Friday, January 30, 2009

Annual Elk Adventure

To begin today's blog, I must first explain that this will be a picture story of a trip my husband and I embarked upon last week. Every winter we journey to Wyoming between Alpine and Etna to see the elk herd that winters in a state refuge. It is a tradition in our family, one we started years ago. My mother's family is from Wyoming originally, and this was something I introduced to my husband shortly after our marriage. He has loved the yearly jaunt, as have our boys. It's an opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty that lies between Idaho and Wyoming, and it is something I would encourage you to try if you ever have the chance. And if this is something you can't see for yourself, I've included a plethora of pictures in today's blog. So sit back, relax, and savor what I'm about to share:

We decided this year to make quite a loop on our annual elk adventure. Driving to nearby Soda Springs (About 26 miles from our home in Bear Lake) we headed past the Monsanto plant where my husband works. I was impressed by how high the snowbanks are in this location.

On we drove toward Grays Lake, Idaho. Ironically home to nearly 200 pair of sandhill cranes, (my husband claims there is no relation), this mountain valley was settled by some of my pioneer ancestors, the Sibbett clan. You can see Caribou Mountain in the distance, covered by clouds.

Grays Lake Valley is surrounded by mountains, making it a picturesque drive. I can understand why my ancestors chose to live here, despite the long winter months and subsequent isolation compliments of little things like blizzards. ;)

The trees are gorgeous this time of year. Recent storms have given them a frosty look.

We left Grays Lake behind and drove through Tin Cup Canyon, a favorite fishing and camping spot for my family. There are a couple of nice campgrounds located in this area.

It didn't take us long to reach Etna, Wyoming on highway 89. We drove north to the elk refuge which is located between Etna and Alpine.

This refuge has become a winter haven for the elk. Hay is fed to them during the winter months, helping them to survive this difficult time of year.

It's kind of hard to tell from this picture (unless you click on it--it will greatly enhance your viewing pleasure) but if you look toward the center, there are two large bulls (boy elk). My husband got all excited, thinking they would fight, but they were merely passing by each other. I'm sure the conversation went something like this:

"Hi Ralph. How are things on this side of the refuge?"
"Kind of boring, George. The cows (girl elk) still aren't speaking to me."
"Really? I guess you should avoid those comments about the weight they're gaining."
"You're probably right, George. But I did mean those remarks as compliments."
"Females . . . go figure."
"You said it, George."
"Have a good one, Ralph."
"Later, George."

This is the handy viewing hut the great state of Wyoming has constructed for those who want a little bit of shelter as they watch the elk. The wind was blowing the day we visited, so it was still quite refreshing, but it did keep the snow from falling on our heads.

When we tired of watching the elk people romp, we climbed back inside our car and drove south, past Etna, to Thayne, Wyoming. Thayne is where my mother grew up. Her parents owned a ranch on the outskirts of town. Both of my maternal grandparents also worked in the Star Valley Cheese Factory, located in this same town. This factory used to be famous for its Swiss cheese. It still contains a restaurant and a gift shop. A few years ago (we won't say how many) my mother worked here as a teeny bopper (teenager). Several years later, my brother also found work in this facility. So three generations of my family have worked in this famous landmark. Stopping here to purchase cheese is a tradition in my family.

I was hoping to purchase some the day we drove through, but they were closing as we approached the door. This factory has fallen on hard times the past couple of years and it is struggling to remain open. I hope it will succeed in this---our family loves to swing by for a visit whenever we get the chance.

We drove on to Afton, Wyoming where we stopped at a restaurant for a quick bite of dinner. Then we headed back to Idaho through a canyon south of Smoot. Highway 89 cuts through this canyon, which shall remain nameless since neither my husband or I could think of what it is called. It eventually links up with Montpelier Canyon, but as my husband pointed out, there is a large valley between the two, so if you know what the Wyoming side is called, feel free to share. =) Anyway, the shot above was taken at the scenic outlook on top of good old canyon What'sItsName. Note how high the snowbank is in this location. It kind of hindered our view of the valley below.

Here is a testament to how high those snowbanks are through this beautiful canyon. Kennon was only to happy to pose with our car for this demonstration. =D

As we continued traveling through this canyon, we came upon a small herd of deer who were making their way down to a nearby creek for a drink. There are two bucks (boy deer) in the center of this picture. (For a better look, click on the picture.) They have the same embarrassing problem as exhibited by a popular character from the animated hit, "Open Season." They each only have one antler. =) Kennon explained this is the time of year that the bucks lose their horns. Poor dudes. I'm sure this is a humiliating time for them.

This final picture shares a frozen wonder in Montpelier Canyon. The ice formation is a waterfall during the spring and summer months. It's always beautiful, but the icy sheen gives it an elegant look.

After we passed this formation, it grew too dark to take pictures. I took some anyway, and they didn't turn out. We came across yet another herd of deer, and a large black cat that was stalking them. My husband thought it was an overly large house cat. I'm not so sure. If it was, it's Guinness Records material. That's all I'm going to say about that . . . for now. ;)

All in all, it was a wonderful day, and again, something I would encourage you to try sometime if you ever get the chance. It's a great way to see nature at its best during a time of year when we could all use a cheery break.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Remember that time . . .

Several years ago, my two oldest sons were given a chance to take a fun trip to southern Utah with my brother and his wife. We were all in agreement that my youngest son, Devin, was too young for this kind of adventure, figuring he would get homesick for his mommy, etc. Devin was only about three-years-old at the time. His brothers were ages: seven & eight.

My sister-in-law is an archeologist and she had planned to take my older two sons to areas where they could see cool archeology finds, including dinosaur treasures. These two boys were extremely excited and talked for days about all they would be doing on this trip.

Devin was miffed about the entire thing. He sulked as his brothers packed for their exciting adventure. To make amends, I told Devin that we would be journeying down to Logan, Utah to stay with my mother while his brothers were gone. I promised that we would be doing fun things, too, but the wounded look on Devin's face was an indication that he was still unamused.

As the time approached for this adventure, we began the first leg of our journey and I drove all three boys down to Logan. Incidentally, this was before my brother and his wife had children of their own to entertain, so they were really excited about the proposed trek, too. ;)

The next morning, we loaded Kristopher's and Derek's gear inside my brother's car, and I bid them adieu for a few days. I'll admit, their departure tugged briefly at my heartstrings. Then turning, I saw the outraged look on Devin's face and knew "operation entertain the three-year-old" needed to commence.

We began our "Devin adventure" by taking him to every store we knew about within the boundaries of Logan to find what my youngest son was calling a "stud" horse. He had inherited a large plastic barnyard set from his brothers and he loved playing with it. I had brought it with us to Grandma's house for obvious reasons, figuring it would help keep Devin entertained.

My mother and I thoroughly examined each and every toy horse we came across, trying to find a "stud" horse for Devin's collection of farm animals. This proved to be interesting since we weren't sure if Devin fully understand what a stud horse was. Bearing in mind that he was only three, we didn't want to add to what information his brothers had likely already contributed. ;)

Finally, at the last store, Devin found a horse that had a weird plastic formation in the correct location and he seemed thrilled by the discovery. I purchased it for him, and we then drove this little tyke to his favorite place to eat, McDonald's, where he consumed a "Happy Meal."

That afternoon, we took him to see an afternoon matinee at a theater in Logan that was showing a new Disney flick. From the time this little guy could talk, Devin had shown an aptitude to memorize entire Disney movies. We figured seeing this new Disney movie would appease him, and he did seem to love it. He quickly memorized several interesting phrases from this movie that he shared with us during the remainder of the week, whenever he thought they were appropriate.

We had established a pattern that we would follow during the rest of the week. In the morning, we went shopping for yet another farm animal for Devin's collection. We ate lunch at McDonald's where Devin would order his favorite combination, the ever- popular "Happy Meal." Then we would either drive to one of the theaters to watch a kid flick, or we would take Devin to a video rental store to pick out the movie of his choice. We also embarked on a couple of picnics at the animal park (Willow Park) located in Logan where among other things, Devin got to watch monkeys cavort, bears romp, and he even fed an assortment of birds the bread crumbs we had brought along. In short, we did our best to keep this three-year-old happy and entertained while his brothers were gone. And Devin seemed to enjoy the time we spent catering to his whims.

The week passed quickly and before we knew it, Tom and Shar had returned from their trip with Kris and Derek. A good time was had by all, or so we thought. As Kris and Derek began sharing some of their adventures, they started each story with, "Remember that time when . . ."

After they had shared several experiences, a tiny voice loudly exclaimed: "Remember that time when I didn't have any fun?!!!"

We all turned to look at Devin, my mother and I especially shocked by his contribution to the conversation. Hadn't we spent nearly an entire week doing things that three-year-olds love to do? And during that time, Devin had giggled and laughed and smiled, indicating he had enjoyed himself. Evidently, his Logan adventures paled in comparison to what he assumed his brothers had experienced.

Devin's comment has become a family saying, much to Devin's dismay. =D Whenever a family member feels slighted, or overlooked, "Remember that time when I didn't have any fun?" is exclaimed.

I've used this saying during firesides, indicating that there are times in all of our lives when we feel picked on. We look around at others, convinced that they are having a better time of things than we are, pointing out that it is human nature to overlook the blessings that are a part of our lives.

Yesterday I heard a wonderful talk in a ward my husband and I were visiting. It was based on Elder Quentin L. Cook's conference talk, "Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time." During this inspired talk, Elder Cook shares what his three-year-old son said (it must be the age) to his mother after enduring what he thought was a horrible road trip with his father: "Hope ya know, we had a hard time."

I smiled a lot when I first heard this talk. It will always remind me of our own version of this sort of thing. And yesterday, when a wonderful man from our valley spoke, using this same concept, I loved it. He talked about how picked on we all feel when facing trials. I've felt that way myself, numerous times. It's easy to feel disenchanted with life when things are going awry. I suspect we all feel discouraged and down during trials that stretch us beyond our comfort zone.

Currently, most of the people I know and love are experiencing "technical difficulties." Life isn't what any of us envisioned . . . at the moment. The challenge is to find reasons to smile, even when we're not having a fun time.

So that is my challenge to you . . . and to myself . . . to remember why we're here in mortal mode. To reflect on the wisdom Charles Dickens once penned: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." It is up to us individually to determine which viewpoint we will proclaim.

P.S. Devin did eventually forgive us all for the slight he felt he had endured. =) He went on to become a well-adjusted, though at times silly, child who is currently serving an LDS mission in Canada. We love him greatly.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jack Frost

How did frost end up with the name, Jack? Being curious about this tradition in our culture, I decided to do some investigative reporting. This may be in part because we've been enduring a week of frosty temps and decor in our region. Here's what I found out, compliments of Wikipedia:

Jack Frost is an elfish creature who stemmed from English folklore. His job titles include: Father Winter, or Old Man Winter, which doesn't sound very complimentary, but maybe that's just me. ;) According to tradition, Jack Frost may also represent the Norse god Ullr (good luck pronouncing that), god of winter and snow. Jack came from the Norse name, Jokul, which means "icicle" and Frost originated from that same language, a word referred to as "Frosti," which basically means: frost. =D Go figure.

Jack Frost has appeared in a myriad of stories, including L. Frank Baum's work entitled: "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus." He has also taken part in numerous cartoons and movies like: "The Santa Clause 3," starring Martin Short. Don't hold this against him. =D Though he is often portrayed as a grumpy individual, I think he has a few redeeming qualities. Give me a minute or two to think of a couple . . .

I personally like Jack Frost, if only from an artistic point of view. He does do an impressive job of decorating during a time of year that can be rather bleak. Here are some pictures I've taken this past week that will hopefully illustrate my point:

This is a picture of my famed apple tree from the front yard, the one that kept me entertained with regard to canning this past fall. Jack Frost did a great job of highlighting its graceful boughs.

Here is my small orchard of mixed apple trees from the backyard. Jack Frost made them look positively elegant. And yes, those are foothills you see behind them. That's how close we live to the mountains.

And here are my lilacs, painted with Mr. Frost's pallet. True, he seems to stick with one basic color, but doesn't it make things look crisp and clean?

Because of the chilly temperatures that Mr. Frost has inspired lately, we've endured a bit of fog, which can make its appearance at any time of the day or night. I shot this particular picture during an afternoon last week, as my husband and I were snowshoeing about near our home. Our entire town was blanketed by this loving glaze. Good times. ;) And hurray for warm fleece blankets.

Our youngest son is currently serving a mission up in the northern realm of Edmonton, Canada. This is a recent picture he sent us, showing us how he is staying warm. With temperatures that plummet down toward -46 degrees, bundling up is crucial.

This is a picture of the moon rising above a mountain behind our home. Can you see the frosted look of the trees on the hillside? Quite picturesque.

Though Jack Frost may not be the warmest individual in the world, one must admit that he does a great job of making winter appear lovely. So maybe instead of complaining when he chooses to do things, like totally frost over the windows of my car when it sits in the church house parking lot for a mere two hours, I'll try to keep in mind how boring winter would be without him. =)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Contest sponsored by Anne Bradshaw

Hi all. I'm just letting you know about a contest taking place on a fellow LDS author's blog: Not Entirely British by Anne Bradshaw. This week's contest is for all mystery and suspense enthusiasts, and comes from another talented participant in the forthcoming Famous Family Nights. Author G. G. Vandagriff is offering a set of her fascinating Arthurian Omen CD's. This super prize is worth around twenty dollars.

To enter, click on this link, Not Entirely British and follow Anne's instructions. Good luck out there.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Airport Adventures

To begin, I have to firmly state that flying beats traveling for days in a covered wagon, hands down. No comparison. And for that blessing, I am exceedingly grateful. Flying makes it possible to travel anywhere in the world in a fraction of the time it once involved. Way cool. I'm even looking forward to my next chance to fly somewhere.

That said, I will now share the wonderment of traveling as a diabetic. Before all of the terrorist activity, it really wasn't a problem. I kept supplies in my trusty carry-on bag that are crucial to the survival of a diabetic: insulin, syringes, insulin pump supplies, glucose tablets, chocolate . . . just checking to see if you're actually reading this list, but I digress. ;)

I flew to places like San Diego, St. Louis, and so forth without any problem. In fact, when we were preparing to fly to St. Louis, my husband just knew I would be holding everyone up as we passed through what was then thought of as "relaxed security." Since we were traveling with about four other couples to St. Louis, we rode down with them to the Salt Lake Airport. During a goodly portion of that journey, my husband apologized repeatedly for the extra time I would be costing everyone, because of my insulin pump and supplies.
"She even brought a note from her doctor explaining about everything she has to take with her, but I know they'll do a strip-search. Hopefully it won't make us late for our flight," he said to anyone who would listen.

As it turns out, fate has a sense of humor. I wasn't the one who was strip-searched that day, it was my husband. =D His metallic belt buckle and steel-toed boots set off the alarms. I'll have to admit I laughed with everyone else as my husband had to take off his belt, shoes, and then hold up his pants with his hands as a special metal-seeking wand was passed by all of his body parts. We all enjoyed a good laugh over that. ;) Except for my husband who was mortified. I shouldn't have laughed. As I often told my children during their formative years: "That which we mock, we become."

A few years later, I was to fly out of the Salt Lake City Airport alone, to meet my husband in New Orleans. I was traveling 2 days behind my husband, who had been sent to New Orleans on a business trip. It was my first time of traveling alone and I'll admit, I was a tiny bit nervous. Okay, a lot nervous. As I shared in a recent blog, it has taken me a long time to get over my fear of flying. I still have to pretend I'm on a noisy bus during takeoff. Once I'm up in the air, I'm fine, unless we run into lots of turbulence, which isn't my friend, but I digress again.

My sister-in-law drove me to the airport, dropping me off at the appropriate door. Then I was on my own. Mustering my courage, I walked inside. I checked in my suitcase without a hitch. Then I made my way to the beefed up security line. I had once again brought along a note from my diabetic specialist that explained everything they would find inside my carry-on bag: insulin, syringes, insulin pump supplies, glucose tablets, etc. But there had been a lot of changes with regard to security since the last time I had flown somewhere, compliments of recent terrorist activity.

In my defense, I had dutifully read through the airport guidelines before embarking on this journey. In my carry-on was a plastic bag with all of the right-sized items like mini-me shampoo, deodorant, hairspray, etc. that the nice security people could plainly see. I was not aware that items like insulin also had to be taken out of their boxes and placed inside a plastic bag. But as I stood in line, I saw a huge sign that stated: "All medicines must be encased inside a plastic bag, clearly labeled." Now was a fine time to tell me that!

I shifted nervously from foot to foot, trying to think of what to do. I had come early, so I figured I would have plenty of time to pass through security before my flight, but I didn't have enough time to catch a taxi, ride to a store, find a box of plastic bags, purchase this item, place my insulin inside one of the bags and clearly mark what they were, and then return to the airport. I panicked. Then I remembered the note from my diabetic specialist. All would be well. I would just show the nice security people my note and they would smile understandingly and send me on my way. NOT!!!

Since we all had to pass by this first security stop, I soon found myself at the front of the table, facing two surly looking security guards who possessed no sense of humor. I showed them the note from my doctor. It was even written on an official piece of paper often used to write prescriptions. My prescription for this flight said: "Cheri Crane is a Type 1 diabetic and an insulin pump patient. As such, she must always keep with her the following items for her survival." Then it listed everything I've already shared plus a phone number to reach my doctor if there were any questions.

The nice security guards didn't care. They wanted to know if my insulin was encased inside a plastic bag. When I sadly shook my head, they made me dig out the insulin which was naturally buried in the depths of my bag. I had to pull everything out for their perusal. Meanwhile, impatient passengers who didn't have anything like that inside their carry-on bags, went on around me, and I lost my place in line.
When I finally found the insulin, I pulled out the two boxes I was bringing with me and we had to take them out of their packaging that was clearly marked with my prescription information. Then the guards scrutinized each bottle as if it was nitroglycerin before grumpily placing the insulin inside a plastic bag they labeled: Appears to be insulin. Rolling my eyes, I accepted the bag of insulin and replaced everything inside my carry-on bag. Then I continued onto the second security pit-stop, after waiting in a huge line for what seemed like forever.

When it was finally my turn to pass through the security gate, I took off my shoes and set them inside the plastic tub. Then I removed my watch, and set my purse and carry-on bag inside the tub and approached the next set of security people. I began by handing the nice security guard the note from my doctor.

"Why are you showing me this?" the man asked.

"Because I'm a diabetic and I'm wearing an insulin pump," I explained. I unclipped the pump from the side of my jeans to show the nice man. A friend of mine, also an insulin pump patient, had told me that while flying somewhere, she had kept her pump clipped to her sock. When she bent down during the flight to remove it to punch in the needed insulin for the tasty airline meal, a fellow passenger told a flight attendant that she was wearing a bomb. I was hoping to avoid the adventure she had endured. So I was being open and honest about my pump.

"A diabetic, huh," he replied, handing me back my note. "Try clipping the pump to the front of your pants and you might make it through the gate."

I wondered at this, but I obediently clipped the pump to the front of my pants. Then I bravely walked through and a noisy alarm went off.

"Ma'am, you'll have to enter the security booth," I was then told by this same man who knew why the alarm had sounded.

I looked at him and said, "But you know it's my pump. I showed you . . ."

"Ma'am, enter the security booth, now," I was told.

Sighing loudly, I stepped off to the side, entering what looked like a phone booth gone awry. Then I waited while numerous people went by and stared, pointing at my evilness. I felt like saying, "Yes, no doubt I'm a dangerous terrorist intent on ruining your day." Figuring I was in enough trouble, I refrained.

Finally a sweet young thing passing as a security guard, showed up with one of those wand devices. "I need to see why you set off the alarm," she explained. Once again, I tried to show the nice note my doctor had written for me, and once again, it was ignored. The guard ran the wand over my body and it went off three times: once for the metal medical alert necklace I forgot to remove, once for the metal button of my jeans, and once for my insulin pump.

I showed her the necklace and it proved to be the culprit for the squawk that had sounded near my neck. The metal button on my jeans was quickly ascertained to not be a public hazard. Then it was time to explain about my insulin pump . . . again.

"Let's see the pump," the guard said, enthused. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that she was enjoying my moment of humiliation.
Unclipping the pump from where the other guard had instructed me to wear it, I played show and tell for the next ten minutes, explaining the fine art of being a diabetic pump patient. I had to show her how the insulin was stored inside a syringe located in the back of the pump, and how the tubing was attached to a small IV site located in my stomach. Luckily I hadn't opted to change sites utilizing a leg, or I would've had to strip down even further in public. As it was, I'd had to show off my belly button.

Deciding I was harmless, she allowed me to step out of the security booth and I collected my treasures from the plastic tub that had been held for me at the security table. By the time I had redressed and left the security realm, I had all of fifteen minutes before my flight would leave. It was barely enough time to use the facilities, purchase a couple of bottles of Gatorade for the flight, and board the plane. Once seated, I decided to spit out the gum I had been chewing during this adventure. I used the note from my doctor to dispose of it. ;)

I did arrive safely in New Orleans. And the nice security people at the Louis Armstrong Airport were much better sports about me being a diabetic. All I had to say at this airport was, "I'm a Type 1 diabetic," show them the clearly marked plastic bag that contained my insulin, and show them my insulin pump, and they were cool with it. One guard said, "My cousin is a diabetic," and he waved me through. I suspect Someone knew I had had my fill of being dissected and probed that day.

I will say this, airport security is tight these days, and with just cause. Remain calm if you're ever inspected while passing through the security checkpoints. And bring along extra plastic bags just in case. ;)

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Ice Follies

The other day as I drove by the local ice skating rink at one of our parks, I found myself traveling down memory lane. One year for Christmas, my entire family received ice skates. I believe I was around ten years old at the time. My skates were a beautiful white, matching what my mother and two younger sisters had been given, with one exception. My sisters' skates had training wheels. At least that's what my brother and I called them. (Incidentally, his skates as well as my father's were shiny black.) My sisters' skates possessed two blades on the bottom, making it easier for these two, who were then about ages 5 and 2 respectively, to navigate on ice.

We lived near Snake River in a little Idaho town. Down the road from our house an old gravel pit existed. Because of its proximity to the river, this pit always filled up with water, making it the perfect place to ice skate in the winter.

What a glorious time we had trying out our new skates. For some reason I took to that like a duck to water. I had always enjoyed watching ice skating performances on television with my mother. Now I envisioned myself as a graceful professional ice skater, twirling around on the ice with ease. There were a few bumps and bruises at first, but for the most part, I loved to ice skate. Until one day at school.

I was in the fifth grade and my teacher that year was a gentleman we'll call Mr. Dufus, to protect the guilty party. ;) Most people don't believe this now, but I was quite shy during most of my grade school years. During my fourth grade year, we had moved to Bountiful, Utah as my father tried his hand at the management program for Skaggs Drug. (He was a pharmacist.) Deciding he didn't care for retail management, we moved back to Idaho for my fifth grade year. We had returned to our former home in the same small town, but by then, all of my old friends had moved on and I was feeling quite left out of things.

Too shy to strike up new friendships, I kept mostly to myself, especially during recess. This proved to be a bad thing. One afternoon I stood on top of a huge pile of snow, watching as some of the other kids were sliding around with their shoes on a makeshift ice skating rink formed by melted snow that had frozen solid. Spotting me, Mr. Dufus called out to a young man my age and told him to run up, grab me by the hand, and take me for a nice turn on the ice.

What happened next is still rather a blur. Obediently following through on our teacher's instructions, this enthusiastic young man ran up the snow hill, grabbed me by the hand, and dragged me down onto the ice. We hit the ice with such force, I went flying. The next thing I remember is lying down in what we called the infirmary with a serious nosebleed. I had hit the ice face-first, effectively knocking me silly for quite some time.

When I slowly regained my fetchies, I was told that I had probably broken my nose and my mother would be coming to get me. Good times. ;) My coat and clothes were saturated with blood. My nose was swelling, and my head felt like it was going to explode. My mother was not happy by what she saw when she arrived and she demanded to know what had happened. Before I could say anything to defend my honor, she was told that I had been sliding around on the ice and had taken a nasty fall. It wasn't until later that I was able to tell her the whole story. Then she was furious with my teacher. So was I, for that matter.

I know my teacher had meant well, but this little experience cost me dearly. From that point on, whenever I tried to ice skate, images of what I had endured surfaced, and I became a cautious skater. My confidence was gone. I found myself dreading ice skating adventures and after a time, I hung up my skates for good.

I'm sad about that now. I doubt I would have ever become a professional ice skater, but looking back, I missed out on a lot of fun because I allowed doubting fear to creep in. I suspect most of us do that from time to time. We have a bad experience and it colors how we view things from that point on.

I doubt I'll ever take up ice skating again, not because of the fear factor now, but because I tend to hurt myself enough with ordinary every day adventures like putting up tents at girls' camp. ;) But my former love of ice skating might be coming through now as I continue to enjoy the fine art of snow shoeing. I know---not a good comparison, but it is a new adventure for me and I'm loving it. And I refuse to allow the Mr. Dufuses of the world to ruin it for me. (This means you, Brandy, the silly doggie I tripped over with my snow shoes the other day, but I digress.)

Someday, my cute little granddaughter may decide to try her hand at something like ice skating. I wish I could always be there to thwart anyone who messes with her confidence level. Instead, maybe I can set an example for her as I continue to try out new things in my quest to enjoy mortal mode. I can face fear(s) with courage, pushing forward despite inner obstacles. I was once terrified of flying. I still have to pretend I'm just riding a noisy bus during take-off, and I don't care for turbulence, but I love looking out the window as we soar across the sky, looking at the patterns below. I have flown enough now, that it doesn't bother me as much. And I love to travel, so being able to fly is crucial. I suspect this is true with regard to other things. Let go of fear and fly---the only way to fully enjoy this life. ;)

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Magical Musicals

A huge tradition in my family involves yearly appreciation and enjoyment of classic musicals. As I mentioned a blog or two ago, I grew up in a clan that loves musicals and show tunes. Through the years we've watched these wonderful productions together, we've learned & performed the songs, and we've even taken part on occasion when local theatrical groups presented them for entertainment. In fact, it was while I was portraying Moonbeam McSwine in the musical, "Lil' Abner" that I met my husband-to-be, Kennon Crane. =) I caught him during the Sadie Hawkins Race as he was sitting in the audience that night. We had been told to flirt with the men in the audience during this particular performance, to get everyone involved. Let's just say I was successful with this endeavor. ;)

I'll admit that I own copies of most musicals. Since my family "tolerates" this secret passion of mine, they will sometimes sit through them with me when I feel the urge to enjoy one.

Probably my favorite musical of all time is "Fiddler on the Roof." I remember going with my parents to see the movie when it first came out in 1971. I loved it then and it continues to be a musical close to my heart. I was thrilled in college when we studied it in one of the drama classes I was fortunate enough to take. I was ecstatic when my husband bought tickets for us to see a live production of it in Salt Lake City one year for my birthday. It was a wonderful highlight in my life.

This year for Christmas, my husband gave me a collection of 3 musicals on DVD:
West Side Story, Guys & Dolls, & Fiddler on the Roof. And as you've probably guessed, we spent a bit of time enjoying them during the holiday season. =D

In recent years, our local high school has performed several wonderful musicals, including: "Les Miz," " Grease," "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat," "My Fair Lady," & just last month, "Oklahoma." Since I'm still the fearless leader for the YW in our ward, and at least two of them participated in "My Fair Lady," and "Oklahoma," we elected to go and support these talented young women as one of our activities. And our girls loved this experience. Some of them had never seen these particular productions and it was great to see the excitement on their faces and to hear them exclaim that they are going to rent the movie version in the near future to watch in their homes. It is my hope that this endeavor will inspire a love of an artform close to my own heart.

To me, watching a good musical is a great way to unwind, relax, and learn. As I look back, I can honestly state that musicals have been a tremendous influence in my life.

The "Fiddler on the Roof," makes me laugh and cry every time I watch it. It emphasizes how faith helps us through difficult times and that we are all "fiddlers on the roof" trying to survive the challenges of life.

From "The Sound of Music," I learned about courage, romance, and the importance of standing up for what you believe in.

It was while watching "Mary Poppins," during a particularly difficult time in our family (my dad was in the hospital fighting a rare liver disease and we weren't sure he was going to make it) that I was filled with a sense of hope for a better day.

I've even gleaned comfort and inspiration from musicals like Disney's, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." I'm not ashamed to admit I cried when I first heard the song, "God Help the Outcasts." I consider this movie to be one of their best and I own copies of the movie, and the soundtrack. It not only tackles important issues like social fallacies (the negative way we sometimes treat those who are different) but other songs, like "Out There," and "Someday," touch on topics like embracing life and being grateful for what we often take for granted, not to mention, looking forward to a time when greed and nastiness will fade away and we can live together in peace:

(Lyrics by: Stephen Schwartz)

When we are wiser
When the world's older
When we have learned
I pray
Someday we may yet live
To live and let live
Life will be fairer
Need will be rarer
And greed will not pay
God speed
This bright millennium
On its way
Let it come

Our fight will be won then
We'll stand in the sun then
That bright afternoon
'Till then
On days when the sun is gone
We'll hang on
If we wish upon the moon

There are some days dark and bitter
Seems we haven't got a prayer
But a prayer for something better
Is the one thing we all share

When we are wiser
When the whole world is older
When we have learned
I pray
Someday we may yet live
To live and let live
One day, someday
Life will be fairer
Need will be rarer
Greed will not pay
God speed
This bright millennium
Let it come
If we wish upon the moon
One day

One day

So during this challenging time when we're all wondering what the future might hold, might I suggest that we take a moment to watch a favorite musical. It's a great way to boost sagging spirits and to remind us that there is always hope for a better day.

What are some of your favorite musicals? How have they touched your life? Feel free to share.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Mansion Musings

I love looking at homes. I suppose I inherited this tendency from my mother who also loves a good open house adventure. I recall numerous times wandering through houses with her, enjoying a look-see at decorating ideas, different floor plans, etc. Our favorite homes to explore were the older homes with character, as my mother calls it. One of her dreams was to purchase a large Victorian style house and turn it into a bed and breakfast. We always thought that would be a lot of fun. A lot of work, but also enjoyable.

We have yet to accomplish such a thing, but not long ago, I was given an opportunity to travel to an area known for its houses with character. These fascinating homes are mansions that were built along the Mississippi River in the 1800's on the outskirts of New Orleans.

My husband and I took advantage of the opportunity to explore one of these lovely mansion homes during our trip to New Orleans. We had to be selective because our time was limited. So while I was able to take pictures of several of these beautiful historical homes, we only had time for one tour. It was hard to pick, but we settled on seeing the inside of the San Francisco Plantation House.

This is the San Francisco Plantation Mansion.

There was only one disappointment---we weren't permitted to take pictures inside the plantation house. It was explained that camera flashes were harmful to the interior of the mansion, so I obediently tucked my camera inside its case and left it there until we had returned back outside.

There was a fun little gift shop inside of what used to be the plantation store. We were told that each major plantation had its own store where those who worked on the plantation could purchase basic necessities. They were really into being self-sufficient in those days. =)

Inside this gift shop I found all kinds of treasures, including postcards that show the interior of the San Francisco Mansion. So I'll scan them in and share so you can have a glimpse of the elegance and grace that was once such a big part of the South.

The San Francisco Mansion house was constructed in 1856. Its original name was St. Frusquin. Derived from French slang it means, "Without a penny in my pocket." The cost of building this mansion house was high. Utilizing the old Creole open suite style, the main living area was located in the upper floor. Only the dining room and several service rooms were constructed on the main floor.

Valsin Marmillion was the original owner and builder of the San Francisco Plantation and home. His son, Charles, inherited the plantation. Charles served with the Confederate army during the Civil War. He suffered numerous hardships during several battles and was taken prisoner twice by Union forces. He died at the young age of 35 in 1875.

This is Charles Marmillion's Bedroom. What you are seeing are the authentic furnishings, including a single sleigh bed, a large wardrobe, and a washstand.

Above is a postcard that shows the Gentlemen's Parlor, one of several parlors located inside this mansion. This room has four hand-painted wood panels on the tongue-in-groove cypress ceiling. Each panel represents a season of the year. This room was used by the men of the house to discuss politics, sip brandy, and smoke cigars. The object on the marble topped-table is a stereoptican, used for viewing mid-nineteenth photographs with a 3-D affect. Basically a fancy view-master. ;)

This postcard shot shows the boudoir. It was used as a birthing chamber, a sitting, dressing, and "confinement" room. It was used by pregnant wives as a place of calmness where they could participate in activities like needlepoint, hand-sewing, etc. The room is furnished for the winter season with silk curtains extended from the ceiling.

Items we saw on the tour that weren't available on postcards would include:
1) One of the earliest treddle sewing machines
2) An impressive antique birdcage
3) An antique bed surrounded by mosquito netting
4) Two huge urns that were encased inside of a bricked floor in the pantry. These were used to store food items that needed to be kept cool.

Here are the mansion homes we had to appreciate from afar:

Oak Alley Mansion. This mansion has been used for several movie settings including "The Long, Hot Summer," and "Interview with the Vampire." It is famous for its alley of 300-year old live oak trees. It was built between 1837-1839.

This is the famed Evergreen Mansion. It was constructed in 1840. It utilizes Greek Revival style with the curving stair mounts to the second floor.

The final mansion house that we saw from a distance is the Ormond Plantation House. It was completed shortly before 1790, constructed with the Louisiana Colonial Style. This home was often used to entertain officials of the Louisiana and Spanish governments. It was named Ormond by its owner in 1805, Colonel Richard Butler. He named it after his ancestral home in Ireland, the Castle Ormonde.

We also stopped by what was left of the Laura Plantation. A fire had destroyed a goodly portion of the mansion house. It is being restored, but we were unable to see anything of it while we were there. We did wander through the gift shop on the Laura Plantation and I purchased a book entitled: "Memories of the Old Plantation Home," written by Laura Locoul Gore, the great-granddaughter of Guillaume DuParc, the man who had established the original plantation. It was a fascinating read and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history.

If you ever find yourself in the New Orleans area, I would encourage you to take the time to see these beautiful, historical homes. It's an experience you will savor.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Country Culture

People who know me well are now gasping over the title of this blog. =D No worries, as you read on, you will see that I haven't succumbed to the "dark side," as I call it. Yes, this particular blog may cause a bit of controversy, not to mention lifted eyebrows, but since part of my job is to blog about culture, I figured I'd best at least touch on this aspect of our society.

I will begin by freely admitting I'm a throwback to the rock and roll era of the '70's. For those of you who hit teenhood about that same time, you may recall that country music was considered way uncool. Country music was that twangy stuff the older generation listened to, mostly to annoy us. A lot of it went like this:

"There was . . . bl-ooood on the saddle . . .
And . . . bl-ooood on the ground,
And a big . . . big pu--uuddle of bl-oood all around."

Through the years, a strange metamorphosis took place. Country music began sounding suspiciously like easy listening. In fact, there have been several top 40 hits that originated in the country realm. Very sneaky.

It was a sad day for me when I caught on that several of my friends had caved and crossed to the fanship of country western music. These were people who had vowed years ago that they would never be caught listening to this plague on society. Now they were embracing it with open arms.

"Cheri, it's changed," they exclaimed, doing their best to have a bad influence on me. "Listen to this song---isn't it wonderful?!!!" I dutifully listened, gagged, and left the room disenchanted.

During another attempt to convert me, a couple of "friends" shanghaied me during a Primary parade. I found myself tied to a sawhorse in the back of someone's truck, a cowboy hat was placed on my head, and a paper sash was placed around me that said: "Country Nel." (Nel is my middle name---I'm named after my maternal grandmother. Don't make fun.)

These creative friends of mine had also plastered paper banners on both sides of the truck that said the same thing: "Country Nel." Country music blared loud from the inside of the truck as I was driven through the Bennington Primary Parade.

Making the best of this terrible situation, I smiled bravely, unable to wave at the crowd that had gathered to watch that day, since my hands were tied firmly to the sawhorse. (My friends knew I would try to escape, and they were right on that one.) As we passed by a small group of older women from our ward, I heard one say in a loud manner to one of the others, "IS SHE RUNNING FOR MRS. BENNINGTON?"

I have a picture of this travesty, but I can't seem to find it at the moment. I'll keep looking, and perhaps add it later to this blog, so you can appreciate my humiliation. =)

Their ploy didn't work---I still don't get warm fuzzies from listening to country music. In my defense, understand that I grew up in a clan who embraced classical music, not to mention show tunes. I have never acquired a taste for countrified ditties, and I seriously doubt that will ever change---despite inlaws and friends who think they can change my mind.

My step-father-in-law used to give me a bad time about my dislike for this kind of music. He teased me a lot, informing me that I would be singing a country ditty at his funeral. I let him know what I thought about that idea on a frequent basis. Then behold, he had the audacity to pass away, and I was stuck. He had left instructions with his offspring that I was to perform, "I Hope There'll Be Pine Trees in Heaven," at his funeral. Most uncool, and if I hadn't loved this man like a father, I would have said: "NO!!!" My m-i-l insisted that I 'play nice;' I had to sing it in my regular voice, not the countrified version I was tempted to render, complete with nasal twang and appropriate cracks in my voice.

So I got up there and sang my little heart out as a tribute to Vern. Then I was given the opportunity to sing this same song at two more funerals. I'm sure Vern was snickering through all three performances and someday, we'll have a little chat about that, but I digress.

In recent years, country music has had a terrible influence on yet another art-form that I love, poetry. Cowboy poetry has become a huge hit here in the West. There are entire programs dedicated to this phenomenon. I have yet to attend such a thing, but I understand they're very popular. You can find books dedicated to this trend, and it is often shared over the radio.

I think it's great for those who love all things country. It does seem to capture the essence of country living, being a cowboy, "Home on the Range," and all that jazz . . . or should I say: country?! ;)

To show there are no hard feelings, I will share my one attempt at writing cowboy poetry. It pretty well sums things up for me:

Cow-Times on the Open Plains
(Or the Origins of Country Twang)

Cowboy George sat pondering upon his faithful steed—
Blissfully he was aware, cow-herding fulfilled his every need.
He’d named them all, it was his way, each cow was precious to his sight,
He ever strived to please them, morning, noon, and night.

He wrote a poem, the cows were bored, he tried to paint instead—
The cows, they merely turned their backs, the cowboy hung his head.
He read them books, they turned away; he danced--they scoffed and smirked,
No matter what our hero tried, nothing seemed to work.

“Oh, woe is me,” he sadly cried, “Oh, woe and woe again!”
The cows’ ears perked, they were impressed, by sounds of nasal twang.
They gathered enraptured at his feet, imploring him to sing,
He beamed at his discovery; he’d invented a wondrous thing.

And so at night, and oft times day, he strummed his wood guitar—
Adding, of course, his nasal voice, to thrill cows near and far.
His fame soon spread, the passion grew, his style was copied and often shared,
Country music had been born, cow relationships were repaired.

The years have passed, changes have come, new styles of music persist—
But bestill our hearts, no need to fear, country twang still lies within our midst.
And so we say, upon reflection, our hearts with great sincerity ring,
“Why didn’t the cows trample George before he thought to sing?!”

Cheri J. Crane

P.S. The illustration I used above was drawn by my talented sister, Heather Littell. She illustrated my first collection of poetry.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Snowshoeing Exploits

Today I’m going to touch on a different way of traveling around---snowshoeing. Santa brought Kennon and I snowshoes for Christmas this year. Don't laugh, they're actually a lot of fun. These modern snowshoes are rugged, designed for individual weights, and have awesome traction.

We’ve tried cross country skiing, something I loved in my youth, but I seem to lack the coordination to participate in such adventures these days. So now we’re trying snowshoeing. To be honest, someone else suggested this option as a way to stay healthy and happy during the loooonnnggg winter months here in the heart of Bear Lake. After this idea was shared, I began doing extensive research into the world of snowshoeing. I learned that snowshoes have come a long way since the days of Grizzly Adams and company. =) They come in all shapes and sizes and prices. Incidentally, I found the best deals online compliments of, but I digress.

My husband and one of our sons took these snowshoes out for a test drive the day after Christmas and they had a blast. They had so much fun, our son talked his wife into trying them before they left our realm. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they decided to purchase snowshoes for themselves in the near future. ;)

It wasn’t until everyone had headed home from our abode that I had a chance to try them out. That afternoon, Kennon and I drove up Montpelier Canyon and turned off into Montpelier Home Canyon, parking in a huge area that has been cleared for vehicles. We found that there were a lot of people trying out their Christmas gifts in this location. A father and son combo were sighting in a new rifle. Another father and son team had brought their new snowmobiles. Then there was Kennon and I, strapping on our new snowshoes. Guess who received the most stares. ;)

It didn’t take long to strap on the snowshoes, and we were off, following the snowmobile trail. My husband figured in was in our (my) best interest to keep things simple. We only hiked in about 1\2 mile but it was a good workout since it was uphill. Along the way I took several photos since I had brought along my trusty camera for this adventure.

I loved it. It was fun, and a great way to work in some exercise, not to mention a chance to appreciate nature. You can walk about anywhere with these things, but following a trail does make it much easier. When you step out into fresh snow, you do tend to sink down a bit, but this increases the workout opportunities. (IE: you work twice as hard to go the same distance.)

Since our goal this year is to go snowshoeing about 3 times a week, we ventured off again yesterday, this time heading to nearby Georgetown, Idaho. We settled on exploring the Right-hand Canyon up Georgetown Canyon and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

It was snowing slightly, but we stayed nice and warm. We learned early on that it behooves one to dress a little less like an Eskimo while snowshoeing because one tends to glisten while exerting in this way. So on the second day of my snowshoeing adventure, I wore a lighter coat.

We saw all kinds of neat things as we followed yet another snow-machine trail. We saw several shelters Mother Nature had provided for the small woodland creatures like bunnies, skunks, etc.

I also spied a small waterfall. And since many of you know of my great love of waterfalls, you'll appreciate how excited I was, even if it was tiny.

Here's a photo of deer tracks that look suspiciously like the patterns left by teens when they ride snow-machines up around a hillside. I suspect the deer were mocking them, but that's just me.

And here's a great shot of the deer who may have been responsible for the tracks we saw that day:

We also found a small avalanche, a warning about being cautious while hiking around canyon locations.

Here's a nice picture of Kennon posing with our dog, Brandy.

I learned yesterday that I will never walk behind this doggie ever again while wearing snowshoes. She stopped suddenly and stepped back onto the front of my snowshoes, helping me to lose my balance in a huge fashion. Luckily Kennon was there to help me back up to my feet. I'm not sure how I would have managed it on my own. My feet, legs, and snowshoes were a jumbled mess. I'm also now sporting one of the largest bruises I've ever sustained on one leg, but that was the only injury. Thank you Brandy. ;)

All in all, we had a wonderful time and we're already planning our next snowshoeing adventure. I heartily endorse this form of traveling. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it's a great way to see nature at its finest during the winter season.

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