Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Easter Wish for You via Magic Beans

One of my favorite respites, Al's Garden Center, holds an Al's Kids Club event every month. For March, and in preparation for Easter, they had the kids plant 'Magic Beans'.

Here is one of the beans ... with a message of "Hope" on one side, and a picture of a butterfly on the other:

Just in time for Easter, here are the results ... no magic fairy dust required:

"Peace" ...

"Family" ...

A view of the other side ... flowers and a peace sign ...

Hope, peace, and family ... that is my Easter wish for you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Come With Me to Kauai ...

I've mentioned it often ... my love of travel. Recently, and for various reasons, 'big' travel has not been able to grace our to-do list. When I start feeling antsy, but can't hop on the next flight to some wonderful destination, I look through pictures. This week, I have been enjoying Kauai. We traveled there in late 2007. Please join me on a quick photo-trip through the gorgeous island ... and be sure to play the video at the end!

Rainbow east of Kiahuna Beach ...

Our last night on the island, we were graced with this gorgeous sunset (taken in Po'ipu) ...

Bottle Palm in the National Tropical Botanical Gardens ...

Oh, to have a tree that looked like this one, located in the parking lot of the Botanical Gardens ...

A stunning orchid in the Botanical Gardens ...

A sky flower, also in the Botanical Gardens ...

Puu HinaHina Lookout in Waimea Canyon ...

Waipo'o Falls in Waimea Canyon State Park ...

The lush Hanalei Valley ...

Kilauea Point Lighthouse ...

Hubby heading out to snorkel ...

The Spouting Horn, seen from Kukui'ula Harbor ...

Look at that form! :-) Ziplining in Princeville (SO fun!!!) ...

Enjoy the zipline ride (courtesy of my hubby, who was holding the video camera) ...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Luck of the Irish

In honor of St. Patrick's Day :-) ...

I was standing in line at the post office when I heard, “And how long are you going to be?” I looked behind me to see an older man, possibly in his sixties, with an unwavering face and twinkling eyes that just screamed of dry humor and wit. I smiled and laughed, noting that I just had the one box and would make it fast.

I didn’t expect the conversation to continue. Thankfully, it did.

“My wife has me mailing these birthday cards to Ireland,” he continued gruffly. “We’re always sending things over there.”

Being a travel fanatic, I was intrigued. “Ireland, huh,” I responded, “I’ve never been there, but it’s on my list of places I want to visit.”

“Oh, we’ve been there many times … at least a couple dozen,” he said. “Both of our families are from there, and many are still living there.”

“Really?” I asked, “Is that where you met?”

“Oh no …”, he chuckled. “I was an auctioneer. Traveled all over the place. One day, I received a call from a rancher in central Oregon. I was to come pick up some items that would then be auctioned. That’s when I met her.”

“At the ranch?” I asked, amazed at such a chance meeting.

“Yep … she was the rancher’s daughter. That was thirty-some odd years ago … and things have been going downhill ever since,” he added with a sly grin.

“Well … it couldn’t be too bad if you’ve been together for thirty-some years!” I countered with a smile.

“Well, she was quite the successful businesswoman. I couldn’t give that up,” he said with the dry wit that had become the trademark of our short conversation. He then went on to explain that she had owned several thriving businesses – including a clothing shop and a salon – in the very complex we were standing in. “Back in the day, there would be a line of people waiting to get into her salon,” he added with a hint of pride.

I glanced at the service counter where, fortunately, the customers in front of me were having some sort of difficulty with their mailing progress.

“I can’t believe both of you are from Ireland, and you ended up meeting on a ranch out in the middle of central Oregon,” I added.

It was then that he told me that on one of their first trips back to Ireland as a couple, they decided to check into each of their family histories. Through their research, they discovered that their grandparents had been from the exact same small town in Ireland. His had owned a hardware store; hers had owned a grocery store. They traveled to that little town and discovered that – even to that day - his family’s original hardware store and her family’s original grocery store sat on the very same street, right next door to each other.

“Wow,” I said with all the eloquence of a rock. “That is absolutely amazing … a marriage meant to be.”

The customers at the counter retreated and it was my turn.

I mailed my package and turned, intending to smile and convey wishes for a good day with this man who had shared his wonderful story with me.

He was nowhere to be seen.

I couldn't help but smile. ‘A marriage made in heaven’ came to mind. Yes, definitely that … sprinkled with a little ‘Luck of the Irish’, had clearly brought these two individuals together.

My potentially-tedious trip to the post office was made special, with a beautiful and unexpected story of providence usually saved just for the kids and grandkids. It made this German-Irish girl feel a little lucky too!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Encounter with Gloom

I promise to return with a much happier and light-hearted story next week, but thought this one important to share. It comes straight from my college photo book, highlighting my time as an exchange student in Austria. While most of the entries and captions are happy and hilarious, this one is devastatingly solemn. When I put the photo book together, this particular entry displayed no photos, just words.

Mauthausen Concentration Camp
October 18, 1992

I suppose the weather was what one would call "perfect" for a trip to a concentration camp - cold and damp, with a constant drizzle falling from the cloudy gray sky. For me, the weather added to the heaviness and gloom that I felt as I walked through the buildings and grounds of the camp. Mauthausen was built beginning in 1938, and was listed as a Level 3 camp, i.e. no return to society. Thousands died in this labor camp under the Nazi regime.

As we entered the camp, the first building our group was shown was a bunker. The rooms in the bunker had wooden bunk beds in them - each bunk bed wide enough to fit one normal-sized man laying flat on his back. The "prisoners", however, were forced to sleep three men to a bed. Even at the extremely emaciated state these men and women were in, this would have been extremely difficult. I'm sure, however, that this must have been one of the only ways they were able to stay warm throughout the night.

Next, we were directed towards the museum, where we were also shown a movie about the holocaust. The things I learned from the movie and museum were disgusting, sickening, and fascinating. Thousands of prisoners were forced to carry large boulders up the steps of the "Stairway of Death." If one of these people were to slip or "get pushed", it would turn into an avalanche of people and stones, killing hundreds. Himler, who was in charge of the camps, stated that he didn't "enjoy" his visits to the camps because they made him "sick to his stomach". While Germans and Austrians usually had some chance of survival, Poles, Russians, and Jews had no chance. Prisoners were usually fed every third day, only three spoonfuls. If they ate more they were beaten to death. When it rained, the prisoners had to lay on the ground and form a human carpet for the S.S. men to walk over so their shoes wouldn't get wet and dirty. No matter what the weather, prisoners had to stand outside from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Towards the end of the movie, I could hardly bring myself to keep my eyes on the screen. I kept forcing myself to watch, however, because it's too easy - in our day and age - to forget the tragedies that occurred so many years ago. It's so easy for us to simply turn our eyes away and not watch. The movie showed piles of emaciated dead bodies; bodies being carelessly thrown into carts; close-ups of bodies covered with flies. The pictures were powerful and frightening. How could any human care so much for dictatorship and so little for human life and dignity? After seeing the movie, I didn't want to be at the camp any longer. Many people came out of the movie in tears.

We continued our tour in an amazing silence - there was absolutely nothing that could be said. We walked through rooms with human-size ovens which were used to incinerate dead bodies, then continued into a room resembling a large communal shower area. The prisoners who walked into this room thought they were going to get a shower . . . instead of water, however, they were sprayed with fatally poisonous gases.

We were led through a torture chamber, and into an area resembling a hallway. This hallway, however, had open spaces on either side, and its walls were chipped and worn. A single sign posted on the wall stated something to the effect of "The chambers on your left and right were once used as storage for dead bodies." I could envision the bodies carelessly piled on top of each other as if they were really there. I stood in that one spot for a long time.

Americans are generally taught in school that the Jews were the prisoners in the concentration camps. However, the Jews were only one of a large number of populations, including black people, Poles, Russians, homosexuals, Germans, Viennese, and many more. Prisoners wore I.D.s which identified why they were in the camp. There were even "special" I.D.s for those who fit more than one category.

After touring the buildings, we were encouraged to walk around the grounds of the camp. Several of us decided to go find the "Stairway of Death". It was raining, and the rocky path leading down to the stairs was slippery. From the path, we could see the cliff that the S.S. would push prisoners off of into the lake far below.

I wanted to take a picture to show my family and friends what this place was like, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. A picture couldn't do justice to what really happened. All anybody would be able to see in a picture would be a lake and a cliff, or steep, rocky stairs, or an empty building ... but, that was not what this place was.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Read Across America Day & Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Cat in the Hat, by B, 3/2/10

Not only was today the 106th birthday of the phenomenally creative and talented Mr. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), it was also Read Across America Day!

My son's class celebrated all day with visits from special guests they dubbed 'Reading Royalty', who had the pleasure of reading their favorite picture book(s) to the kids.

As royalty, of course, we got to wear a paper crown while sitting in the Reading Royalty Chair. We weren't the only ones sporting snappy headgear ... the kids were all wearing paper Cat in the Hat hats they had decorated first thing this morning!

I was the very last Royal Reader of the day, so I decided to read some of my favorite fast-paced, silly, crazy picture books ... including the original "SkippyjonJones" by Judy Schachner and "Do Unto Otters" by Laurie Keller. And, what a joy to be asked to read a third (I had brought plenty to choose from! :-)) ... we chose "Bear Feels Sick" by Karma Wilson.

As we drove home, I asked my son if I had done alright as one of the Reading Royalty. "Oh, yes," he said encouragingly, "you did really great. You had good fluency." :-)

He makes me smile. As does Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Day!