless Wednesday: Good moo-rning

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, August 13, 2014


First day of 9th Grade

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Here's Margaret as she was getting ready to leave for her first day of 9th grade:

Super cute, indeed!

Her first day went fine. She's pleased with most of her courses and has friends with whom she can eat lunch. She's going into this year with a better attitude and is focusing on her school work and trying to stay out of the drama (if that's possible among teenaged girls). 

But this morning, she was so tired, she put her head down on the table instead of eating. I'm feeling it, too. We have to get up much earlier than last year because we have a longer drive to get her to her new school.

Maybe it's because I'm tired, but I'm so irritated with the school district. Could someone please explain why high-school kids need to start school at 7:25? Elementary kids start at 8:50. Why not move high-school start time to 8 a.m.?


Product review: The Box by Fitmark

By Robin Dearing
Friday, August 1, 2014

When I brought home The Box by Fitmark, my husband said, "Wow! That's a nice bag." When I showed him what was inside, he was doubly impressed.

Fitmark creates their high-quality bags specifically for the fitness enthusiasts, but they are useful to armchair athletes, as well. The Box is more than just a bag for carrying your lunch. It is a food organizer that comes complete with two Meal Containers, ice packs and their Smartshake Shaker Bottle which holds drink powders and any pills, vitamins or supplements that you may need during your day or your workout.

I can easily see me using this bag to pack my husband's lunches during the week and then using it on the weekends for when we go rafting or skiing. I love that the front of The Box zips open so the you can put your food on the flap. Plus the divider is velcroed to the bottom, so it can be moved out of the way for largers items. Honestly, I've never seen a nicer food-carrying box that includes everything I will need to pack a good meal.

The lid has a mesh pocket for silverware and napkins. The outside has larger mesh pocket that easily fits my husband's travel coffee cups. The Box has a handle on top and an adjustable carrying strap, too. Those Fitmark people are really clever in their design, plus they use really nice materials that will last.

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality and functionality of The Box by Fitmark. The fact that the ice packs, containers and drink shaker are all included is impressive. Fitmark is selling a complete meal management system in one easy-to-use soft-sided box. Very nice product and I can't recommend it highly enough.

For more information about Fitmark, you can find then on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @FitmarkBags.


Just Wondering

By Randee Bergen
Monday, July 28, 2014

Early in the summer, I was camping in the southern Utah town of Cedar City. After a day of hiking and then napping by the pool at the campground, I ventured out for a short run about town.

Heading south down the main street, from the northern end of town, I came upon a picturesque cemetery. The tall trees, in an otherwise high desert setting, cast shade about the thick, neatly trimmed grass, made a brilliant green by the slant of the evening sun, and upon the roads leading into the cemetery, vacant on this late Sunday afternoon, inviting me in.

At first I focused on my running, feeling fortunate for the quiet roads and cooler venue. Out of respect, I ran as lightly as I could, placing each step without sound upon the pavement. Is this irreverent? I wondered. I’ve run alongside my hometown cemetery, but never through it.

But soon my attention was on the headstones.

There was something perplexing about them. Each marker seemed recently placed – clean and gleaming like new countertops, all with what appeared to be freshly incised lettering. A newer section of the cemetery, I thought, but, with the inscriptions so sharp and mysteriously not timeworn, I could see, easily, that they were diversely aged, many having been situated there more than 50 years.

How has time not permanently dusted and dulled these markers? Why are the loving inscriptions and vital statistics not worn down, lost to those looking upon them now for the first time? My wondering continued as I ran.

And the decorations! The sites, nearly every one, were adorned with bright bouquets, crisp and new, like the headstones themselves. Deep reds, not one bit faded from the hot western sun, and yellows vibrant as if they had just popped that morning. I saw balloons, aloft of the markers, not drooping in the least, seemingly placed just moments before I arrived. Hats, flags, garden decor. All tidy. Colorful. Nothing out of place. Every grave looking as if it had been attended to that day.

How is this possible? I wondered, looking around, searching for someone, anyone, to inquire if they were noticing what I was noticing, to ask if they knew the secret of this place. It would make sense if it was just past Memorial Day, but the holiday formerly known as Decoration Day was two weeks gone. No one else. No one there to wonder with.

I thought of my running friend, how we’d discuss this if she was here. And my hiking partner; he’d enjoy contemplating these things with me. But mostly I thought of my mom. I remember visiting with her live-in partner one day, remember him saying something about how my mom never says, “I don’t know.” He said that when he asks her a question and she doesn’t know the answer she won’t say, “I don’t know.” She’ll muse about it, toss out some ideas, ask him what he thinks. He didn’t seem to understand why she would do that, why she wouldn’t just say, “I don’t know.”

“Is that bad?” I asked him. “Because I do that, too!” I visualized doing this with my mom; yes, we definitely had thought, together, about things we weren’t sure about, exchanged ideas, furthered our thinking, and often come up with answers or explanations that we wouldn’t have, had we not gone through the process of wondering, together.

I needed my mom, a friend, information about this cemetery, Google, anyone.

After running crisscross up and down all the paved roads in the cemetery, I came upon a newer section toward the back. Here, the roads were gravel. Here, there were no trees, none casting shade anyway. But the markers themselves looked the same–new, recently etched, smartly adorned. An American flag, not faded in the least, flapped in the wind, wind not previously perceived in the more protected confines of the cemetery.

I ran on.

Now I came upon a small dirt area, red dirt, typical of the southwest. Short sticks and rocks marked the burial sites, presumably those of pets. Twenty graves perhaps. Why just 20? Just 20 beloved pets lost over all these years? Perhaps the pet cemetery concept hadn’t taken off or the idea ruled against. A few weeds grew here. Why are there weeds here and nowhere else? Why haven’t they been pulled?

Oh, to mull these thoughts over with someone.

Not far from the pet cemetery, I came upon an information board and a map explaining the layout of the cemetery. A bit of information to shape my pondering.

What? Not a pet cemetery, but an Indian burial area. More questions. Why just 20 or so Indians? Maybe shortly after Indians were permitted (or chose) to be buried here, they were included in the regular sections, treated equally, with grass instead of weeds, proper markers rather than sticks and stones.

I went back to the little dirt area. Took a closer look. Noticed an etching on one of the sandstone rocks placed there. Tom somebody. This rudimentary carving was not sharp, not legible, not even up close, not even later when I zoomed in on the photo. October 1947? 1941? Space for just one date. Was this the year of birth or death? Probably death. Tom. Lost. Lost to most.

I continued on through the cemetery, taking each road one more time. Wondering about this place. Wondering about wondering. I could stop by the office the next morning. Ask some questions. Inquire. I could, upon arriving home, do some research on the Internet. Was there another cemetery in Cedar City? An older, more historic, more typical one? Where were most Indians buried, back then and now, too?

No, forget it. I wasn’t going to. To leave here just wondering, that’s what I decided to do.

I recall mentioning to my aunt the conversation I had had about my mother and her wondering, her thinking aloud, her expecting others to build upon her thoughts, her using this approach to try to come to some understanding, some conclusions. I recall my aunt saying, “I didn’t have a mother who wondered. I had a mother who said, ‘I don’t know.’ It was the more appropriate thing to do in her time.” And then, “I missed out on a lot of conversations.”

So here’s to the power of wondering, to thinking aloud. And here’s to my mother for engaging in this behavior, drawing me in, teaching me to wonder, to just wonder.


Congratulations to GJSentinel.com bloggers!

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, July 21, 2014

The bloggers here at GJSentinel.com deserve a big pat on the back for winning first place in the 2014 Digital Media Contest for Best Blog Initiative!

This national award was given in all contest classes combined!

The Haute Mamas are proud to be among the voices who help make the Blog page of GJSentinel.com so great.

To read more award-winning blogs, CLICK HERE.


Masters of car camping

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, July 17, 2014

Remember a couple of months ago my post about how much we needed to get done this summer? READ IT HERE in the first paragraph or just recall that I had a moment of overwhelment (is that a word?) about how short summer was and how much we needed to get done. Fishing and camping were big on that list.

So that's what we've been doing — every single weekend. Seriously, we've slept in the woods every weekend since June 13th.

Our boys have discovered camping this summer — and they freakin LOVE it!!!

We're living for the weekend. On Friday nights, we rushed home, packed the car, load the canoe and drive up to the Grand Mesa. By sunset, our tent is up and dinner is served. I can't hardly believe that we're not only doing it but doing it every single weekend. Best summer ever!

We started out a bit shaky and unprepared. It took a long time to load the car that first weekend. I was raiding the kitchen for supplies and was generally disorganized. As the weeks have gone, we've gotten better and more efficient. We created a "car camping box" which I supplied with utensils and other necessities from the dollar store. We're careful to replace anything we use, like bug spray, and have added more essentials like a sweet first aid kit each week.

I have spent quite some time on Pinterest researching things to cook in foil packets, like bannana boats, a new Ashcraft family favorite. Over Fourth of July, we ate like kings with steaks and potatoes, grilled breakfast burritos, and coffee. Other weeks, however, we keep it very simple with Ramen noodles, boiled eggs, cheese and crackers. I've figured out how to put a weekend worth of meals for a family of five into a half size cooler. I know, I rock, and I've mastered this car camping thing.

We stay in our 4-man tent with Kip. This is the last summer that we're going to be able to do that because our tent is very, very crowded. We've spent hours around camp debating a new tent vs. a tent trailer upgrade. On the one hand, my old back would love a cush mattress. On the other hand, there's a certain amount of "roughing it" that every camper should experience.

I love this tent and I love sleeping with my family in big mess of arms and legs. It's been a good den. But, one thing is for sure though, these boys won't stop this growing thing they keep doing so something will have to change next summer.

Last weekend, our packing was so efficient that we found time to load up the canoe too. I'm not sure which the boys like better, boating or fishing, but luckily they don't have to choose.

It's been quite a summer so far I must say — one I'm surely going to be miss.


Assignment:  Today

By Randee Bergen
Thursday, July 17, 2014

I realized later that I hadn’t seen the whole post, the entire paragraph. There was a quote, then a line space, and at the bottom…

Assignment: Today

I love the assignment part I commented on the post, thinking the assignment was one word, to focus on today, to make the most of it.

The person commented back that I could download the app and it would give me a new assignment every day. I took a closer look and saw that the word today was only the first word in a multi-sentence assignment. I wasn’t interested in the entire description of the assignment (hardly read it) or the app, particularly. I had already decided that my assignment was today. Just today.

Today. An optimistic word full of promise. Today. A fleeting notion. Today. Something that definitely needs to be grabbed onto and made the most of.

This wasn’t a new revelation for me, this embracing of the gift of a day. It just reiterated for me how I shouldn’t waste precious time, moments, or–the worst–an entire day.

Earlier that morning, I went hiking with a friend and she told she was thinking about doing a sprint triathlon coming up in September. “I just need to commit. Commit to the training,” she bemoaned.

“I’ll do it with you,” I said. I spit it out, before I could think about it, before I could tell myself no. “I’ll train with you.”

“Really? You will?” she asked, stopping in the trail, ahead of me, and turning back to look at me.

“Yes.” It wouldn’t be my first tri. I’ve done several since I started running about six years ago. Most triathletes have to conquer the swimming portion of a triathlon, already being capable enough of the running and the biking. For me, the swimming is the easiest part and the pedaling isn’t so hard either; it’s the running that kills me. I am a slow runner. And I’m especially slow after swimming, riding my bike, and then attempting to run.

I’d pretty much written off any more triathlons and any serious running training as well, for that matter. In fact, I had just recently decided that I was only going to run, ever again, if I felt like it. I wasn’t going to push myself. I love exercise and I do all sorts of it and I figured it was no big deal if I ever ran again. I wasn’t that good at it anyway, even back a few years ago when I was running a lot.

But, there is this secret inner part of me that still wants to be a runner, that wants to be stronger, that wants to lose the 15 pounds I’ve gained since I quit running on a regular basis. And that secret inner longing was probably what made me spew the words “I’ll do it with you” before my brain could really think about it and override the pact I was about to make.

My friend and I hiked to the high point on the trail–Eagle Wing–where we finalized the commitment to train together and took our official commitment selfie.

On the way down, we made a training schedule. We decided which mornings we would swim, when we would run trails, and that we’d have to squeeze biking into evenings and weekends.

From now on, starting today, I am in training. I will write a weekly training plan and try to stick with it, taking it one day at a time, focusing on today, doing my best, and then moving on to the next day.

I must admit I’m excited. I didn’t want to be done being a runner (slow as I am, a runner who runs on a fairly regular basis, runs a few races here and there, and enjoys the benefits of a leaner and stronger body) but I was definitely in a slump and developing a negative mindset, thinking I was too old to run and that I was never meant to run anyway.

But today is a new day. And I’ve got a new challenge and a new focus.

Assignment: Today.


Wordless Wednesday: Toronto Eaton Centre

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

(Photo by Margaret McCracken)

Page 9 of 175


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