The Wednesday night before the United States became crazy about their toilet paper because of the Coronavirus, we boarded a Southwest flight to wing our way south to Phoenix where we planned to rent a car and drive to Tucson for a four day weekend. Our plane was full with kids going to baseball tournaments and adults wanting to see spring ball. By the next day spring ball and all the kids tournaments were cancelled. We continued on with our plans to go to Tucson. We had no clear agenda from the beginning. The weather in Tucson is so inviting in the spring, it is easy to stay outdoors and away from others.
Thursday, my husband picked up the rental car from the Phoenix airport. Rentals are expensive (or were when we started because this is high season). We chose the “managers special” to save money. That means you get whatever car is available. We got a new Jeep Compass which was a great car for touring the countryside. On our way out of Phoenix, we stopped by the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The Casa Grande site is a tribute to more than 650 years of irrigation in the desert. Archeologists are not sure of the purpose of the site but the monument houses the remains of the largest earthen building in North America. Civilization in this location lasted over a thousand years until about 1450 C.E. The location was abandoned. Without written word the people responsible for an elaborate irrigation, farming, and trading culture remain a mystery.
When we arrived in Tucson we checked into the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort. The Wyndham is located in the Sonoran Desert. When looking for a hotel in Arizona make sure to pick one with outdoor pools, and places to sit. The sunsets in Tucson are gorgeous and free. There’s nothing like sitting on your balcony after an afternoon soak in the pool with a glass of wine and watching the sun set in a colorful sky.
Friday we headed to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The drive took us through the Saguaro National Park. Named for the large saguaro cactus, native to the area, we had our lunch sitting on a rock looking at the grand landscape. The afternoon we toured the museum which is actually an outdoor adventure showcasing native desert plants and animals. I particularly enjoyed the hummingbird exhibit. If you have kids with you, plan your trip to see the raptor flyover scheduled once a day right now.
Saturday we headed to the Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are 30 miles of trails in the recreation area. Once again we took a picnic lunch to eat outdoors. We had bought tickets to go on the tram which proved to be an open air crawler. Because of recent rain in the area, we were only able to get to the dams and see the flooding, rushing river. In dryer seasons, the crawler takes you all the way up to two glorious waterfalls.
Sunday we met friends. But by Sunday, the country was awash with alarm over the Coronavirus and things were starting to shut down. We were literally one of about 10 people on the usually bustling University of Arizona campus. If you were traveling during more usual times, I would recommend you plan Sunday to drive to Tubac about 40 minutes south of Tucson. Established in 1752, Tubac is a charming artist colony with gorgeous colors and eclectic items in all their stores. On the way down or back stop at the Mission San Xavier del Bac, meaning White Dove of the Desert. The Mission was built by Spanish Franciscans in the 18th century and sits on the Xavier Indian Reservations. You can’t miss it’s rising dome as you drive by on the highway.
Monday we headed back to Phoenix and an amazingly uneventful flight home. The plane was packed. As we walked through an empty Boise airport, we saw 6 or 7 people waiting for a plane to San Fransisco, one of the hot zones for the virus.
At some point, life in the US will return to normal. Americans love to travel abroad as witnessed by the lines at the 13 funnel airports this weekend. But we have wonderful sites here in the states. If we have to stay in our country’s boundaries for while so be it. We live in a glorious, mysterious place.
We just spent the past few days with long-term Wyoming friends in Tucson. Our friends used to escape Wyoming’s long hard winters in Tucson but now they have sold their Wyoming home and moved permanently to Arizona. They live in a Robson community for 55 plus seniors called Quail Creek near Green Valley, Arizona. The advertising says, “Living here is like being on vacation every day.”
We spent our mornings drinking coffee on the veranda, swimming in the heated outdoor pool, and going for walks. We spent our afternoons exploring the gorgeous desert landscape and viewing Native American and cowboy art. We ate wonderful food at exotic restaurants ranging from a five course Valentines dinner to a lunch on the patio of the resort used to film the movie, “Tin Cup”. We spent an afternoon in the quaint community of Tubac. We saw kitschy art and gorgeous Native American Art. We were stopped by American soldiers driving back, checking for drugs coming into the country. One afternoon we attended a lecture on “Asylum”. The politics of the wall and border are very salient in an area less than an hour from the border.
The temperatures hovered in the low seventies during the day but dropped drastically at night to the 50’s requiring jackets.
I go every year to visit my friend who I have known for thirty years. I would visit her if she lived in Alaska. But over time, I have come to welcome this break from Idaho’s winter. We enjoy the sunshine but we enjoy each other’s company more. As I age, I have come to appreciate the joy of shared memories. We laugh spontaneously over silly things we did in our youth. It’s great to be in vacation land but it’s better to be in vacation land with our very good friends.
We just spent the last six nights seven days in Santa Barbara (SB), California. We were treated to gorgeous sunny days in the low seventies though one day hit low 80s. Late January early February is the off season for the California coast. High season starts in May and continues into December. We chose California to get out of Boise, Idaho’s gray season. We could have gone to Hawaii but the draw of a shorter flight and cheaper accommodations made our choice easy. Also I’m still recovering for surgery last fall and can only walk about 2 to 3 miles a day on flat surfaces. Sand is a no for me. SB has a wonderful walk way/ bike path right along the beach. Folks without a handicap were out enjoying the pleasures of the beach including swimming, paddle boarding and surfing.
With the warm weather, we spent out mornings out walking and our afternoons napping and swimming for me. My husband, Pete, always goes to the YMCA for a couple hours anywhere we go. The report from Pete was the Y in Santa Barbara is large and new. The advantage of going to Ys if you belong at home is you can get in at no cost. Usually the facility has excellent equipment, sometimes pools and activities for kids.
We stayed within a half mile of the SB beach at the Inn by the Harbor. The Inn offers cooking facilities in the rooms, continental breakfast, wine and cheese early evening, and milk and cookies late evening. Free bikes are available. The bikes had gears and looked like nice cruisers. I just wasn’t able to use them. The Inn also has a nice pool and hot tub. The Inn was full the entire time we were there with Canadians who apparently knew each other because they gathered in the small lobby every evening for wine. We knew they were Canadians because their cars were parked outside. I think you could stay at the Inn and never rent a car. We rented a car because of my handicap.
Breakfast at the Inn was a mundane continental with cereal, fruit, juice, yogurt, muffins, and bagels. But by having a breakfast provided, we could afford more elaborate dinners. Every meal we had was excellent. All of them were along the beach and we found them through Yelp. We pieced lunch together with left overs and fruit from breakfast.
Looking for a sunny long weekend in the winter, SB may be for you.
Rollout those lazy, crazy days of summer…You’ll wish that summers could always be here (Nat King Cole, 1963)
2016 was my first summer of retirement. What a glorious time, I have had! Pete and I opened summer with a grand circle tour of the Wyoming and Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Jackson Hole biking
CSU Ram, Cam
Driving from Boise to Jackson Hole, the Teton’s highlight was biking at twilight along the Snake River. Then on to Buffalo, Wyoming to visit family and enjoy Wyoming’s wonderful summer weather where cool breezes keep the air moving and the need for air conditioning down. In Cheyenne, Wyoming where I grew up, I am still blessed with many long-term friendships. These friendships have remained strong over 20 years of living in different cities with annual visits home. All but one friend and my husband beat me to retirement. Some of my friends have had health struggles. One friend is recovering from a stroke, another a heart condition, another just getting over a knee replacement surgery. All have new grand children to report on. When I sit down with my Wyoming friends, it feels like yesterday when we left. Over the years and across the miles, our shared adventures and linking life lines have kept us together.
We finished our roadtrip with our annual visit to a Colorado Rockies game, a must for us and plans to meet Wyoming friends in Arizona next year to watch spring baseball. Our final stop before heading home was Golden, Colorado where Pete has family and the hops from Coors Brewery fills the air. Clear Creek runs through town, like the Boise River but much smaller. These rivers provide the focal point for both communities though their original historical roots are quite different. Golden was a mining town and Boise was the Lewis and Clark route, the Oregon Trail and home to Fort Boise. Our drive home took us across Utah, setting of glorious rock formations. Traveling in Utah always leaves me thinking about Mormon families pushing their hand carts across the vast landscape, a hardy group for sure.
The friendship/family tour was our only trip this summer. Boise (consistently ranked as one of the top outdoor cities) is a fabulous place to spend the summer and we also own a cabin in McCall, Idaho welcoming us over the long holidays including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, a late July family vacation and most recently Labor Day. Labor Day trills the siren call of summer’s end. The air is starting to turn and Boise hosts the fabulous Boise Balloon Festival.
Our cabin in McCall is tiny (about 1200 square feet) but it has big arms, welcoming 5 co-ed college students (guests of my son) and Pete and I two weeks ago. Labor Day we hosted Kayla’s 17th birthday extravaganza with 4 of her friends. Kayla’s birthday is September 6th. We celebrate her birthday every Labor Day in McCall. In recent years, neighbors from Boise have bought a place too. We share or more accurately mooch dinners and boat rides from them. Our kids are together in college and they have a daughter from China who is a freshman in high school. The weather never cooperates with our beach and water plans. But somehow we manage to get out on the water. One Labor Day, we were wrapped in blankets on a boat. This year I actually got a brain freeze as I shot across Payette Lake on a jet ski.
Kayla’s 17th birthday
Girls being girls, McCall
Scott on pink flamingo jet ski
So what I have I learned from my first summer of retirement?
Family and friends matter more as one ages, make the time to cultivate and grow existing relationships.
Good health is a blessing and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Exercise regularly, eat right and make time for preventive health visits.
Be thankful for every day God has given me. Jump out bed and enjoy the day!
Zipping from tree top to tree top, I felt like an eagle soaring high but going so fast I would never be able to spot prey. While in my fantasy I was an agile winged bird of prey, in reality I looked like a rotating chicken on a spit because I never could keep the line straight as directed and found myself twisting around. I could only take in the splendor of Cascade Lake and the mountains when standing on the wooden perches waiting my turn. There were 9 in our group but the tour can accommodate up to 10. The first zip, the tour guide, had to pry off my hands from what he described as the “clutch of death”.
For safety purposes, everyone is tethered onto the tree platforms in-between zips. The highest perch was 125 feet. The platforms are sky-high tree houses about 12 feet square with a tree rising through middle of the platform and serving as the structure. The tree is partially covered with padding to avoid out of control humanoids slamming into bark and surrounded by tethers to keep the tour group from accidently pitching over the side and becoming a causality of the exercise.
The correct position is a tucked canon ball with one hand on the zip tether for guidance and the other free floating for an airbrake if necessary. An air brake means you stick you your hand out and madly grab for air to slow yourself down in an awkward flapping maneuver. The demonstration of this technique looks like sky diving without a parachute. Fortunately, I was never going fast enough to try to stop myself. On the other hand, if you aren’t going fast enough to reach the landing you are to grab the safety cord so the tour guide can pull you in. The second zip, zipping in my own little zone, I didn’t hear the guide shouting at me to grab the safety line. I came to my senses just in time to avoid an incident of hanging out in the middle of line needing to be fetched in by guides. When this happens, you are called “fish on a line”. That gives you some idea of how ungainly a non-moving zipper can become, hanging in mid-air waiting to be rescued. My daughter was on a different trip where a younger member (not enough weight, certainly not my problem) had this happen. Apparently, it took considerable time to fetch the kid from mid rope back up to the platform.
Trying zip lining was on my bucket list partially because my balance problems have eliminated so many of my challenges I easily accomplished when I was younger. Since one is held up when zipping, I thought I could accomplish this adrenal pump even with my limitations. I did drag my husband, Pete, along. At first, he said he would take me to the site and drop me off to do it by myself. But after shrieking at him that this wouldn’t help me at all, he came along reluctantly. In a bind, I can count on him to hold my hand and pull me up or down areas I can’t accommodate on my own. It turned out there was another gracious guy on the trip who kept stopping to help me. His wife had stayed at home and the guides were top notch and helped everyone.
I would like to report that the next day given my excellent condition I jumped out of bed not feeling anything. Unfortunately, I am 65. The next day my body felt like I’d been flung around in a dryer. I had bruises on my thighs from the equipment and a cut on my leg from the suspension bridge. One cannot be an adventurer without being willing to take the pain with the adrenal pump. Would I do it again? Oh yes. My bucket list also includes is sailing over the rain forest in Costa Rico.
My twenty-two year old son is home from college for the summer. He has one more semester left before he graduates and is interning at Simplot in Strategic Optimization this summer. The atmosphere in our house changes when he is home. The top 10 changes are:
Number 10: The day of arrival the front door and entry hall, approximately 12 feet square, are blocked by a 36 inch smart TV, 30 boxes of size 14 shoes (my son collects Nikes and resells them online) and numerous boxes of assorted sizes filled with who knows what.
Number 9: The second day of arrival the smart TV, playing rap music, can be heard in the entry hall through the door of my son’s second-floor room. The entry hall otherwise remains jammed with college gear. The closed bedroom door is marked Scott Kozisek, Please Knock.
Number 8: By the end of the first week home, the entry way is empty except for a large backpack propped against the wall and camel pack, laying on the steps, both will probably remain there all summer. My son’s possessions are now leaching out of his bedroom filling up the 12 by 12 landing at the top of the stairs and hindering access to the playroom.
Number 7: Household dynamics are slightly off kilter, like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole. My son is a vegetarian, a dozen eggs last three days instead of a week. Grocery shopping is expanded to include tofu, dozens of eggs, chocolate milk,whey protein. Our three car garage is challenged to provide parking for our fleet of four cars, juggling cars and keys is now the norm. Beautiful sound systems up and down stairs play competing music with jazz, James Taylor, and Carole King dominating downstairs and hip/hop, rap, and electric dance music echoing through the upstairs.
Number 6: I hear the front door opening and closing at 2:30 or 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Or I don’t hear anything and get a text in the morning about crashing at friends. I have to continually remind myself that my son is an adult and can make his own choices. My tongue aches as I bite it to keep from saying something that I may regret or may damage our relationship.
Number 5: The dogs, Shani and Violet, whine and beg to get out of my office where I am watching TV or working on the computer whenever their hero, my son, comes in the back door. This adoration for the lost boy is somewhat annoying since I continue to do all the feeding of the pets.
Number 4: I hear shouting at 11 p.m. between my daughter’s and my son’s bedrooms about a large bug that must be removed from my daughter’s ceiling fan. My son’s removal efforts result in random dust explosion and the bug being knocked off the fan onto my daughter’s bed. More shouting erupts when the bug in a remarkable rebound returns to the fan. Using my daughter’s belt, the bug is exterminated by my son. Because my daughter is unwilling to touch such an ugly thing, my son must extricate the insect from the down comforter. Placing the bug in the trash will not do. It must be flushed down the toilet to ensure the room has been de-bugged. I hear the vacuum turn on. I go upstairs to investigate. My daughter is vacuuming her bed, guaranteeing no other bugs have lived through the dust bowl event and removing the remaining dust mites from her quilt. Interactions of this nature will ensue throughout the summer, when previously the upper floor was silent.
Number 3: The amount and quality of conversation at the dinner table has increased geometrically with the addition of a third adult. We have moved from discussing high school and the weekly schedule ( who is going to be where and when) to discussing politics (no one in our family likes Trump though there is division on which Democrat to support), upcoming music and events in Boise, hit summer movies (who has seen what and who wants to go to what) and weekly schedule (who is going to be where and when). We managed to coordinate well enough at dinner to allow us all to see Captain America Civil Wartogether the first week it was out. A good movie for families with kids 13 and up. We have also managed to schedule our Father’s Day Celebration for Wednesday, June 15th attending Alive After Five. That was the closest date, we could find when we were all in town. Kayla has a particularly busy summer traveling to camps and mission work all over the country.
Number 2: I have someone to watch streaming of Dare Devil, Season 3 on Netflix late at night. We are moving on to Jessica Jones. My son is watching the third season of Peaky Blinders, his favorite show. I watched my first episode this week. Peaky Blinders received a rave review in the Wall Street Journal as a fabulous period piece. Focused on Irish gangs in London after WWI, the episode I watched was bloody but haunting. My daughter by comparison and I watch Bones, America’s Got Talent, Kids’ Baking Championship and Chopped.
Number 1: I get regular hugs for making coffee in the morning and for packing lunches to send out the door to work.
My family and I have travelled to the Orient, Europe, England, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and extensively in the U.S. Our number one rule is that you have to pack so you can carry all your gear on the plane. I have traditionally carried everything I need for up to ten days in a roller bag meeting airline carry-on regulations, a backpack and a fanny pack. I strap the fanny pack to my waist with my phone, money, and passport and only take it off at night to make sure my valuables and I are never separated. In a pinch, I can get the fanny pack into the backpack so I meet the two bag requirement of the airlines.
My two kids have been responsible for pulling their suitcases and carrying their back packs since they were old enough to travel. Fortunately, bags and backpacks come child- sized. Kids don’t bring many clothes. The ones they bring are tiny. When the kids where younger, their clothes went in the roller bags and their backpacks were full of entertaining objects such as coloring tools, paper, Gameboys, and playing cards. All of this has become passé with the advent of smart phones and iPods which entertain my children for hours. I see very young children playing with in airports now.
We made the decision to wean down our wardrobes and keep our luggage with us because of lost luggage leading to problems at our destination. Now we travel with our luggage to assist in making connections if we have to change itineraries, reducing the problems of dealing with lost luggage and trying to keep the price of travel down. Taking four us to Spain or Hawaii and paying luggage fees for everyone becomes extremely costly.
Recently, I have become the drag on our traveling caravan. I have a very rare neurological disorder. I can walk just fine (for which I am very thankful). But I can’t stand for any period of time without my legs starting to shake. At the same time the lines for airport security are growing, my ability to stand is diminishing.
When my son and I travelled from Florida to Boise in March, I had trouble at the Pensacola, Florida security check. We had waited a long time. I told the screeners I had trouble standing but I couldn’t get them to listen. When I walked through the scanner, the equipment showed me carrying weapons all over my body i.e. in my arm pits, waist band, bra, anywhere that moved as my legs shook. After a humiliating body check, I complained to the supervisor who said I should have told the initial TSA worker. I had, of course, done this. In fact, I had told two workers but they were too busy to listen. Given this experience, I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands.
Flying home from Seattle a month ago, I received a text from Alaska Air that the lines at Seattle International Airport were two hours long. I asked for a wheel chair when I got to the airport. Once in the wheel chair, we zoomed right through the crowd. However, I was physically in better shape than the kind woman pushing the chair. As soon as I got into the boarding area, I was up walking around. I felt uncomfortable being pushed around when I’m perfectly capable of walking. Given the Florida and Seattle experience, I have done two things that I hope will improve my air traveling experiences.
The first is that I am now on the TSA priority boarding list. For a long time, I routinely got priority boarding but recently I have not. I am obviously not in a position to hope for the luck of the draw. I paid the $80 and scheduled the time to be fingerprinted. The next time I fly, I will enter my number TSA number and be able to skip the longer screening lines.
My bag arrived this week. As promised, I can pull it easily behind me and sit in it like a horse and scoot around the house. Now, rolling around a crowded airport may be a different thing altogether. Sitting on it like a chair is tipsy. I feel like I’m riding a rocky boat or I had too much to drink, a disconcerting feeling and the wheels can go out from under you throwing you to the floor. Thus, the bull rider approach with my legs anchored around the Jurni, I am in control of its movements for short distances. In other words, I would propel me along in a line.
Jurni, handle extended
The bag is tiny. I can see why it is designed for teenagers. My 16 year old daughter wears an extra small in most clothes and a size 0 in jeans. Until Kayla grew into these sizes, I actually thought they were pretend sizes to finish off the clothes rack. I remember standing in the Abercombie store when she shouted over the dressing room divider that the zero was too big and she needed a double zero. Really, a double zero! I wasn’t that small in grade school. Kayla could easily put a week’s worth of clothes into the little compartment designed for clothing.
I am not Kayla. While I am not enormous, I have grown heavier with age. The possessions I notice that now take up the most room are my bras which have grown geometrically since giving birth and breast feeding. The movement up to a D was bad enough but now on the downward slippery slope of aging, my circumstance is 2 inches bigger and I need wire armor to keep my cascading physique in place. The same is true of my swimming suit which used to be teenie weenie but now takes up the space of a small sea monster in order to pull me in all the right places and hold up those previously mentioned descending upper body parts. Deciding what to take and purchasing travel clothes that meet all your needs while fitting everything in small compartments takes significant planning. My first thought when I looked in the Jurni was I was going to need to work on loosing more weight and buying a new smaller traveling wardrobe (double zero, here I come!)
The good news is that the Jurni knows it’s packing compartment is tiny and for an extra cost has included zip bags to scrunch all my jumbo items into the size of my daughter’s size small. I tested the feasibility of utilizing the Jurni for a real trip rather than riding around my living room by laying out the wardrode I took to Mexico in January and seeing if I could fit it in the case. Much to my amazement, I got 3 pairs of long pants, 3 long sleeved shirts, 4 short sleeved shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, the iron maiden bra and sea monster swimming suit plus rash guard jacket, my traveling pjs (light weight), my wash out panties (3 pairs) seven pairs of white cotton socks ( I always wear socks with my hiking shoes) and a pair of flip-flops. I actually called them thongs (my daughter was horrified). Appparently, thongs were shoe wear in the seventies but are strickly underwear in the twenty first century.
Packed zipper bags
Jurni, fully loaded
Clothes for Mexico laid out
The little plastic buttons on the Jurni that serve as openers seemed a little stressed by my wardrobe. I am now on the look-out for a band to go around the Jurni once packed. The company sells a check-in strap and lock. But the strap goes from top to bottom and prevents you from utilizing the pull up handle. I would also be sitting on the buckle which seems weird to me. I want something that goes around the middle, doesn’t interfere with the handle but guarantees that the iron woman underwear is not strewn all over the run way as I board a miniscule Alaska Airline plane where all carryons are actually always loaded under the plane.
I can’t provide a full evaluation of the campabilities of the Jurni until it actually goes with me on a journey. That may be a few months off. After jaunting all over the world and the U.S. the past few months, we are spending our summer in the Mountain West. Afterall, why go any place else when you are already there.
The last game of the University of Idaho 2016 lacrosse season was a loss to Boise State University. For a loosing season, however, there were a lot of wins. The Lacrosse End-of -Year Banquet turned out to be one of the most surprising wins from my vantage point. This was a season that took great fortitude. Fourteen young men played 12 games against teams in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) from much larger, better funded programs such as Simon Fraser, Canada (lacrosse is the national sport), University of Washington, Brigham Young University, University of Utah, University of Oregon, and Oregon State University. The U of I ended the season with 10 losses and 2 wins. But we learned at the banquet, most college teams would not even take to the field without at least 20 players to allow for substitutions. To compete in a major conference with only 14 players and play every game was truly remarkable.
14 member team
Vandal Pregame Huddle
My son, Scott, was recognized as one of 3 seniors on the team. First year, head coach James Courter, talked about Scott’s high energy pursuing a finance/accounting degree, serving as president of his fraternity and playing lacrosse. Coach Courter remarked that Scott has an outlook he labeled “SPA”, superior positive attitude, in all situations. Courter described how when he first met Scott, he found Scott’s smiling demeanor somewhat disconcerting. Courter would be talking about something serious the defense needed to do and he would look up and Scott was smiling. Courter said by the end of the season, he came to learn that Scott just takes on anything with a smile (not a bad trait in life).
The biggest surprise to me at the Lacrosse Banquet was not the kudos from the Coach for the team and volunteers but the Coach himself. Thirty-one years old from Florida, Courter moved to Moscow, Idaho for a part-time coaching position just to get into college coaching. An outstanding college defensive player in the large eastern lacrosse divisions, Courter played lacrosse at Providence from 2004-07 leading his college team to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2004, 2006 and 2007. He earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAAC) Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2007. Since graduating, Courter has worked his way up in coaching from assistant program director of a youth lacrosse program, to head coach of a high school program, and finally to head coach at the University of Idaho. His vita tells me Courter absolutely loves lacrosse. He has travelled across the country to work for a pittance for a team with no funding for scholarships or even the power to get the University to allow them to use the much ballyhooed Kibby Dome during inclement weather. Courter’s resume also reflects a tremendous tenacity to stay with the sport while climbing the difficult to access college coaching ladder.
Courter is tall, slim, losing some of his hair. He came to the banquet microphone with a slightly wrinkled shirt and tie coming unknotted.
He is obviously uncomfortable speaking to groups from a podium. But his presentation was outstanding, not because of the delivery, shaky at best but because of the thoughtful content.
He gave the three team captains a map, a compass, and whistle. As we all know who do any backpacking, this is survival gear. However, Courter is from Florida not the wilds of Idaho. He never alluded to the true function of the equipment in his presentation. Rather he talked about metaphors, he had learned from his father. For success in life, one needs to have a mental map of where you want to go. But that map needs to be tempered by a heart which serves as a compass. Is the map taking you in the right direction in terms of your moral compass, the ability to know what is right or wrong and act accordingly. The whistle can serve two functions; first, stop the action that is not going according to plan or second, alert others that you need assistance.
I spent the weekend reflecting on Coach Courter’s remarks to his captains. The metaphors of map, compass and whistle resonated for me because of my degrees in public administration and my life-long career focus on government and politics. I have sat in many meetings where the map would have been much easier to develop and follow if we did not have to be concerned about the moral implications of the plans we are developing.
In my own neighborhood in recent months, St. Lukes Health System, the largest employer in Idaho has developed a master plan over many years to expand their Boise campus by closing off one of the main streets, Jefferson. The administrators at Lukes have seemed surprised when the neighborhood has raised an outcry about the blocking of a main bike artery and their failure to ensure the plan was pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Given the outcry, St. Lukes has subsequently revised their plan, hosted numerous neighborhood meetings and recently sent out post cards to the neighborhood. But it would have been much easier if Lukes administration had started their plan with not just what is easier and most efficient for St. Lukes (map) but what does the community’s moral compass tell us would be the best approach for serving the East End. Final decisions have not been made on this issue. The East End neighborhood was very effective at bringing out their whistles quickly and loudly when they were not involved from the beginning. The neighborhood protest about the unfairness of not being involved from the beginning was shrill and loud, significantly slowing down the approval process.
We have another example of the map, compass and whistle metaphors in our national government. In the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court was established as the final arbitrator of whose map and moral compass should be followed during any period of American history. The Republican majority in the U.S. Senate have delayed confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice in the hopes of electing a Republican Presidential candidate who will appoint a justice closely aligned with their conservative moral compass. In other words, their map for the rest of the year is delay. During this interim period, the Justices are not able to rule on many controversial issues because they have a tie vote between liberals and conservatives. The fact that the Republicans in the U.S. Senate have essentially negated the power of the court by not allowing a replacement should concern citizens of both political parties. This is a fundamental violation of the U.S. Constitution. The Republican Senators are allowing their partisan strategy to interfere with their moral principles. Without a strong referee, in this case the U.S. Supreme Court, the potential for unintended consequences and long-term harm particularly to vulnerable populations is great. Right now in our country, there is no one in place to enforce the whistle.
In the end, these three simple metaphors, a map, a compass, and a whistle provide a measure of who we are as individuals and a country. A key question for each of us every day is: How do we develop a positive, ethically grounded future with the ability to ask for help or stop ourselves when we have gone too far?
My first choice for college was Duke in North Carolina. My dad was from South Carolina so I had traveled the South extensively as a child. I knew as soon as I saw Duke’s gorgeous campus as a kid I wanted to go there. When I started my college search in earnest in high school, my parents told me that they couldn’t afford the tuition at a school of the caliber of Duke and travel back and forth from Wyoming made any East Coast school cost prohibitive. I never applied to Duke. Instead I set my sites closer to home.
I attended a small private Presbyterian college in Nebraska, called Hastings College. My primary reasons for going to Hastings were: 1. I didn’t want to go to the University of Wyoming where most of my friends were going, 2. My sister, 3 years my senior, was already at Hastings and was having the time of her life traveling all over the world during interim session (the month of January between fall and spring semesters), 3. My parents could afford both the tuition and the travel though in the end I had a substantial scholarship award, and 3. Ted Menke, a tall, handsome, blonde- haired, blue-eyed senior had led my tour group. At 18, I was boy-crazy and the thought of an entire new world of good-looking guys in a location outside of Wyoming was a huge motivator. My sister and I still laugh raucously about what a superb ambassador for Hastings, Ted was. In my case, he had graduated by the time I got there.
I was not disappointed with my Hastings experience though I would never send my kids all the way from Idaho to Nebraska to have a small college experience. There are many fine small colleges in the Northwest. I bring up how I chose my college because choosing a college is one of the largest financial decisions a family will ever make. If I am perfectly honest at 18, expense and quality of education weren’t even considerations for me. I wanted to go somewhere I could have a good time, make new friends and learn about the world. Somehow when my son Scott started looking for colleges, I forgot how frivolous I had been.
Scott began his college search in earnest the beginning of his junior year. We did what the high school counselors recommended. Scott wanted to go to school in the West, if possible on the coast. We toured schools in Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado. Based on these tours, he narrowed his search down to five. The top being a stretch to get into but worth dreaming for, the fifth being a sure thing with others in-between. My son’s dream school was Santa Clara University, a private Jesuit School in California with a gorgeous campus. His sure thing was the University of Idaho. He got into all the schools with scholarships. The last school we heard from and the one he waited anxiously on every day was Santa Clara. He received $10,000 a year to Santa Clara. After reviewing the costs of Santa Clara, we had to tell Scott we simply couldn’t afford it. We are a physician family and have substantial resources. However, Pete (my husband) didn’t start practicing until he was in his early forties. By the time Scott was headed to college, Pete was 65 and we still have a daughter to send to school who was 12. Santa Clara would have cost us $60,000 a year on top of the scholarship. We had saved for Scott’s college education and had $65,000 in Scott’s 529 college savings account designed to cover the cost of an in-state education at that time. The costs of Santa Clara would have used all the savings the first year.
Given the costs of education, my husband, Pete set up an elaborate excel sheet so we could compare all the offers. The best offer was from University of Puget Sound where Scott got $20,000 a year. We thought we could afford the extra cost for Puget Sound though it would have meant more money than we had saved. But once we told Scott we couldn’t afford Santa Clara, he had no interest in the other schools. On decision day, Scott was traveling for a business conference. I called to ask him which school I should accept. He said the University of Idaho. I was hoping for Puget Sound. I was a little sick inside because I had wanted him to go out-of-state. Let’s face it, Idaho is not a cultural mecca.
Scott’s first semester at the University of Idaho did notgo well. He had a strange roommate in the Honor’s dorm. When he tried to change, the resident assistant told him the only way he could get a different room was if someone would trade with him. Lots of people were willing to room with Scott but no one was willing to move in with the undesirable roommate. In addition, Scott is a vegetarian and the food situation in the cafeteria was getting desperate. He sent me pictures from the Cafeteria where there was a big sign that said, “Vegetarian” and then underneath the food was labeled “chicken wings.” Pete and I both went up for Dad’s weekend in the fall because we felt we needed to provide support just to keep Scott in school. We traveled with another family. We all went bowling. I will be forever thankful to one of the men in our group. He said to Scott, “This is your life. You need to take the necessary steps to make this work for you.”
The next thing I know Scott had joined a fraternity (Phi Kappa Tau), moved out of the dorms and into the frat house. At the time, I thought this was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
This past weekend, I visited Scott at the University of Idaho for my 4th and final Mom’s weekend. I started the blog today with the intention of writing about attending Mr. Idaho, a beauty pageant to raise funds for charity (very fun), the Turtle Derby where the sorority houses train turtles to run out of a circle (captivating in a strange way), and the lacrosse game (another loss but a rousing good time). But upon reflection, the real story is not how I spent my weekend (truly fabulous) but how much Scott has grown and matured at the University of Idaho. Despite my misgivings and several stumbles along the way, the U of I has provided Scott with a quintessential college experience.
For example, being in a fraternity has proven to be a great opportunity for him. The fraternity gave him an instant group of friends. In addition, they have a cook so his vegetarian needs are addressed if he leans on the cook. I would be lying if I didn’t say it is hard to be the only vegetarian in a congregate living situation.
Scott has also served as treasurer of his fraternity and is now the President. He has paid bills, collected funds from reluctant payees, developed budgets, managed staff, and had to figure out how to motivate young men who have many diverse interests. The fraternity has paid for him to attend a number of national meetings where he has made new friends and had the opportunity for additional leadership training
Scott has a Graue Scholarship from the University of Idaho. The Graues are business students who must maintain a 3.5 grade point. They receive tuition assistance as well as a funded annual field trip. Scott has travelled to California to meet business leaders as well as major companies in Portland and Seattle such as Nike and Starbucks.
Last fall, he utilized the U of I international program to spend a semester in Spain at the same cost as attending school in Moscow with the additional cost of round-trip transportation. We went to visit him as a family over Thanksgiving. All of us got the benefit of that experience.
In summary, he has travelled in this country and abroad. He has had opportunities to lead and learn beyond the classroom. He has done all of this without taking out any loans. The funded 529 plan has paid for all his costs including his books. He is, of course, our son so we are proud of him. But he is not a-typical of the University of Idaho student.
In an earlier blog, I wrote about the Naval Officers we visited in Florida who are recent graduates of the University of Idaho. These two young men are not from Idaho. They went to U of I because that is where the Navy assigned them. But they graduated able to compete with new officers from all over the country including Ivy league schools.
Upon reflection, the University of Idaho has been good for Scott and I think in turn Scott and his friends have been good for the University of Idaho. None of us can predict the future, but looking back Scott’s college outcomes have been much better than I expected when I pushed “yes” to the University of Idaho on decision day.
“Bliss” defined as finding perfect happiness, great joy
One of my first memories is pointing up at a blue tricycle, with red and white wheels, displayed on a high shelf in a Firestone store and firmly stating to my dad, “That one. I want the blue one!” Like most things I wanted, I did get the shiny blue tricycle. That’s when my love affair with bicycles began. The blue tricycle once purchased was stored at my grandmother’s house. Mom and I visited grandmother every morning for coffee. We would walk the 3 blocks from our house to hers after my sister went to school. Grandmother’s house sat on a large double corner lot. I was allowed to ride the trike down the driveway and around the sidewalks of the house without supervision as long as Grandpa was somewhere in the yard. A master gardener, Grandpa was always out in the yard. I can still feel the wind in my unruly hair as I shot down the slopped driveway towards the street. I became an expert at making the turn right, staying within the property lines, on the walkways and avoiding the very limited oncoming traffic. Down the sidewalk I would barrel as fast as I could pedal and around the corner (no stopping for turns). With the wind at my back, my legs going full tilt, no adult in sight, I remember the joyous feeling of complete freedom! This is a feeling I have been able to find over and over again when biking for more than 63 years.
I moved up quickly from the tricycle to a small, white bike with orange trim and training wheels. I can remember the absolute sense of accomplishment as my grandpa stood at one end holding me up with no training wheels and pushed me towards my mom standing at the other end of the sidewalk waiting to grab me. But no, the bike wobbled, Grandpa ran along straightening and then I was up and off right past mom! Oh the joy of personal success. Like the old saying goes, once you learn to ride a bike you never forget.
From the small two wheeler, I moved up to a blue Huffy, my magic horse. It had three gears, a veritable chariot. Cheyenne, Wyoming, where I grew up, is relatively flat and in the fifties and sixties, quite small. I could ride anywhere to meet up with friends. I was frequently off to the library (my favorite haunt), Dorothy’s, Melissa’s or Dodd’s Store for candy. My only limitations were my imagination and my mom’s permission.
In graduate school at Arizona State University (ASU), a bicycle was my main means of transportation. I had a elegant, 10-speed, light-weight purple road bike, a French-made Gitane. Gitane stands for gypsy woman.Coming from Wyoming, the glorious, expansive dessert surrounding Phoenix combined with living alone in my first apartment, certainly made me feel like a gypsy on the run. Unfortunately, ASU was a mecca for bike thieves and my Gitane was stolen. I then purchased a burnt orange Schwinn. It was much sturdier and better made for the commuting I was doing in a large metropolitan area.
The years rolled along and the bikes did too. The most notable change in biking patterns came when I had my son, Scott. First, Pete and I purchased a Thule child-bike-puller. As soon as Scott could sit on his own, Pete would take him out in the Thule so I would have a break. As Scott got bigger, we by-passed the tricycle route because we lived on a steep hill and busy street. Instead, we purchased a tag-along. The tag-along allows small children to bike behind you and pedal (or not depending on the child’s motivation that day). The tag-along also allows the adult to get in a full-trength bike ride and helps teach children how to balance on a regular bike.
I was never a good enough biker to navigate the hill we live on and pull children up and down. But Pete, who owns 7 bicycles and might be called a bike enthusiast, has been able to haul children everywhere they might want to go. I remember Pete was biking with Scott in the Thule. I was trailing behind. Pete had stopped because he was winded. I heard a little voice from the Thule shout, “Go, Daddy, Go! Don’t stop Daddy!” Pete and I still laugh to this day about “Don’t stop Daddy, don’t stop.”
A couple of years ago, I thought with great sadness my biking days were coming to an end. I could no longer get up and down the mountain we live on by bicycle. I had resorted to carrying the bike by car to the many bike paths available in Boise on flatter land. I found as my balance declined, it was becoming difficult for me to ferry the bike down the hill, unload it and then go for a jaunt. The joy of spontaneous riding was gone. My bliss had transformed into work and discouragement about aging. I gave Pete an ultimatum. We had to figure out how I could ride from where we lived or we had to move to the highly-sought-after, expensive flatlands. As a mountain biker, the flatlands held no appeal to Pete. But he did find us a compromise, he found the electric bike. We drove to San Francisco two Thanksgivings ago and purchased a Pedego after test riding it on the San Francisco hills. It seemed up the challenge of Boise’s Shaw Mountain.
Spring has come–my Pedego is out and about all over Boise. When I pull in at church on Sunday, many people come over to ask me about my electric bike. It is heavy and not for the faint of heart because it goes fast, up to 20 miles an hour going up hill. I fly down the Mountain, taking the side streets to the green belt from the flatland and from there I can get anywhere in Boise. I can go to coffee, lunch, church, shopping no problem. I am once again free from the confines of aging and able to feel my bliss!