Beach or Mountains?

There are beach people and mountain people. You know, what’s your ideal location to get away from it all and recharge? While I’m not opposed to a little beach time, I’m most definitely a mountain person. I’m a frequent driver on the Kansas and eastern Colorado plains. As soon as I clear Limon, my senses are trained on the horizon for my first glimpse of the Rockies. When I get it, endorphins flood my body.

Interestingly, another favorite mountain range are the Wichita’s in Oklahoma. Located in southwestern Oklahoma, some would laugh at the description of mountains that are closer in size to hills. But this is because the Wichita’s are among the oldest mountain ranges on Earth and we all get a little smaller with age. 😉

Seriously though, this mountain range formed about 500 million years ago according to geologists. The Wichita Mountains have seen it all. Plains people who hunted and camped here. Spanish conquistadors looking for gold and outlaws hiding themselves and their gold. There was even a short-lived gold rush. The Wichita’s were the last home for warriors like Geronimo and Quanah Parker and briefly the home of buffalo soldiers.

Mountain BoomerToday, part of the Wichita’s are a wildlife refuge and home to bison, elk, longhorns, an active prairie dog community, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Hundreds of bird and wildflower species also vacation here.

Wichita bison

When you hike the Wichita’s, you can just feel the history of the place embrace you. I get the same feeling at Mesa Verde when I hike the ruins. A great feeling of rightness in the world comes when you realize that all life is connected.

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Feelin’ Groovy

park-444223_960_720The morning was young, and already I was frustrated and tense. I had been at the computer making some requested revisions to an assignment that was due. This led to my running late for an appointment. It didn’t help that everywhere I turned, road construction slowed me down.

Stress. You know the feeling. Shoulders tightening up, and a desire to yell or pull out your hair? Then, in my effort to find the right shortcut, I drove by a park and luckily let my gaze wander. On a park bench, with their backs to me, was a grandmother with her arm draped around her grandson. They were just taking time to enjoy the summer morning before things heated up. Although I don’t have grandchildren, the image took me back to when my boys were young and we sat on park benches.

The image served to cool me down as well. I’m often in such a hurry to make appointments or meet deadlines that I’m not taking time to smell the flowers or sit on a park bench. I’m not always successful at it, but my goal is to take time to enjoy life more often. Sometimes, when I’m able to catch myself, a little tune springs up in my head. Some of you may have heard it—

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.

The official name of this Simon and Garfunkel classic is “The 59th Street Bridge Song,” but I call it the “Feelin’ Groovy” song. And yes, I know that using the word “groovy” is a little cheesy, but cheesy makes me smile. And we can all use a little more smiling.

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NASA Diversity

Astronauts Jeanette Epps, Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio.

Astronauts Jeanette Epps, Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio.

Anyone who’s read my books from the Chicago Review Press Women in Action series knows I have a thing about women flying, whether it’s in airplanes or space ships. And space is awesome no matter who it is. One of the most unfortunate decisions NASA made was not following through with the Mercury 13 (see Women in Space if you’re not familiar with this story or search “Mercury 13”).

In fact, the only thing more exciting than space is diversity in space. Thankfully, NASA seems to be on the right track. The NASA Policy Statement on Diversity and Inclusion states “Diversity and Inclusion are integral to mission success at NASA.”

Here are a few recent events that support this statement.

  • The most recent astronaut class chosen by NASA was evenly divided between women and men.
  • On June 15 at NASA in Washington, D.C., NASA joined the White House at the United State of Women Summit to discuss pathways for women and girls into STEM programs and careers.
  • When the 2016 ESSENCE Festival starts in New Orleans this week, NASA will kick it off with a wide range of activities, including talks about African American Pioneers in Space.
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USA Travel Tops the List

A couple of months ago, I participate in a #LPchat about family travel on Twitter. People tweeted words and pictures about family travel to Prague, Venice, Sri Lanka, and other foreign locations. With international travel limited to Mexico and Jamaica (pre-children) and a one-day excursion in Vancouver (with children), I engaged in a little self pity that there were toddlers better-traveled than I.

It’s not that our family hasn’t taken vacations. We’ve visited both the Atlantic and Pacific and splashed around the Gulf of Mexico and crossed the mighty Mississippi more times than I can count. We’ve visited mountains, canyons, desert, forests, swamps, beaches, and the obligatory Disneyworld.

With three boys, the outdoors was favored with room to run and explore. Lots of National Parks (Happy Birthday, National Park Service). But we’ve visited big cities too, including: Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Memphis, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Washington, D.C., Mobile, Dallas, Seattle, and more. The biggest surprise of all? Memphis. So much music and culture. We toured Gibson guitars, Beale Street, and Sun Studios. And then we toured the National Civil Rights Museum and were further wowed.

Memphis3I remember the looks of awe and wonder on my sons’ faces at every turn. Disneyworld overwhelmed us all, but Memphis followed by a trip to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast (pre-Katrina) was heaven with my youngest swaggering a pre-school body down the beach like he owned it. He always did like an audience.

At three-years-old, my oldest son told me he liked Boulder, but not Colorado. We had been in Rocky Mountain National Park post-Labor Day and his skinny little body didn’t like the cold at the high altitudes. A few years later, we visited ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings in the Four Corners area. A deer came up to him as he was brushing his teeth at Mesa Verde (we were camping). I believe the deer wanted to share. Later, he was

Memphis and Mississippi Gulf a high ranking vacation.

Memphis and Mississippi Gulf a high ranking vacation.

enthralled by the ladders he got to climb. His little brother rode in a backpack (and the youngest brother rode in my stomach). The backpack had to come off when we reached a tunnel that we had to push him through.

Interestingly, I also remember the large variety of languages we heard at the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Rocky Mountain National Park. At times, it felt like the Americans were in the minority.

My family vacations are memories I wouldn’t trade for all the exotic locales in the world. The United States is full of wonderful places to see and experience, and I will keep right on visiting them. Of course, I’ll visit locations outside of the U.S. as well. The world is full of surprises, and I plan on seeing as many as I can.

 

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World Oceans Day – June 8

fishing in the gulfWhy is there a World Oceans Day?  How about the fact that approximately two-third’s of the world is covered by oceans? And that there more than a million species of life in the ocean? And that there is still more to be discovered?

 

It’s imperative that we pay attention our oceans, which are threatened by global warming and approximately 8 million tons of garbage. See the artists who used ocean garbage in this Time feature.

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