Grad Night – Hey Mister…

I recently attended a high school graduation and what an entertaining evening.  REALLY.  I’m not kidding.  Okay so here’s what happened. G & I arrived about 10 minutes early to packed stands.  We took the first two openings we saw, row 2 on the 30 yard line farthest from the stage.  (There were also chairs set up on the field for people with tickets).  Soon “Never-met-a-stranger-G”   was entertaining our section of the bleachers.  A family with 4 of the most well behaved children I have ever seen were right in front of us and the kids immediately started interacting.  What happened next was entirely G’s fault as he encouraged the kids per usual.

Kid 1; “Hey Mister, Where did you get that hat?” G-“Mexico”.  Kid 2 ( adorable girl 5 years old) “You mean real Mexico?”

Kid 3; (Middle girl trying to get in on older brother and younger sister’s action) “Mister, Why are your boots so pointy?”  *All 4 kids, their parents,  and an old man left of  G look down at his feet*  G-“That’s so I can kill the bugs in corners.”  Now, I could see the emotions pass over their face, ‘should I laugh or am I going to get in trouble if I laugh?’ He smiles, they laugh. Old man next to G: “What did he say?” His wife: “He kills bugs. BUGS”.  Old man looks back down at G’s boots visibly irritated.

At this point I have to interject that  the procession of 367 seniors had begun through a gauntlet of parents on the field (you know, the ones with tickets). They lined up in 2 lines for the grads to pass through all the while taking pictures. At times, in their zeal, they completely blocked the progress.  Three songs played…then started over again. Therefore our banter wasn’t making us miss any action on the field.  Plus we were on the second row and a gaggle of people with balloons & signs were still streaming in trying to find seats blocking any idea of a view. Okay. Back to the conversation;

Kid 1:  “Mister, (pause…looks up while he is thinking ) You’re reeeallly old”.  Kid 3 (Middle Girl not to be outdone) “You’re older than my grandpa!”  To which G replies-“I AM OLDER THAN YOUR GRANDPA.”  *Parents nervously laughing*

Mom of the  inquisitive kids: “How old are you?” G answers-“73”     ALL FOUR KIDS EXCLAIM “WOW!”.   (Kid 2-, the adorable 5 year old covers her eyes).

Old man to the left of G (not their grandpa): “What did he say?” His Wife shouts: “He’s seventy-three” (people behind him laugh and nod at G)

Mom of 4 inquisitive kids: “I thought you were in your fifties!  You look young”. Old man (who I think is not yet even close to 73 but looks older than G)  shakes his head, GETS UP, MOTIONS TO HIS WIFE & THEY LEAVE!

Preteen Girl on my right who has been listening: “Are you in love with him?” (which I think is kind of a weird out of the blue question but hey, we ARE the entertainment during this turtle walk the grads are doing so I answer) “Well yes, we have been together 25 years”  Teenage girl:  “Woah. That’s quite an accomplishment!” to which the surrounding couples above her chuckle too.  We are all sitting in the bleachers to celebrate accomplishments so I roll with it.  The mood around us remains festive, total strangers striking up oddly personal conversations all thanks to my G.

For the rest of the night our section enjoyed the celebration together.  We all shared a belly laugh  when unbeknownst to the owner of a huge bundle of balloons, a wind had blown  the balloons to engulf a man walking past in the opposite direction. The poor man was trapped in a sea of blue, gold and black.  The trapped man  panicked, struggled, batted and swam his way out of the mess.  What WE saw were balloons,  elbows, balloons, knees, man twisting around, more balloons. What we HEARD was Squeaky squeaky squeak “Sorry dude” just as the balloons finally set the captive free. They just kept going walking  away in opposite directions like it never happened.

We all listened to the same speeches together and a collective wave rippled through the bleachers from over 30 year old onlookers as we questioned why so many speeches by the top graduates referenced TV Shows as inspirational. One recounted episodes and praised  the accomplishments of a fictional character as if she was presenting that character an award. The only other quote was taken from Cardi B.   Not one literary quote in ANY of the speeches.  None.  No standards like Walt Whitman, or Mark Twain.   Perhaps my time as a lover of books is old fashioned now.  I’m the old woman in the stands thinking  “kids these days…do they know how fascinating  it is that   Harper Lee is still relevant?” Perhaps the student speech givers knew that their peers understood why the quote from Cardi B was special, and why Kim Possible or Ron Stoppable is inspirational even if I wasn’t in on it.

Every speech from the  hall of fame inductees to teachers to students  had some reference to the support received from the community. Whether it was from fellow students, family, teachers, or the community itself, all of them called out each other for kindness and support they received.  I found that so comforting and somewhat unique in the political rhetoric speeches have become today’s norm. Perhaps that is the epicenter of  this school’s success. A community celebrating each other’s accomplishments.

This diverse school had  nearly 5 million dollars worth of scholarships, so many awards to the senior class including awards in academic decathlons, a 92% rate of continuing education from this class alone, national awards in things like ROTC, and even in Fashion.  These were opportunities we didn’t even have “in my day”.  It came as a surprise to me that the biggest cheer of the night was for the principal like he was some kind of rock star.   What a great time to be a graduate.  Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the school is exactly that, making us all wish we were one of them.

Two and a half hours later many families had already duck-walked in front of us out of the stands as soon as their grad received a diploma.  I KNEW their student had received a diploma because 3 foot  pictures of their grad were produced, screams, horns & booming confetti cannons shot over us all as the names were announced.   The confetti cannons were such a hit with our new  friends that, for a while at least, the children  were occupied with collecting. “I get red, you get blue…” Those of us in our little section stayed to the end. Together.  We helped each other gather belongings, amble out of the bleachers and bid goodbye like we were long lost friends.  Kids gave hugs to G, hands were shaken, good luck offered.

We looked for my nephew who we were there to celebrate and met the family off to the side of the common area, out near the vending machines.   He was number three Senior in his class and remained humble and grateful for the support from his parents, brother, aunts,  uncles and cousin who were present and gathered in a circle around him taking pictures in terrible lighting.   Oh and score! We got out of our parking space onto the street like the parking gods were watching.     Yep we REALLY had a blast at this graduation.

Lorelei:  (aka kid 2 -five year old adorable girl ): “Hey Mister, are you gonna come to my graduation?”  G- “Yes I am so you better work very hard.” Lorelei: “Okay I will.” and runs to her dad.  

See you in 2031 Lorelei. 

A Most Extraordinary Gift

Only 2 years apart, G grew up with his Uncle O with G’s older brother in between. Their mothers provided the three tiny children with a frying pan, some bacon & eggs,  and watched as the very young boys climbed the side of the mountain behind their side by side houses. Soon there would be a small glimmer of a fire and the boys made their own breakfast.  All day the boys would be immersed in their cowboy existence on that Phoenix mountain. mountain (2) By today’s standards the boys would be considered too young to be making a fire, climbing trails, staying on a mountain all day, shooting 22’s at an imaginary enemy.  It is their experience to share and their memories together.

G’s Bronzed Boots from those days.

This week O presented G with a most extraordinary handmade knife. Using an antler and a piece of steel, he forged and polished to such a sharp edge it slices through a piece of paper so easily, sharper than a razor.img_9926When someone shares a piece of their artistic soul, their art, you just KNOW that you are holding a piece of their heart in your hand.img_9927Thank you Uncle O for such a memorable gift.

Wait up guys! 


I’itoi Cave

Since I was a young girl I heard about a mysterious sacred cave in the Baboquivari Mountains on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation southwest of Tucson, AZ.  I have always been fascinated by the sharp contrast of the Baboquivari Mountain Range against the sky.Rising high above the desert Babo Peak  has been written about for centuries as a beacon for those who travel through the valleys.  Unfamiliar with the permits required for hiking  on the reservation, and not knowing the trails, I  searched and found an archaeological tour group heading to I’itoi Cave.  I was thrilled to finally climb that famous peak. The archaeologist and guide is Al Dart from Old Pueblo Archaeology .  The tour was so well organized and we felt like we were hiking with friends. His knowledge and passion  for sharing information exceeded our expectations. Highly recommended for a first look at any area one is interested in exploring! Traveling by SUV for12 miles on an un-maintained road, our group arrived  at the Baboquivari Campground Area to find campers taking down a tee pee from the previous night’s birthday celebration.  Al was quick to point out that the tee pee is not part of the Tohono O’Odham culture but had been used for this particular ceremony and overnight stay.  He went on to describe the history of the area in great detail.   Even at this early stage of the tour we could tell this would be a wonderful experience.

The campground area is beautiful and worth exploring.    Above us and surrounding us like a giant hug stood Babo Peak. The hike to I’itoi Cave is a little over mile on a trail rated difficult.  Fortunately our guide made frequent stops along the trek  pointing out both man made  and natural wonders along the way.  He included reading excerpts of  early European explorers during our rest stops.The views are spectacular and unspoiled from this vista. What a perfect day to hike.The cave has a tiny triangular entrance behind an outcropping of rock.  It’s a wonder anyone found it at all.  It is said  I’itoi  still lives there as protector of the Tohono O’Odham people.   Iitoi is sometimes referred to as “Older Brother”.  Some traditions have him entering the cave through a labyrinth and others refer to  him as the man in the maze.

We were met by the caretaker/shaman of the Baboquivari Wilderness Area who was waiting by the entrance.   He is said to be over 60 and makes the climb three times a week.

He told us stories about I’itoi and Eagle Man who had been sent to earth by the creator. Both of them were tasked with making  people so they each set out to  make people of different colors.  Eagle Man’s people did not survive but I’itoi’s purple people were strong and became the Tohono O’Odham.

When someone asks him the best way to enter/exit the cave, he laughed and said you can go in however you want, but  “there’s only one way out, head first, like being born”.

We took turns, 6 at a time went in.   G and I waited our turn and watched as each person came out of the cave differently… and yep, we all looked just like a birth.  Everyone re-entered the world differently.  Some  needed assistance to which helpers joked about needing forceps.   Other than the occasional awkward exit from the cave, it was quiet and peaceful, everyone speaking softly.The shaman/caretaker was asked why he let non natives enter the cave.  More specifically, why he would let Catholic or Christian symbols be placed as offerings. His answer was beautiful.  He said he had thought about it many times, and had meditated about it for a long time here in the cave.  He said he believes that there is one god, different to the different cultures, but still one.  He said their story is similar to a Christian story.  They share a flood story, and I’itoi died and rose again.   As long as people are respectful, he wants to share this sacred cave with the anyone seeking it’s peace.Finally our turn came. We aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the cave and I can see why.  Whether or not one believes in I’itoi as a deity or not, there is a unique reverence entering  the darkness.  A shaft of light is just enough to see the uneven walls of the cave and shines deep toward the sloping back wall.  What lies inside are the prayers, hopes and dreams of those who had come before.   I noticed a  faint scent of incense as I knelt down to add two little purple flowers that I had brought from home. I gave them my own meaning as I placed them in the fine dust on the floor so they would  just catch the corner of the sunbeam.   My own experience was energizing kneeling there on  the soft dirt.  Following the sun I exited out the triangle hole and slid back to the real world.Refreshed we all headed down the mountain to the next stop….Petroglyphs.There is an outcropping of rock on the valley floor peppered with petroglyphsProtected by an overhang they have been here for centuries.Some of the red pictographs are dated at over 5,000 years old. The whiter carved petroglyphs more modern, around 500 years and have Hohokam influence.Some areas had holes used for grinding. A new tradition to toss coins into them as a prediction of future events.As the sun faded to a glorious Arizona sunset it was time to say goodbye.

Renewed and tired we headed back to Tucson holding the Shaman’s words in our heart, we are all one people.

I Wish Upon a Shrine?

This cool crisp sunny morning on the 2nd day of a new year is perfect day to visit El Tiradito  aka  the Wishing Shrine.I am not Catholic, nor do I believe in wishing.   However, I do believe in new beginnings and second chances.


This shrine happens to be the only Catholic shrine where a sinner is buried in unconsecrated ground.  Appropriate place for a visit reflecting on last year’s f’ups & hopes for next year.



It’s history is a classic tale of a love triangle.


All of that seems lost with the flickering saintly candles & memorial objects. Our shared pain is here in this place.

0e5abe39-8e0d-460e-8693-3ad0e27ea9b1Our sins exposed like the ruined adobe wall holding little bits of paper, our wishes.

90d90681-2a85-46cd-ab55-5e38c868cf64My wish is here too.  It  is a symbol of what breaks my heart leaving it here for a higher power to handle when I can’t anymore.119F6462-8AEC-4A9D-8F62-0F31DB91EEBF.JPGMy favorite story about this shrine is that it’s presence stopped a highway from cutting through this old part of town.  Thank you Juan Oliveras for your unknown contribution to the preservation of Tucson over 140 years ago.   Just shows you that even sinners make a difference.17fadf50-e44c-4215-907f-d0790651091e


Exploring further and one finds out that Tucson had a wonderful lakeside resort here in the 1800’s. Check out the picture below.

91f64e17-a376-42d7-8e28-2d8178165313Hard to imagine now while we struggle for decent ground water.  Lush and green many people enjoyed this area for health & entertainment. Now the area is dry as can be. Little touches everywhere.2cecd01b-1a46-4f54-afe2-a4fbb36b6957


The neighborhood was renamed Elyasian and this historic market remains as someone’s home.IMG_5134.JPGContinuing on through the neighborhood there were a lot of interesting textures.



3142c3d2-6581-4b51-801f-ff32fa0396d7This is the theater located off a side street.img_5137img_5136

I am grateful for this part of Tucson.  The Old Pueblo.  Grateful for this beautiful day to walk in the sunshine around this old neighborhood. Celebrating the new year by exploring the past. Acknowledging that we are just traveling through and life changes in an instant.







Friendships- The Rewrite

So the reflection of this year I am CELEBRATING the “ride or die’ crew.  Celebrate their love for each other.  Celebrate how no matter when things get bad, good, great, horrible, sad, fun that we are traveling together.  I want to SHOUT how wonderful they are!  Our TRIBE.



I often re-read books  but none more valuable to me as The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  I have shared and gifted this book over and over again.  She reached me in such a positive way.  There are layers in this book.  Each time I read I take away something different.  Today I am in a reflection of the past year and my attention is on her writing of her friendships.  Her “ride or die crew”.   Suddenly my eyes are opened by her description of a friend she deems as becoming more toxic.  To paraphrase; the author slowly realizes that she was being manipulated by this friend.  As she became healthier she realized she had actually created the friend’s kind persona. She described the sloth-like awakening to the real personality perfectly. I experienced something similar a few years ago it rang true to me today like a bell.








I had the same experience and was truly devastated by the cruelty of a friend. Like Shonda I had manufactured the reciprocal  friendship.  Their manipulation & betrayal  happened during a very bad year.  The year of the Smackdown.  The year I longed for  support. The year I almost lost G to a bizarre disease. I saw the friend as they truly were.  As G always said they were and I denied.  It is now my favorite year as I found my TRUE “Ride or Die” crew.

There are people in our lives that become family.  Our tribe. After that experience I check myself.  Not for the fake friends because we can always be fooled.  No, I now make SURE I am not rewriting the personality of the friend.  That I stand up to those who are manipulating. It’s more honest. It’s more painful.  It’s more joyous.


My experience was the toxic don’t go quietly.  To survive them is an accomplishment.

We are all part of a Tribe.  We find each other randomly and become like family.  I may not even see my fellow tribesman for years but when we meet it’s like we were never apart.   To those beautiful, funny,loving, crazy people in my life who I would “ride or die” with; you are loved beyond measure.





I spent last night upstairs on a couch outside my mother’s room.  All night long I heard an owl that apparently  perches just outside on the chimney.    Mom says the owl also  likes to sit  in the tallest Palo Verde tree next to the house because it can take off  better to hunt. Either way the owl is announcing his presence at the exact moment I think I am finally falling asleep. (Like it KNOWS)


The hooting of the owl into the wee hours of the night made  me think about my Dad all the more.  He had actually written a story in his book “Jackie” about an owl that sat outside he and his brother Jim’s bedroom window when they were children.

Below is an excerpt from his book :

In fairer weather the boys occupied the same upstairs bedroom.  A window was at the foot of the bed on one side with a large tree close by.  The night breezes and bright moon made shadows dance through that window.  A large Hoot Owl took residence in that tree, and for nearly a whole summer the boys hid their fears under the sheet pulled tightly over their heads. Earlier that summer  Jackie had won the argument to be called  Jack now that he was older.  He was admonished by his parents that if he was big enough to be called Jack then it came with the responsibility to be not afraid. Jack had to put up with the owl.  The critter was huge and noisy!  Well they got used to it after a while and when they called to Hooty,  he would answer.  After that it was kind of fun talking to “their owl”. 

So now I am thinking that  ~Life just gets curiouser and curiouser ~ and just like Scout  in To Kill a Mockingbird when she suddenly sees Boo Radley behind the bedroom door I whisper  “Hey Dad”.




Eating breakfast in Ranch county and “never met a stranger ” G admires this guy’s suspenders. IMG_4769.JPGMr DH proceeds to tell him exactly how they are made.


He says to go to the thrift store and get yourself a woman’s bra. They have the best eleastic. When I laugh he turns to me and says emphatically “They really do”.


Finally in the end DH points to me “she can help you”. He picks up his 2 cups of coffee (one for him and one for momma) and proudly walks away showing off the fancy suspenders he made.

Boots On The Ground In Patagonia

This weekend I  found a way to get my “boots on the ground” like my daddy said to me  the day he died. G  packed the truck with all the picnic & hiking supplies along with  gold panning, & first aid equipment ( just in case).  We drove past the city limit to find a place I knew Dad’s boots had been. He had taken our family camping all over Southern Arizona and once we broke away from the freeway I started to feel lighter.5742fb6e-b35c-463d-a723-86366424fee2

Finally the painful  gravity pulling my soul out of my body started to lighten up as the miles rolled by. I thought about my Dad. I thought about driving with him enough miles for the Chet Atkins 8 track to  repeat a few times. I hear his music in my head as the world rushes by.  Oh how he loved this land. This was healing as I allowed myself to feel the pain of the loss of such a great man.

IMG_3774.JPGSoon we pulled in to the tiny town of Patagonia, AZ and I saw this amazing tree. The proprietor says it’s over  300 years old.  I’m staring wondering how.  How did this tree stay? (Why couldn’t you stay?)   Daydreaming and  imagining the secrets this tree knows I touch it with the respect it deserves.  I highly recommend hugging a 300 year old tree.

Patagonia has a short street with a lot of cool old buildings. We decide to return when we feel like exploring at a later time.

Continuing south we know what we are looking for; Desert mountains, grasslands, fresh air, streams

We drop down toSan Rafael Valley and we are just a few miles from Mexico.  You can see Mexico  in the distance over G’s shoulder.9a2d730e-bed7-4ae1-9e67-2f75d93ad7f4

Finally the truck climbs high enough on forest roads to see my dad’s favorite tree, the Manzanita.  It’s my favorite too.  The world smells different here. Old, fresh, green, dusty…..manzanita-treeWe drive up  a long forest road to higher ground and find a good ol’ hollowed out tree to sit under for a picnic.img_3852I decide to crawl inside this burnt out tree for no other reason than to see what it feels like to be INSIDE A TREE. It was EASY going in but once inside I can’t figure out how to get out without touching one of the thousand spiderwebs.  There is no graceful way to exit and I am trying not to get eaten. G thinks it’s hilarious since he told me not to try it.

635a23df-77d7-46ee-8dcb-69cdcca6bfbbThere are many abandoned mines in the Patagonia Mountains. Some of the mining towns have disappeared completely but there are a few left to explore.  One adobe building and a graveyard remain here at Harshaw.


While I was taking these pictures an ant crawled up my pants leg and bit me.  Just so you know (and the campers nearby know)  why I was whooping and taking off my pants in broad daylight.

Harshaw Graveyard-

G read a book once about this area that took place in the 1800’s. A 9 year old boy had been thrown from a horse and died. Several years ago we found that young boy’s grave.  For years we would return to make sure his grave was clean and well kept.  We haven’t been back to this area for a while and were very happy to see that others have been taking care of it.  For some reason that feels oddly comforting. Families still live in this area and some return to maintain their ancestor’s resting place. Gone but not forgotten. That’s the comfort for me today.54f7ad4d-be6d-4159-9de1-0e1ff9ae67692941f265-22ec-46a8-acf3-08d6adad626ce671677f-e7b7-4198-9073-a358fd92ca78fc1d5d7d-20ed-4d89-b76f-94c5654306b5

64b27a34-381a-4c30-a00b-982f62292819acc6093c-9bd4-49a1-b3e1-9cfc094ccb3aPutting my boots on the ground made all the difference today.  I hugged a tree, smelled the fresh air, got bitten by an ant but NOT a spider, laughed hysterically, crunched through the fallen leaves, lost my sunglasses, brushed against the soft grass, touched my favorite Manzanita trees, imagined living in an old town, and mostly celebrated nature as my father taught me.  Thanks Dad.

In memory of Jack  born October 8, 1931 died October 14, 2016






















The Bell

It’s  4am. I am sitting  in THE most comfortable chair in the world outside my father’s bedroom and I hear the bell ring.  I snap to attention to get him what he needs. I am so grateful for that bell and so happy he is still here for me to help.  I place my hand on his back. I focus prayerful energy to his patchwork heart, my hand heats up and I simply know he will be OK today.


It wasn’t always that way with the bell.  I really used to hate the sound of it.  My first encounter with the call bell was because my brother had asthma.  We shared a bedroom and a bell was given to me to wake the house at the first sign of wheezing.  Oh I tried ringing it once or twice, but it seemed they took too long to get there, the bell was in my way. It was just much faster to drag him by his blue footie pj’s down the hall to the bathroom, fill it with steam, and climb on the counter to reach his inhaler out of the medicine cabinet all while yelling Mooooooommmm! at the top of my lungs. Still didn’t hate it yet, just didn’t have the time in my tiny impatient mind to use it.

It was actually my grandmother who I associate with my disdain for the bell.


The bell pictured above  hung at the end of my grandparent’s sidewalk.   For some reason my Grandmother would find the need to scold us whenever we were near that bell, even though we weren’t touching it! She  would sternly lecture us that it was only for emergencies to call the workers. We felt angry and  guilty (like  when a patrol car pulls behind my car and I panic for no reason).  She scolded that if we rang it we would be like The Boy Who Cried Wolf which is ironic when I tell you the rest of the story.  Toward the end of her life she moved in with my parents. As older people sometimes do she became childlike and bratty.  She couldn’t be left alone so there were times I had to grandma-sit. I was in college so I believed it would be a quiet time for me to study.


The grandma sitting started off by checking her water glass (Ice all the way to the top),finding the remote in her blankets so she could turn her TV up to ear piercing levels and making sure the blinds were the way she wanted.  “I will be right outside the door.” I would shout  while handing  her the bell. As soon as I plopped down, opened a book and started to concentrate; ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling and I rushed in. “I need more ice”   She would say. “YOU don’t put enough in!”

“Grandma, the ice cubes are full even poking out of the top, I can’t fit anymore in.”  She wasn’t having it so I took the glass out to the hall, then brought it back.  “That’s better.” She says while giving me a stern nod. She rarely drank the water. Sometimes the call of the bell was to open the blinds, minutes later to close them. Often times to find the remote.   Once and a while she really did need something.  I thought maybe she was lonely but she didn’t want me to stay in the room and she wouldn’t come out to the rest of the house. This scene repeated itself every 10 minutes or so throughout the day.  Each time my butt hit the chair; ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling!! The bell. That damn bell.

Fast forward to today, and just like Quasimoto I have learned to love the bell. The frustrated young woman I was is replaced with the reality that the bell has always been a lifeline.  As long as my dad can ring it, I know he is still here.  I wait impatiently for the brassy sound or actually ANY sound. When I don’t hear it I check on him way too often.  I know there will be a time when the bell is silent, when no one needs me to rush in and administer medication, fluff a pillow,comfort a child, or open blinds.  I know someday I will need to summon a person to get ME ice ( poor daughter). Until then I will rush in at the call of the little brass bell.

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