Start with C…

A very sweet note via Social media greeted me first thing when I woke up. It was sent by my cousin.  Izzie is actually, technically, my ‘second’ cousin. We never cared what that ranking meant; we just knew we were closely related to the same group of mostly old people. We were cousins. That was enough.

Reading her message, a tender tribute to our family’s deceased matriarchs, was a lovely way to begin the day. Once upon a time, I started each morning with a love note. The Big Love of My Life left me a ‘seven letter word’ message on the Scrabble board daily, on his way out the door. First one he ever left me was: COURAGE. To match his, with my seven letters; I spelled the word: CHERISH.

We played that One Word game the whole time were together; about one thousand days. One thousand, seven letter word days. You can do the A-Z a whole lot of ways in 1000 seven letter days.

He’s been dead over a month now. We’d said our final good byes long ago. He gave me enough true love to last a life time. By perfect coincidence, the nick name I called him, started with a C. (Charlie) So really, it’s that first C that is the premise for the rest of this.

Jumping back to today, C is first for cousins (or second cousins.) Secondly, C for me is for Caribou. That is ‘where’ – – a big part of the ‘why’ this whole “C” chapter occurred. Third C is for Chapter.

Fourth C is for Colorado; there are a lot of Cs…I’d arrived in Colorado in a pick-up truck. It was a Chevy with a camper-top. Determined to change or attempt to alter what seem pre-ordained as my destiny; soon after I graduated from college, I’d moved over one thousand miles away to live in another state.

With no legitimate income strategy to speak of, I was subsisting in a small, salmon- pink, 1950’s travel trailer in a low-rent R.V. park with 2 large dogs and zero revenue. One of my dogs, Zuma, was pregnant. Too soon, I had 9 dogs and no job. A friendly neighbor living in the lone  frame house in the Rocky Mountain R.V. ghetto, New Jersey Patti, asked if I wanted to help out at a local ranch.

Seeing the pickup truck with Texas license plates gave the misguided impression that I was an authentic cowgirl. Though I had been comfortable enough around horses growing up and had recently hand- raised an orphaned two month old colt, I wasn’t anything close to a genuine horse-wrangling cowgirl.

With hounds to feed, I was confident that I could be enough of a cowgirl for the part-time job. Luckily, my first morning at the job of cowgirl morphed into me being a stand- in for the missing, grill cook. I was far more competent in the kitchen than I was in a barn. And it was far more of a Recording Studio than a ranch. Employee absenteeism plagued the owners. My part time job became a full time job; before the day was over, the owner had offered me employment.

It was at this Ranch that artists would come for the high altitude that allowed them vocally  to hit that High C. Many big name stars visited the Ranch. With this job, came the added responsibility of driving stars to Red Rocks to perform. I dutifully drove Willie Nelson and humbly stood backstage while he and Kris Kristopherson serenaded the enchanted, concert crowd under a crystal clear Colorado starlit night. Brilliant stars under the brilliant stars. Both of those star-men were also truly kind-hearted souls.

Want more about the days that started at Caribou Ranch? Can I confide in you? (This wasn’t an actual attempt at a concise summary; I was just playing the 7 letter word game with you! See how many of these words contain seven letters each.)  What seven letter word would you play? Start with C…

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Completely Surrounded by Love

You died last night. You were only 43. We met when we were younger. I was in my 40s. You said you were in your 30s. We were both at the edges of those still youthful but actual adult decades. I was leaving mine. You were just entering yours yet we found a place, a safe haven in between ages to meet.

You told me that you were in town to help your cousin run his business. Your fathers were brothers; you were their only sons. Your mutual grandfather had stumbled out into the road after drinking too much and had been hit and killed instantly by a fast moving, log- laden semi, in a one-horse mountain town.

We met at an audition for the local community theater in another one-horse town, in another Western state. We were cast as a married couple. We sang off-key duets and danced and play acted our parts. When the play was over and our characters took their final curtain call, we kept on acting married.

For three years we kept at it. I knew it was not going to be a forever kind of deal. You wanted children and my last child was graduating from High School that June. I was not going to stop you from being a parent. Being a parent had been, and still is, one of the greatest joys of my life. I loved you enough to urge you to leave me, find another woman to marry and start the family you desired and deserved.

You did leave. Your last words to me echo in my memory’s heart like it was yesterday. It was a decade ago. You did marry and have a family. And then you got sick. You died last night surrounded by your wife and very young children, your parents, your sister and your cousin; completely surrounded by love.

When we were together, we loved each other. I loved you more than my words can express or explain.

Those days with you are a treasured gift. My memories of our life together will continue to be a safe haven, and there, I can always return, to remember the gift of being completely surrounded by love.

Temporary Blindness

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Is it a coincidence that there’s a ‘Help Wanted’ posting for the neighborhood eye clinic? They are hiring, both part-time and full time. Is this in anticipation of vision eclipsed clients?

The warning from the 70 year old, who on a teen-aged dare, stared at an eclipse in 1962, here in Oregon, is all over the local news. He still has a partial vision impairment 55 years later; hardly temporary.

I’ve been temporarily blinded a few times. The dreaded Flash from my grandpa’s beloved camera always made me see dancing black spots. Bright white, midday snow fields, when I lived at the Range View Cabin on the Continental Divide temporarily blinded me. Welding caused ‘Arc Eye.’ ( Welding was a requirement for my Agriculture degree…another BS story…)

There are non-lethal weapons; flash grenades and laser dazzlers that are intended to deliberately, temporarily blind you. The term ‘dazzler’ is impossible for me to accept in a military context; ‘Dazzler’ makes more sense as a part of Barbie’s prom wardrobe, not GI Joe’s action gear.

My Oregon daughter wants me to be sure the eclipse glasses I was given are approved. She ordered eclipse glasses for her and her daughters. They were delivered but someone took the box off her steps before she got home.

She was then notified that the (stolen) glasses had been recalled so they credited her account. She has replaced the stolen glasses with genuine, NASA approved, eclipse viewing glasses.

The miserable thief will perhaps suffer temporary blindness.

Try to Make Peace

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It is officially Eclipse Countdown. There was a solar eclipse in February 1979 that crossed in the Pacific Northwest. I wasn’t t here, so I didn’t get to see it. The last total eclipse of the sun in the United States was 99 years ago. I wasn’t alive then.

I am here now and excited to bear witness to this scientific and historic event.

In the way things in life can be accidental, I am in the Pacific Nortwest.  My trip was not scheduled for the eclipse but I’m here along with approximately one million extra people. I was one of the few people on the flight here who was not coming to see the eclipse. I was coming to chicken sit. (and there is a big dog too.)

The chickens that I am chicken-sitting may exihibit eclipse behaviors. Animals have been known to behave strangely. My familiarity with chickens is limited. I am no expert. I doubt if my observations would be valid or worth noting.

However, the California Academy of Sciences is asking citizen scientists to download its free iNaturalist app and on the day of the eclipse to record observations of animal behavior before, during and after the eclipse. As much as I love being a citizen scientist, I will not be doing this. The chickens already seem to be acting strange.

I love science and I love history. At the end of this week, I may love chickens too.

In fact, the May 585 B.C. Eclipse is called by Isaac Asimov, the Birth of Science. According to Greek historian Herodotus, this solar eclipse in 585 BCE stopped the war between the people who once lived in what is now Turkey and the Medes, an ancient Iranian people. They saw the dark sky and took it as a warning sign to make peace.

These are strange times we live in. Everybody seems confused and frustrated.

Lets all celebrate the 2017 eclipse by trying to find a new way try to make peace.

 

 

Big Deal

My Danish grandma mailed me a box once a month when I was off at college. It contained homemade brownies and a note with a $5.00 bill. I lived in a dorm. This was required of all incoming freshmen. My roommate had an older cousin. She was almost always with her. My suite mates had boyfriends that they were always with. I liked being basically alone in my corner suite and on my own.

Just down the hall were some friendly girls from the Rio Grand Valley. I was born there too. They always had lots of people coming and going from their rooms. It didn’t take long for me to recognize the fragrant smell of marijuana. I didn’t smoke it but I had been around it plenty. Everyone I knew who smoked pot in the 70’s got the serious munchies.

First they just wanted a taste of my brownies. I shared. Then they tried to get me to spend my $5.00 on their weed. They were crafty business people.

Close to our dorm was a convenience store. I walked down and spent my 5 dollars. I bought three tubes of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough; the refrigerator kind. I brought it back to my room.

My granddad (from the other side of my genetic equation) had given me a toaster oven. I baked my first batch of dorm chocolate chip cookies. That smell wafted down the hall.

Soon I had a room full of girls with the munchies. They had money. They wanted warm chocolate chip cookies. It didn’t start out to be a business but it turned into a big deal. I saved enough money to help put myself through college.

After the toaster oven got confiscated, I just sold raw dough. They liked it raw just as much. I never sold my grandma’s brownies. That seemed wrong; practically sacrilegious.

There were four girls. Early on, they realized their pot selling days in the dorm were numbered. They petitioned to move off campus at the end of the first semester. They moved into one side of a duplex. On the other side of the duplex lived a young recently married couple.

My friends asked me to water their house plants while they went home for spring break. There was big patio area between the two units where some of their taller plants were.

The husband of the couple was lying on a lawn chair. I called his name. He didn’t answer, I thought maybe he was asleep. I walked closer, then I saw the needle.

He was dead at twenty. He had overdosed. I did not know he used heroin. I’d seen one other person overdose from heroin when I was still in high school. He was only 18.

Death by an overdose of drugs; what a tragic waste of  life. That was 40 years ago.

Now, four decades later, our nation is experiencing a serious opioid overdose epidemic.

I don’t sell cookies anymore. My job is in the field of improving public health; primarily through outreach and education of addiction prevention. Learn about recognizing hidden addiction; it really is a big deal.

Please Give a Damn!

Well I’m probably going to piss people off . Oh well. I just came back from my walk. For the past few weeks, I’ve been collecting the “turtle-bite trash” for my citizen-science report. My three faithful readers know I have been picking up plastic trash for years.

Yes, there are people paid to clean the beaches but they don’t pick up the trash that is at the water line and mixed in with the sargassum. They usually only walk on the dry sand.

This morning, I could hear the gulls screeching insanely before I  even got onto 14th street. 500 footsteps later and I could see the carnage. Dead bodies everywhere as far as the eye could see and the gulls were fighting over every morsel of fresh fish flesh.

Shrimping season began on July 16th; bycatch was evident all over the beach. Little fish, mostly about the size of my hand were covering the beach, lying dead every few inches.

Different varieties, and some were as big as 12″ long. It seemed like a slaughter house for fish. I have been walking on this Gulf Coast on and off for my entire life and I have never seen anything as pathetic as what I saw this morning. I know I saw the shrimp boats super close to shore yesterday. I took photos of them. They looked unusually close.

Bycatch ratios can vary from 3 bycatch to 1 shrimp and in places 15 to 1; 15 bycatch for 1 shrimp. This seems like an unacceptable ratio. At what point does this become a problem worth caring about? Why do that many fish have to die so that people can eat shrimp?

Does the fact that the boats were so close have anything to do with the high quantity of bycatch? If so, they should not be allowed to be that close. Problems can be solved when solutions are available. Dead fish don’t have much of a voice. I will try to speak for them.

The dead angel fish bothered me the most. Their innocent little bodies were pleading.

They can remind us; our actions as consumers have consequences. Please give a damn.

It’s Your Own Damn Fault — maryelizabethtrevino

“If you’re not having fun, it’s your own damn fault” my grandfather proclaimed at his 80th birthday party when he was implored to make the obligatory toast. The large, exuberant crowd quieted, the adults raised their champagne flutes, and the great-grandchildren lifted their punch glasses. Clink, clink; take a drink. It was true. The party […]

via It’s Your Own Damn Fault — maryelizabethtrevino

My Sweet Baby

When I was 4 years old, my mom had a baby. He was another brother. I already had two. I was wedged between my older brother and my next brother. An almost equal split with 16 months one way and 19 months the other.  I don’t remember my mom being pregnant with my second brother; I wasn’t even 2.

I vividly remember mom being pregnant when I was 4. I was mature enough to notice how her body shape drastically changed. I was attentive enough to be aware of an atmosphere of anticipation. My parents were very young and already struggling financially and emotionally with juggling the demands of three curious little children all under the age of 5. Another one would surely increase the noise level.

I don’t remember having troubled thoughts about it. I’ve always been optimistic. I was very anxious to meet the new person. Daily, I played with both brothers. I probably had dolls. We had a dog I loved. I remember thinking that this baby would be better than anything I had ever played with before, even better than our completely perfect dog.

He was born and when he came home from the hospital, it was love at first sight. He was incredibly cute and endearing and he loved anything and everything I did for him. I got to feed him a bottle. I got to help change him. I was allowed to dress him in his baby clothes all by myself. He was my very own baby. We even slept in the same room.

The years went by. We adored one another. When he was about 22 months old, mom had another baby. This baby was a girl. She had a whole team to shower her with love. She was not my baby the same way that my baby brother had been.

I had become a student in school when she was the born. I loved school.

My baby brother had a series of life events that are not fun to remember. At 14, while on vacation in another state, he broke his leg very badly. He suffered a great deal from the break and the re-break to repair the damaged leg. He was never the same after that. He drifted far away from me and towards drug-seeking behaviors that I didn’t comprehend.

Sadly, he died about 14 months ago. He had a cancerous brain tumor that his doctors have now suggested could have been growing for a very long time.

I wish I would have known how to help him. No matter how far he drifted, there was always a part of me that never stopped thinking of him as my sweet baby.

He was born in the month of July. Dear, dear Brother, I love you and miss you.

Rest in peace my sweet baby.