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W — Wildlife

Blogging From A to Z

In 1999, my three kids and I went on one of our last road trips together. That summer we drove from Los Angeles to Vancouver, British Columbia. This trip was a little easier for me because my son had just begun driving and was able to help me with that, as well as with distracting and occupying his younger sisters.

On our way north, we drove first to San Jose and stayed with my sister for a couple of days before heading to Canada. When we got started, we drove along U.S. 101 from San Francisco across the Oregon border just north of Crescent City then headed east to Interstate 5 which we would take the rest of the way into Canada. When we got near Medford, Oregon on Interstate 5, we began to see signs for an attraction called Wildlife Safari. According to the billboards, it wasn’t too far away. We hadn’t heard of it previously but the signs promised a drive-thru experience with wildlife and a zoo, as well as a gift shop and cafeteria. We decided we would keep driving until we got to the turn off for Wildlife Safari instead of stopping for a rest in Medford.

When we arrived we learned that we would drive through the gated and fenced in grounds in our own car. We would be able to drive through at our leisure and were allowed to open windows in the car, except in the bear and lion dens where our windows had to be rolled up. We didn’t know what to expect but my kids, all three of them, have always loved wildlife and were excited to go through. So we did.

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We were not disappointed in the least. The park was everything it had promised and so much more. The animals came up to the car windows in many cases and in some cases, we actually had to stop the car and wait for the wildlife to get out of our way. We saw girafffes, zebras, camels, yaks, bison, emus, and a variety of different deer, sheep, and goats. We saw monkeys, black bears, brown bears, tigers, lions, leopards, and just about any kind of animal you might expect to see on safari. The animals are grouped in “continent” manor so that you would see the same animals grouped together that you would actually see in proximity to one another in the wild. The kids were mesmerized. Because we were able to move at our own pace (under ten miles per hour) we were able to take a lot of pictures. The kids were able to take off their seat belts and change places to get a better view any time they wanted to.

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When we finished the drive and got out of the car to head to the mini zoo and gift shop, the kids were so enthusiastic that they wanted to go again. However, we didn’t have time because the park was about to close and we had already lost three hours of driving time. We were determined to make it to Portland that evening. The whole rest of the trip, over a week’s time, the kids kept talking about Wildlife Safari and asked if we could go through again on the way home. We agreed that if everyone cooperated in getting up and leaving Vancouver on time, we should be able to arrive at Wildlife Safari just before the last drive through of the day. So now we had a goal to shoot for.

We did it! Everyone cooperated. We were able to leave Vancouver by 8 am and we arrived in Winston, Oregon at the gates of Wildlife Safari in time to drive through. This time they each had a brand new disposable camera to take pictures with as we drove into the park. Once again, they were just as mesmerized the second time as they had been the first time. This time we saw different animals; a lot of the same animals were out but we did see some that we had missed the first time through.

Since 1999, Wildlife Safari has become a favorite stop between San Jose and Portland. In fact, there have been several times when we drove from the San Francisco bay area to Wildlife Safari and back to California – a special trip to a special place. If I count back, I believe I have been to Wildlife Safari at least fourteen times! It has changed a lot since the first time we were there but it is still the same place with a lot of the same operating procedures. Some things have gotten better and some things have gotten commercial (for example, they now have “encounters” where you can get up close and personal with some of the animals for an extra fee) but it is still a wonderful experience! And now my grandchildren are enjoying it, too.
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Ups And Downs

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To join in the fun of the weekend coffee share, write you post then visit Part Time Monster and enter your URL in the linky.

If we were having coffee this morning, I would welcome you into my home and hope that you wouldn’t mind my greeting you in my pjs and robe. You would come sit on the couch and I would sit in the rocker as I’ve been on the couch far too much this past week. If you’re looking for my A to Z Challenge post for today, you can find it here.

This morning I will be having only the second cup of coffee since my surgery on the 16th. My system is slowly coming around but things are quite different from what they were like before. For the most part, that’s a good thing. I’m not able to eat very much or even drink much. I seem to be full after about three bites. I have to push myself to eat little meals so I don’t get weak because if I only ate when I was hungry, I wouldn’t be here any longer.

I’m recuperating slowly. One day will be very good and I will feel like I could maybe get dressed and go down the block to check mail but then I realize that I can’t stand for more than a couple of minutes without dizziness and I still can’t get around the house without my walker. So I haven’t left the house. I’m sure I won’t for awhile although I do have a doctor’s appointment for Tuesday. The hospital staff sent me a case worker that got me hooked up with a clinic that does outreach for the under served community so they got me an appointment with a doctor to set up regular care, not post-op. I might have to put it off. It will depend on my daughter’s schedule. If she can take me, I will go but if she’s working, then I will have to postpone.

Either way, I do want to get out this week. I told my daughter that even if we just go for a drive and maybe go through drive-thru for a burger or a cup of coffee, I would like to get out. It has been raining since I got home from the hospital on Tuesday but the weather looks like it is clearing and warming so now’s the time to make a run for it.

How has your week been? I think we missed last week, although I did try to come and read as many of the coffee share posts as I could, even though I didn’t write one. I can’t seem to concentrate on much these days so I haven’t read anything lately. Have you read anything interesting? TV…anything you’ve watched? Anything you could recommend for streaming? Since I can’t concentrate very well, I’m watching more TV than normal. I don’t have regular TV, I stream using Netflix and Hulu and Amazon. So if you have something to recommend, let me know.

Your weather? How is it? Are you still having spring or did it crawl back into winter as so much of the country seems to have? Have you been able to enjoy the outdoors? That’s one thing I am looking forward to this summer. I can get outdoors more when I am in better shape. I can already tell that my body feels better when I walk and stand. Things are not as cramped as they were. There is not as much bulk to my body. It’s kind of strange when I put my hand down to my stomach and it can go down a few extra inches! It’s like half of me is gone. I can’t describe it. It’s just strange. I guess that’s what happens when they take out a huge cyst and drain 20 litres of fluid from your body. Oh, and they also took my appendix and two pair of ovaries and tubes and some of the lining of the abdomen.

I have run out of things to say but I hope you stay. Fix yourself another cup of coffee, please. Stay awhile. I’m kind of lonely these days. Tell me about you. Tell me about your world. Have you discovered any interesting blogs this week? And if you really must go, please come back next week when I can breathe a sigh of relief when A to Z Challenge is all over! It has been fun but it has also been a tough time to keep up with the challenge.

V — Volkswagen

Blogging From A to Z

When I was around nine years old (around 1964), my dad went to go see about a car he wanted to buy. We had a family car but he wanted to get a car for him to drive to work in so that the family car would “last longer”. Besides, he explained, my oldest brother would be driving in another year so it would be good to start looking for a car that he could drive to work so that my brother could drive my mom around town. She didn’t drive so when she had to go some place, she would walk. Sometimes that meant walking or riding the bus across town with sick kids in tow or sometimes it meant having to walk home from the doctor way after it was dark. My dad worked in a cannery so in the high season (May through November) he often had to work late into the night, until all the trucks coming in and going out had been unloaded and loaded.

A few hours after he left, he came home with a new car. It was a little Volkswagen beetle. It was from being new. It needed paint. It had some bumps and bruises and the interior was well worn. He had gotten a good deal on it and it was very cheap on gas so he was happy. We all thought it was a great car. It was cute. It was new to us. It was different from anything we had ever driven in. We all ran out to the driveway to see the car and we all wanted to go for a ride. So we all piled in the car…all NINE of us. My youngest sister sat on my mom’s lap in the front seat and the other six of us sat on laps in the back seat. Off we went! When we were only about two miles away from home my dad realized that the gas tank was almost empty. We had to get gas or we would end up walking home. Luckily, there was a small gas station a block away (the Spartan gas station which was still standing the last time I was in town around six or so years ago).

There was just one problem. My dad didn’t have any money on him and my mom had left without her purse so she had no money. My dad found about thirty-five cents in his pocket and my oldest brother had fifteen cents. Between the nine of us we managed to come up with something like 78 CENTS for gas. When the young man came to the window, my dad said he needed 78 cents of gas. Seeing the incredulous look on the kid’s face as he took in the back seat packed with kids sitting on each other, my dad added that the car wasn’t ours. We were just test driving it. The kid pumped the gas and cleaned the windows. My dad waved him away from checking the oil and said it was fine as he handed the young man the 78 cents for the gas.

Taking the money, the kid looked at my dad and said, “Sir, I think maybe you should look for a bigger car.” My dad nodded and we drove off with a straight face. It was only when we drove out of the driveway that we all cracked up at the look on the kid’s face as he counted the nine bodies packed like sardines in the back of the little white Volkswagen beetle. I’m sure the kid could hear us laughing blocks away!

U — Underneath

Blogging From A to Z

Too often we focus on the surface of things, what can be seen, rather than what is underneath. One of my all time favorite places on earth is the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve tried voicing why I feel so drawn to it, so empowered and grounded by the bridge, but it’s a difficult thing to do. I’ve seen it thousands of times. I grew up in the San Francisco bay area and as a child, we would go over the bridge at least once a month, always stopping at the Sausalito Vista Point to look at the view and to admire the bridge itself. As an adult, I lived north of the bridge for some years and took every opportunity to cross the bridge, even if I didn’t have to.

On one of the trips across the bridge, my youngest daughter was with me. We were on our way from Santa Rosa where we lived at the time to the Stanford University Book Store where we were getting her a new laptop as I was able to get a significant alumni discount on Mac products. When we got near the bridge, she mentioned that she needed to go to the bathroom and wasn’t sure she could wait until we got over the bridge and to an area where we could find a restroom so I told her we could stop before going over the bridge and we could take the walkway under the bridge that would take us to the Sausalito Vista Point. We had never done that but I knew there was a walkway there and had seen people entering and exiting so we pulled over and did just that. She went up ahead as I took my time to take some pictures. When I entered the darkened area under the bridge, which is kind of a tunnel walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists to get from the northbound to the southbound lanes of the bridge I suddenly realized that I was seeing this part of the bridge for the first time. I looked around and was fascinated by the view below where I could see the foundation of the bridge and the underbelly. And then there was the noise of traffic and I could even see the traffic going above me as vehicles crossed gaps in the roadway. I was mesmerized by this view of the bridge that relatively few people ever get to see…to experience. Since then, it is another favorite part of the Golden Gate Bridge experience for me and I try to visit the underbelly of the bridge any time I’m there.

Beneath the Golden Gate Bridge

Beneath the Golden Gate Bridge

T — Tonsils

Blogging From A to Z

When I was a little girl, around three years old, I spent a lot of time being sick. There were lots of doctor visits, lots of medicines, and a lot of trips to the hospital. I had a lot of pain in my throat and it seemed like it was always sore, like I always had a cold. Finally, Dr. Johnson told my mother that it was time to get my tonsils take out. I would have to go to the hospital to have an operation. My parent’s had insurance for it but because I was so young, the insurance said they would not cover the surgery until they got another doctor to examine me and say the same thing so I had to go to more doctors and more visits and be sick some more.

Then one day my mother got a phone call from the hospital. It was okay for me to have the operation. For several days, my parents took me shopping at night time, after my father was home from work. I got a little suitcase made of wood with colored pegs and a little hammer. It had a chalkboard too. It was mine. I did not have to share it with my sisters. It was for me to take to the hospital with me. I also got a pink nightgown and a pink robe to take to the hospital. I think there were new slippers and I know there was a new blue hairbrush. All these things were for me. All for me. No one else. Just for me. I was feeling really special to be getting the operation.

On the day of the operation, my father had to work so my mother and I walked to the bus stop and took the bus downtown. We had some breakfast and then we got on another bus that left us closer to the hospital. By the time we got to the hospital, it was almost the night time. After we waited a long time, they took me to a little room where there were only doctors and nurses. My mom could not go in with me. The doctor told me to look up at the ceiling at a large circle that was like a light but it had no light coming from it. I was supposed to look at it and count backwards from 100 but I didn’t know my numbers so I was confused. Just a couple of numbers later, I was asleep and I didn’t know what happened until I woke up in a room in a crib with a lot of ladies in it.

That night, after work and after dinner, my mom and dad came to see me at the hospital. They brought me a little doll that was going to stay with me and sleep at the hospital when they left. I liked the doll but when it was time for them to leave me and go back home to my brothers and sisters, I gave the doll back to my mom so she could take it back to the store because I wanted to go home with her. My mom’s pretty green eyes were wet and she smiled and said I had to stay there overnight but that if I was a good girl, I could go home in a day or two. My mom and dad kissed me and hugged me and as they turned and waved at me from the door, I smiled at them but I was crying. I smiled at them because I didn’t want my mommy to cry. I didn’t want her to see me cry so I just smiled at them and waved with one hand and wiped the tears away with the other hand.

That night, after they left and after all the ladies in the beds around me were sleeping, I cried. Being in the hospital was not fun anymore. I didn’t want to stay there. I wanted to go home and I wanted my mommy.

S — Stove

Blogging From A to Z

We had a gas stove in the kitchen. It was almost always on. Good things came from that stove and the best part was that my mother was always there, at the stove, near the stove, using the stove and wherever my mother was, I wanted to be.

My mother made flour tortillas for every meal. She was in the kitchen making the dough–the masa–before the rest of us were out of bed in the mornings. When I was dressed and ready, I would go into the kitchen and watch her. I sat at the red formica table and watched my mother bring the rolling pin out then she would dust the table with flour and take one of the little dough balls and set it in the middle of the flour. She’d begin to move the wooden rolling pin back and forth over the little ball, flattening it, turning it over, and flattening it some more until it grew big enough and thin enough to cook. By then the black cast iron griddle (called a comal) was hot enough to cook the tortillas and my mom would put the thin layer of masa on the griddle for just a few seconds then flip it over. She would spend the rest of the time walking the four steps between the stove and the table to flip the tortillas over as she kept rolling out more tortillas to cook. I was always scared that she would burn her fingers when she turned the tortillas over.

I loved the smell of tortillas cooking on the griddle. Tortillas, when they are cooking, smell of warmth and freshness. The smell meant that when the first one was cooked and had cooled a little, my mom would let me have it. I would be the first one to take the round flat tortilla and fold it in half, tear a piece off of it and put it in my mouth, tasting all the work and the love my mother had put into that one perfect tortillas.

I was always amazed that none of the tortillas burned while she rolled out more and more. It all looked so easy. Somehow my mother timed it just right. While she rolled out the tortillas, I would sit at the table and talk to her, asking her questions about what she was doing and why she was doing it and what would happen if she did it differently. She would answer my questions and sometimes she’d laugh and ask me why I was so full of questions. I asked her once why her fingers didn’t burn when she turned the tortillas over and she said it was because she didn’t use the fingers. She said she used her fingernails. That’s why she couldn’t ever wear pretty polish on her fingernails, because if she did, it would burn. Another time I asked her how she got the tortillas so round and perfect. My mom said the secret was to run the rolling pin over and back just one time, then to turn the tortilla a little bit before running the rolling pin over and back again. She said you had to keep doing it like that, roll over and back, flip, roll over and back, flip, until the tortilla was ready to cook. Sometimes she would tell me I should run and play outside with my brothers and sisters but I never did. I liked to be inside, with my mother, next to her, talking to her and learning from her. As she cooked on the white O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove, my mother and I kept each other from being lonely.

When the tortillas were all done, enough for the nine of us, she would put everything away and start on the food. I got to stay and watch and when I was old enough, I got to help her with the cooking. That’s how I learned to make tortillas and my three sisters didn’t. That’s how I learned to make the enchiladas, tostadas, the menudo, chile verde, and all the other foods our family loved to eat every day and my sisters didn’t. That’s how I got to spend many hours talking to my mother and listening to her, learning from her and letting her learn about me, and my sisters didn’t.

My mother did other things in the kitchen and I learned to do those, too. I remember that she used to iron in one corner of the kitchen and I remember her sewing our clothes when we tore holes into them. But one special thing that I loved most that my mother did in our pink kitchen was sing. She almost always had the radio on and when the radio was on, she would be singing. She knew the words to all of the songs and when there was a new one, one she didn’t know, she would take a piece of paper and write the words then she’d put it next to the radio until the next time they played the same song and when they did, she’d rush over to the radio, grab the paper and write down more of the words until she had them all. Then the next time the new song was on, she could sing it without looking at the paper. I loved hearing the music but I loved hearing my mother sing more! I learned the words to some of the songs and sometimes I would try to sing them too. One song I liked was called El Caballo Blanco. It told the story of a white horse that escaped and ran from one city to the next, admiring the countryside of Mexico. I liked that song because I had been to some of those places. When the white horse died in Ensenada at the end of the song, it always made me sad.

Sometimes my mother would take me by the hands and twirl me around the kitchen as the music played and as her mouth sang the words to the songs. My mother loved music. She loved singing. She loved dancing.

When I think about my mother, these are the times I like to remember. Those days were filled with wonder and love and the promise of good things.

(This previously appeared as The Gas Stove on this blog.)

R — River

Blogging From A to Z

As I worked on editing my writing assignment, I kept an eye on my 14 year old daughter and Matt (who was 16). They sat on the couch, not ten feet away from me, trying to play the folk songs her guitar teacher had assigned. As I listened with the cool summer breeze coing through the open window, it reminded me of another time when I had sat near a guitar, singing folk songs with the breeze coming off of the river. It had been around 1975 when I had traveled to Mexico with my Uncle Tom and his family. I was around 19. They had dropped me off at my dad’s home town (really just a village described here) while they had gone on to other relatives in the next town over which was bigger and more modern than where I chose to stay.

That three week visit with family, most of whom I had only met once before, was probably the most memorable vacation I’ve ever had. I was pretty much on my own although I was staying with my Tia Lupe’s family and even sharing her bed. She was strict but she had also survived having her own daughter so she could also see that I needed to get out with some of the younger kids. There were two male cousins living in the house with my aunt. One was Rigo who was about 17 and one was Oscar who was around 22. The family owned two buses that carried people from one small town to another and back all day long. This was perfect because Rigo and I would take off on one of the buses driven by Oscar and go off to one of the nearby villages to explore and to visit some of his friends. We ate tacos and enchiladas from people’s front windows where the women cooked and sold their food to passersby. Rigo was a fun loving and very friendly kid so he was known everywhere and where he was known, we were welcomed!

Back in Julimes, my dad’s home town, we went to a couple of weddings and just hung out with the extended family cousins. Every day we ate lunch some place different and every night it was dinner with someone new. One evening we even went rabbit hunting. My cousin Rebecca, who was my aunt Lupe’s only daughter, was married and had two children of her own. Together in her husband’s truck late one night, armed with hot coffee and hot chocolate and pastry, Rebecca and her husband and his nephew and I went off to go hunting. There was also a big thermos with stronger spirits. Off we went to the wide open dark night where we heard nothing and saw nothing until just the right moment when the bright lights would turn on and the guns would start firing as the rabbits jumped away, trying to escape . It was very exciting and I didn’t even think too much about them being rabbits. I had seen in the days up until that night that this is what wildlife was for…for hunting and eating. Nothing went to waste.

The next night was Saturday and we all headed for the river for a barbecue dinner. There were about five generations there. The fire was started and soon we had fresh rabbit to eat along with freshly made flour tortillas and lots of watermelon. Sodas and beers were in every direction as was the talking, and laughing and all the fun. Soon, the older generations went home and those of us younger ones and the ones just older than us stayed out and that’s when the guitars came out. The music was not only the folk songs that I had heard growing up but the soulful ranchero songs that talked about life and love and all things lost. We danced. We laughed. We talked. Then we packed up and headed home with plans to come back to the weekly Sunday dance at the band shack next to the river. There would be ready made food to buy and enjoy and lots of dancing. It was hard to believe it would be anywhere near the fun we had just had that night but off I went to think and dream about life by the river with my cousins and the music and food and the slower, more wholesome way of life than I had ever enjoyed.

Sunday’s dance proved to be fun but the best part was joining a group of family away from the band shack where we once again enjoyed singing, dancing, and the music of the guitar. I learned some songs and they had great fun making me sing, especially after I had consumed a couple of beers. Well, actually the best part might have been when we were sitting at the band shack eating and my cousin had pointed out some girls that were checking me out. Apparently, they were admirers of the boy whose attention I had caught and they were checking out the competition. That was kind of fun.

That was the summer that was pretty much perfect. I had an adventure away from home. I had meant new family; I had met a boy with whom I corresponded for a few months; I had left a good impression on my family in Julimes. And I had made some lasting memories that I would not have otherwise experienced if I had not chosen to explore my father’s side of the family.

It was definitely one summer I have put behind me for too long but one I have gladly remembered once it entered my screen of memories.

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