Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Go-Pro Story

In my last post I told you about my awesome writing class. Last weeks homework assignment was to write something humorous. I don't usually write funny, so I was pleasantly surprised when the entire class was cracking up as I read my story. I thought I would share, so here it is.


As members of the aging baby-boom generation, we are generally not as savvy as our children and grandchildren when it comes to the latest technological gadgets. When my highly entertaining husband announced he was finally going to experience one of his life long goals, and had booked himself for a week of helicopter skiing in the Canadian Rockies, none of the family was too surprised. Being dropped off at the top of an otherwise inaccessible mountain in the dead of winter, for the first time at the age of 63, may seem extreme to some people, but if you knew my husband you would shrug and look forward to the stories of his exploits upon his return.  

As Christmas approached, one of our sons, who is an amateur photographer,  decided his dad needed a GoPro camera, the type of video camera you strap to your helmet, for his upcoming ski trip. I agreed it would be the perfect gift so that Mark could capture the experience from his perspective and share it with us once he returned home safely. He was delighted to receive such a great gift when he opened it on Christmas morning. 

In preparation for the extreme skiing in Canada, Mark had planned to go to Mammoth to work on his form and get in shape. He also wanted to learn to use the GoPro so he would be sure to get some great shots of this once-in-a-life-time adventure. He read the instructions, secured the camera to his helmet and headed to Mammoth Mountain with a friend for some fun on the snow.

After a day or two of getting some good practice on the slopes Mark decided to focus on using the camera. His companion was taking the afternoon off, so as Mark began each ski run, he would reach up and turn the camera on as he was headed down the mountain. When he reached the bottom, he would reach up and switch it off. The camera is made for this easy on/off operation, but not being able to see the switch, it took a little getting used to. The thick, awkward ski gloves didn’t help either, but he seemed to be doing fine and assumed he was capturing some great footage of his afternoon runs. 

After Mark returned home, the day came to figure out how to get the videos from the camera to the television screen. I suggested he wait for one of the boys to come by to help, but he didn’t want to wait and set to work connecting the camera to his laptop computer, and then the computer to the television. The process took time, many expletives, and some frayed nerves, but low and behold, there on our big screen TV we could watch the tips of Mark’s skis schooshing down the sloops as pretty as could be. We watched together and marveled at the technology that allowed us to sit in our family room and almost feel the wind on our faces as if we were skiing the run together. After viewing a few videos, Mark put one on for me and left to answer a phone call. 

I was enjoying the scenery rush by and felt like I was skiing myself, when Mark reached the bottom of the run, skied up to the lodge, and reached up to turn off the camera. His hand came down, but the camera was still on. He proceeded to take off his skis, put them in the rack, apparently thinking the camera was off. I watched as he climbed the stairs to the lodge, kicking the snow off his ski boots, pushing the door open and heading inside. I got a view of the skiers at the bar having a beer, and when he turned his head I saw the restaurant filled with people eating lunch, and then, oh no, he is heading for the bathroom. “Mark” I thought. “You didn’t go in there with that camera on!” But yes, that is exactly what he did. Then there it was, on the TV screen, the door of the Men’s room, being pushed open and a wide view of the interior came into view. 

The camera scanned back and forth as Mark looked for a vacant urinal, capturing the backs of the other users as they stood at the urinals and other men as they secured their belts, and zipped jackets on their way out. By this time I was in hysterics. This was just so typical of the kind of antic my husband is known for, and as he assumed his position at a vacated urinal, with the camera still filming, I thought I was going to die laughing. I couldn’t see him, but the image of him sauntering into the men’s room with that camera secured to his head, with the red “camera on” light blinking was just too much. 

My laughter brought Mark back into the family room wondering what could be so funny on his ski films, until he looked at the TV exclaiming “What's this?”

“It’s you in the men’s rooms at Mammoth with the GoPro on.” I stammered through my hilarity as we watched his urine stream arc into the toilet bowl.

“But I turned the camera off, or at least I thought did.” He stated as he sat down to watch.

He had no idea the camera was on when he went into the bathroom, and after I rewound the video we watched, and rolled with laughter as he innocently scanned around the bathroom filming the unsuspecting skiers taking their bathroom break. 

Mark returned home from his helicopter ski trip in one piece with some great shots from the peaks of the Canadian Rookies. I was a little disappointed after watching the films though, as there was not a single bathroom shot.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Writing Class

Writing an autobiography can be a daunting project, especially when you have lived sixty-two years, and have so much history. I work on it in spurts, and sometimes I get bogged down and just don’t want to face the enormous amount of work still to be done. For inspiration and encouragement I take writing classes and workshops. The workshops are great for feedback and to get me writing because I have to have something ready to present to the class each week. While searching the class catalog, I noticed a class titled ‘Write Your Own Story’. I thought, “This could be perfect,” but I wasn’t sure. I did not recognize the teacher’s name and hesitated before signing up. I really wanted another workshop. I finally did sign up, assuring myself if I didn’t like it I could just drop out. 

I have not dropped out and am so glad I am taking this class. The class consist of 7 mature women and a female teacher, a teacher who, in her unique way, can get each of us to pour our hearts out onto paper. During the first class she instructed us to write about our elementary school lunchtime. As we read our work aloud to the class one at a time, we laughed, cried, and learned so much about each other. From this simple assignment I realized I was in the midst of an amazing group of women, women who have survived abuse, poverty, and tragedy. Their stories are heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. 

Each new assignment requires us to dig deeper into our pasts and to learn to share these secret memories through writing. Some of the stories I am hearing may never have been shared with anyone before and I can see healing happening before my eyes. We are there as writing students, but have become a support group, encouraging, and comforting each other. These women’s stories are rich, human, and real. I truly hope each one of us completes our autobiography. With the help of our amazing teacher, who has an unimaginable story of her own, it just may happen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


           This special time of year always brings back memories of days long past; of all the traditions that are fading while new ones are being born. Christmas brings us hope, peace and comfort, as Christians everywhere celebrate the birth of our savior with family and friends. For children, it is the absolute best time of year and those childhood memories help to make the season bright.       
          One cherished childhood memory of mine is of a homey Christmas Eve night I shared with my big brother. Christmas was magical at our house. The family income was modest and with five kids, four at the time, we did not receive many indulgences throughout the year. But at Christmas time my parents pulled out all the stops. They saved all year to make all our dreams come true for this one enchanting time each year.
Not my real family
            The cookies were baked, the holly was hung, and the tree was twinkling with lights and tinsel. The Christmas Eve activities were winding down and begrudgingly, we kids were sent off to bed. My sister immediately fell into a sound sleep as she always did, and I lay awake anticipating what treasures awaited us come morning.
            “Sis, Sis, are you awake?” It was my brother peeking in to see if I was as restless as he was. “I think I hear Mom and Dad putting our presents under the tree”
            We were pretty young, but I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus. I was always a realist and knew that it was Mom and Dad playing Santa. Our cozy house was kept warm by a gas heater located in the wall between the bedrooms and the living room. There were slats in the upper part of the heater that you could see through. We stealthily crept up to the heater and peered through the slats to see what goodies were being unveiled.
            We stood in the warmth of the heater, holding hands, silently watching until the last gifts were tenderly placed around the tree to insure maximum impact on Christmas morning. Suddenly it was time for us to rush back to our beds to avoid being caught in the act.
            Even though we had been up so late, my brother and I were the first ones up in the morning. There were still lots of surprises despite our secret preview. I am not sure why I remember that Christmas Eve so clearly after all these fifty some years. Maybe because it was a time of innocence, security and bonding that only a loving family can provide a small child. What would I give to feel so safe again, if only for a little while.
            Merry Christmas everyone and make some wonderful memories with your loved ones.

Monday, December 9, 2013


To my great relief, I awoke the next morning feeling fine with an enormous appetite. I soon discovered I was in the right place to be hungry. We made our way to the ships dining room to be overwhelmed by the breakfast choices. The food on this river cruise was surprisingly delicious and more than abundant.

My husband and I usually travel on our own, with me doing all the planning and navigating. It can be a tremendous amount of work, since I am very protective of our vacation time, and want every hour to be spectacular. I can wear myself out planning every detail of a trip. This river cruise was a huge deviation from our history of independent travel. And what a relief it was to have everything planned for us and an opportunity to relax…or so I thought.

After a sumptuous breakfast that first morning, we hit the deck running. Traveling down the Rhine River Valley, we visited many villages, wineries, and historic sites, first in France, and then into Germany. Not wanting to miss anything, the idea of relaxing was soon forgotten. The timing of our cruise had been a concern as this area can be cold and rainy in October, but again luck was with us, and the autumn weather was sparkling and bright. The Riesling vineyards were golden, the sky was blue, white and silver, and the hills were as green as green can be. The colors of the villages were highlighted with the reds and oranges of fall.

We did enjoy one afternoon on board the River Queen, sipping champagne, while the mighty castles of the Rhine River Valley loomed above us on either side. Our tour also included the Mosel River, and an afternoon on board viewing the unbelievably steep and picturesque vineyards of this region.

All in all, we very much enjoyed the river cruise experience. It helped that we met many interesting people and made some wonderful new friends. The scenery was all we expected and more. Being pampered on board was an added bonus I had not considered. Our journey ended in Amsterdam, just in time for hurricane force winds and rain. This put a damper on our visit there, but we took a day trip into the countryside of what I still call Holland and explored windmills, fishing villages and even tried on wooden shoes, which they still wear in this boggy country. I was enchanted by the wild and windswept landscape and left it with fond memories.

This marks the end of another amazing trip that I will never forget, but once again I am appreciating the comforts of home, all the while pondering where our next great adventure will be.

Monday, December 2, 2013


As we continued eating and drinking our way across France we encountered some magnificent scenery and were blessed with cool, crisp, and mostly gorgeous fall weather. Who knew France was so stunningly beautiful? As lovers of history and natures’ magnificence, we were in heaven as we explored the sites of Joan of Arc’s military victories, and the villages that escaped destruction during Frances’ war torn past.

Our route from the village of Noyers towards Switzerland took us into the Franche-Comte’ region of France, and into the sub-alpine mountains of Jura. Our next stop was at Chateau De Germigney, which was used as a hunting lodge by French aristocrats in centuries past. Today the chateau is an enchanting hotel run by a delightful transplanted English manager who directed us to some of Frances hidden treasures. While researching this hotel, reviewers were raving about the restaurant on the premises, and once there, we checked it out. The d├ęcor was quite formal and the prices were quite astonishing. “How good can it be?” we wondered. Upon returning to the hotel after our days of touring, we noticed the restaurant was packed every night and we decided to splurge and made a reservation for our last night.

We spent our days in Jura outside hiking and exploring this breathtakingly beautiful area and planned to end our time there with a gourmet dinner at our hotel. We put ourselves at the mercy of our servers as there is not much English spoken in the French countryside. Well, the courses just kept coming, each being more fabulous than the last. We had no idea what we were eating, but it was so rich and delicious we couldn’t resist anything, a true adventure into gastronomy…and the adventure did not end in the restaurant.

We settled into our lovely room for a good nights rest before heading out the next morning to meet our river cruise in Basel, Switzerland. The weather forecast predicted a rainstorm and we did not want to miss our boat. The rumbling in my stomach woke me a few hours into the night and I knew this wasn’t going to be good. I spent the night in the bathroom reliving all the dishes we enjoyed at dinner. I was so sick I thought it may have been food poisoning, but Mark was sleeping soundly, totally unaffected, and was of no help to me. Is it possible to overdose on French food? I did not overeat, but the rich, unfamiliar dishes must have overloaded my system.

Still in the bathroom when our alarm went off, I managed to get packed, and with the help of our kind and caring hostess, who supplied me with Coke to sip on our drive, Mark got me to our stateroom on the Uniworld River Queen where I collapsed on our bed and slept for a long, long time.

Part 3 coming soon.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Years ago my husband and I were traveling from London to Paris on the train early one morning after an all night flight across the Atlantic. I remember looking out the window through my jet lagged, sleep deprived eyes and being enchanted by the tranquility of the French countryside shrouded in the morning mist. The lush rolling hills, dotted with farm houses and small villages called out to me and I wished this was our destination. We went on to Paris and had a wonderful time, but I have kept the image of that peaceful landscape with me and hoped to return someday.

Someday was last month, Oct, 2013, as we returned to Paris, mainly to eat at the great restaurants for a few days, then pick up a car and venture into the 'real' France. We had no expectations or ideas about what we would experience, but I had done my research and chosen what I thought would be fascinating places to use as bases while we made our way to Basel, Switzerland where we joined a river cruise.
Our first base was at Chateau de La Barre still owned by French aristocracy, Comte et Comtesse de Vanssay (Count and Countess of Vanssay, pictured above). The chateau has been in the Vanssay family for over 600 years and they have opened it to quests as a Bed & Breakfast. Upon arrival Count Vanssay gave us a tour of the Chateau along with the history of his aristocratic family, while Countess Vanssay made detailed plans for us to follow as we explored the Loire Valley.

My favorite pastime is reading history and especially historical fiction. The events in some of these books took place in the magnificent chateaus and castles of the Loire Valley. I had images of these estates in my mind and was thrilled to be walking the same paths as the history-makers I had read so much about: Chenonceaux (above) with its arches spanning the river, Cheverny which still houses much of its original furnishings, and the immense castle at Chambord (below), each spectacular in its unique way.

For us, France is in large part about the food. The countess recommended wonderful restaurants where we ended our days of touring with locally produced meals and wine. What could be better? Maybe being served dinner at Chateau de La Barre with the count and countess, eating on the families antique china and drinking local wines from their 600 year old stemware? The dining room was filled with magnificent furnishings down to the linens embroidered with the family crest and of course the food was delectable. Our fairytale evening ended with after-dinner drinks served by the count and enjoyed by the fireplace, a perfect ending to our visit to the Loire Valley.  

From the Chateau our route towards Basel, Switzerland took us into Burgundy and the medieval village of Noyers. I wanted us to experience local life and staying in Noyers was very local indeed. The village was tiny and perfectly preserved as it was hundreds of years ago: narrow cobbled streets, old stone buildings, and families who have lived there for generations. Upon arrival at our B&B we rang the bell at the large wooden gate and were greeted by a friendly, English speaking Australian. Her story is for another blog, but we soon became fast friends and since we were the only guests, she went out touring with us, showed us her restored 800-year house,                                                                                          and introduced us around the village.

We drove around Burgundy and enjoyed the lovely vineyards and villages, tasting wines and of course eating the wonderful cheeses and fresh produce. The fruit was sweet and bursting with flavor, and during this time we learned why French food is so superior. I had always thought it was the French chefs with their rich sauces and complicated recipes, but driving through the farmland of Burgundy we noticed the dark, moist soil and commented that it looked like the potting soil we purchase at the nursery. France happens to be blessed with this luscious, nutrient rich soil naturally, along with regular and abundant rainfall, making for ideal farming and raising of livestock. Now I know why I love to eat and drink wine in France.

To be continued

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Girlfriend Reunion 2013

It just keeps getting better. Each year when these life long friends reunite it seems we have even more fun. Maybe it is because we are all together only once a year and shut out all of life’s stresses. Whatever the reason, it is one fun weekend. We returned to the beautiful Northern California wine country for the second year renting a spacious house in a spectacular setting among the vine-covered hills to celebrate our 60th year of life.
Everything was perfect: the weather, the setting, the food, the wine, and the companionship. Well, almost everything.

Our plan was to meet at the property at noon on Thursday when our rental period began. There were three vehicles coming from different locations. We had written directions from the owner, GPS in our vehicles and on our smart phones, supplemented by maps we had printed off the Internet. How then, you may wonder, did we all get lost? After much frustration and an hour or so wondering around the hills of Healdsburg with very limited cell service, we came to the realization that the street name and the address of the house did not match up. What? Why were we not given this information? Eventually we all found the house and the confusing drive to get there made our arrival all the sweeter once we entered our world of luxury, serenity, and friendship.

With all the supplies we needed for great eating and drinking, we settled in to play in the pool, soak in the hot tub, take walks in the vineyards, and enjoy each other. In celebration of our milestone birthdays we expanded our weekend to three nights this year and planned to get gussied up and go out one night.

For the days we stay in we divide ourselves into two competing teams (team A and team B) for preparing meals. That way there are not too many cooks in the kitchen at any one time and you have a day when you are free of chores. Last year my team (team B) unanimously won for best dinner. This year we had to give the honors to team A, who pulled out all the stops due to the fact we had guests for dinner, a relative and his wife who live in the area, joined us on our last night. The more the merrier and it was very merry.

Laughter is the best medicine, and we laugh a lot over the weekend, especially at night when the wine is flowing freely. As we packed up to head back to the real world, we carried with us memories of our time together and find ourselves smiling at our exploits for weeks to come. We have already chosen our house for next year knowing that it just keeps getting better.