Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To Remember Nam

The picture speaks a thousand words... and so many more.  My cousin posted this photo on Facebook and the comment thread it produced is full of memories that tug at hearts. Little truths leach out from those who were there.  The unspoken... remaining so because there are no words. The occupation of Viet Nam, a war that continued for decades.... that sent so many young boys overseas.  An era that is never lost or forgotten as many may think.

Viet Nam ~ 1970
 I was around 11 - 13ish years old during this 60's - early 70's era. My own age group of peers really do not know the "feeling" that goes with this time. Only those that had close family members serve in Viet Nam would know what I came to understand. Though there were many who served, many shared little of what they experienced upon their return. The painful truths were stuffed away as young men tried to come back and be the way they were when they left for their tour of duty. Only to find that coming home was painful as well.

 It was a time of confusion, conflict, the quest for peace was demonstrated amidst a time when support for our troops was needed most.  Loyalties were tested, sons were lost to war, protests, marches, political unrest, and violence erupted even as people tried their hardest to escape the mounting tensions and seek their own calm within the turbulence.

 Five of my cousins served in Nam, with two of them returning home by way of my family's West Coast residence.  I was excited each time there was news of a "visit" from one of my cousins, only to learn that these visits would hold a significance of this era in my heart that would last a lifetime.  I quickly figured out this was not the same as when relatives vacationed and stayed at our house in California.  This was more of a passage, so to speak.  An important one.

My memories that are connected to these events are of packaging homemade cookies, using plain popped popcorn to absorb the shock of the long trip and rough handling as they were transported half way around the world.  This project was spearheaded in our home by my sister, 7 years my senior. It was her classmates and the cousins that were her age that disappeared as one by one so many were drafted into service.  As more boys left for Viet Nam, more girls packed care packages.... this went on for years.

 Upon one cousin's return from his tour in Viet Nam, I remember my Mom putting his uniform in the washing machine over and over again, as he protested.  She was determined to get the smell of the jungle out of it, he told her he would just dispose of it, there was no use. The washer chugged and the whole house smelled of it!  I can still smell that strong, dank, putrid smell of the jungle that followed each of them home.  It does not wash away.

As another cousin came through via San Francisco, we had to go get him at the hospital; he was recovering from a virus that affected his lungs.  I always looked up to these cousins; they were older than I, and wiser.  I longed to be their age and know more about the world.  I was still learning.  

 I first saw my cousin in a hospital bed. He looked different from the boy that gave us rides on his brother's motorcycle in Wyoming. I saw his expression, clearly glad to be "home".  In contrast, I will never forget what was shared or the struggle in his eyes to understand.  His need for normalcy came first, then the long road ahead of many decades to try to make sense of the times. And heal. His lungs healed quickly, his soul, not so much.

 I now realize, that they were just young boys with little roots of identity just starting to form in there hearts...

 I had a conversation with my parents in the 90s. I brought up the 60s era and describing it as a pivotal time and how I saw it as a catalyst for some of the diversity that I see as beneficial to our society. They disagreed!  They remembered this time as extremely painful with emotions scattered. Fear and tragedy were so prevalent as the headlines showed unrest and there were disagreements about almost everything. I could see that these memories are difficult for them, even so many years later. Here was a generation that had witnessed WW11 and the Great Depression.  They had rebuilt their continuance only to have the rug pulled out from under them once again - this time with little direction as so many energies were divided.  It was like the puzzle pieces were just thrown up into the air and no one knew how they would scatter or where they would land, or how to put the puzzle back together again.

The recent posting of this photograph on Facebook brought modern day comments that I will share. My admiration goes out to those who speak of these events that they have spent a lifetime coping with. A part of their being lives these milestones day after day.

Out of 20 grandchildren of my grandparents, five cousins served in Viet Nam - there were 20 of us!
Terry was there in 1970-71
Ron was there in 1968-1969
Al was there March 1968 to December 1968.

Al: "The Army lost my records for a year so I didn't have much time left when I went over. If you had to be lost, San Antonio was a better place to be than Vietnam. I got a full-time job as a pharmacist and moonlighted at being in the Army. Can you be AWOL if you don't officially exist? I was an E-2, the second lowest rank, but I had an apartment where my next door neighbor was a Lieutenant Colonel."

Al: "Allen was there in 1964. He went on a troop ship. It took about a month to get there. When they got there they had to climb down cargo nets to get off. They had few creature comforts at that time."

Al:  " Gary was there during the time I was. We talked on the phone about getting together when he came to Vung Tau but it didn't work out."

The conversations continued:
(Speaking of the photograph)

Terry: I showed this photo to a friend, Rod, yesterday. Now I cant stop thinking about these guys. Thought I would share it with you again.

Al: As many times as you want to share it, Terry is OK with me. I wear a "Vietnam Veteran" cap about 99% of the time. Guys come up to me all the time and after we talk a little they say, "I've never told anybody this before but...." When they finish I tell them that my story is a little different. I was a pharmacist in Vung Tau an in- country R&R center. My weapon of choice was a syringe of penicillin. I never shot at a VC but I killed a lot of VD. They laugh and go on their way. I feel like they got something out in the open for the first time and I made them laugh to let them know that everything can be OK. Maybe it is not OK yet but it can be.

Terry: Al, Vung Tau was a life saver for us grunts. Went there 4 or 5 times. Yeah it doesn't matter what we did in Nam we all understand each other. And we are there for each other.

Al: On the rare occasion when someone wants to give me a hard time I tell them that I have talked to hundreds, if not thousands of Vietnamese and not one of them has ever said that America should not have done what we did. We paid a high price but the Vietnamese paid an even higher price especially after the Americans left. When I tell older Vietnamese that I was in Vung Tau they almost always respond with "That is where I made my escape." Then they pour out their story, too. I rarely try to make them laugh. The usually end by grasping my hand and bowing their head and saying thank you.

And this photo, gently inserted as a comment by Jan:

And, of course there was the reference to the beer.....
Richard: Good old Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Ahhhhhhh

Terry: PBR'S at 100 degrees. Almost burn your lips.

Richard: 88 cases on a pallet.

Richard: Up on the DMZ we got mostly Ballantine beer. It sucked.
Al: Did you have to pay for it? In Vung Tau it was 10 cents per can.
Terry: Not on the fire base cuz we were the guys that were crazy and cried guns. Beer was free.

Al: in Vung Tau there was a screw-up platoon. They guarded the supply depots. About once a month a pallet of beer disappeared. The top brands were always available in the Mi mi bar. It was the Miami bar but the a fell off.

The sharing of this photo says so many different things, some of which I have not heard as it speaks to so many! I see the camaraderie and the paradox of loneliness. A group of soldiers, longing to go home but keeping each other strong. No doubt, the connections are visible here. Connections that stood the test of time, some transcending death itself - and the messages will carry forth, for generations to come. 

As the quest for Peace shows that Love reigns, even when there is no peace...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mocktail Mary - New Recipe

tomato, smoothie, savory, glass straw, veggies, garnish, juice So many smoothies that are featured every day on Instagram inspire me to try my own recipe. There are some that use methods that have some awesome health benefits.  I decided to make up this savory smoothie, and - oh baby, I nailed it!  I call it the Mocktail Mary because it tastes like a Bloody Mary, but has absolutely no alcohol in it which makes it a great morning brunch drink or before dinner appetizer, even if you are avoiding the typical cocktail hour ritual.  This recipe is a great way to squeeze more vegetables into your diet and does not have the sweet fruit that so many smoothie recipes call for.

Ok, here goes:

I rough chop my veggies and put them on a pie plate.  I put the plate in the freezer for about an hour.  This quick freeze helps the chopped veggies liquefy easily in the blender and the concoction will become frosty and thick like a smoothie.

1/2 a peeled Cucumber
Two ribs of Celery
1/2 a Red Bell Pepper (Yellow is good too)
1 thin slice JalapeƱo Pepper
Three slices of Red Cabbage
Two small Tomatoes

Freeze, then put them in the blender and let them thaw for a few minutes.

Juice of two Fresh Limes
2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (Use the real stuff, it's good for you!)
A dash of Balsamic vinegar (the vinegars are what makes it taste boozy.)
2 teaspoons of Tabasco Sauce (adjust to taste)
1 Cup of Trader Joe's brand Low Sodium Garden Patch Juice.
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Blend it up and spoon it into two 8-ounce glasses.
Garnish with Baby Beet Leaves, Baby Kale Leaves, Lime Slices, and Chervil.
(Or whatever edibles you have growing in the garden, like Parsley or Thyme).
Add a glass straw by GlassDharma!
tomato, glass straw, beverage, smoothie, savory, recipe


GlassDharma gives away free glass straws every year for Earth Day and you can get one just by participating in the project.  You view a video and answer a few simple questions to get a coupon code.  Checkout the project here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Joyfull New Year

New Year 2015

One of the biggest days of the year is New Years!  Not because everything changes in just one day... some of the things in the New Year will be a continuance of the year before, it is just another day, after all.  But, the event of the New Year as a marker in time has it's opportunities.  It is like cleaning out the refrigerator.  You clean up what is still good and put it back, you throw out what is spoiled from being there too long, and you get to start fresh.

My desire to *live mindfully* this year is my resolution.  Not the kind of "mindful" that keeps me from sleeping at night as I excessively try to solve every issue that pops into my head, whether it's my own or someone else's circumstance.  Not the kind of mindful that Just. Will. Not. Let. Go. of a topic - even though it has been hammered to death!  The kind of "mindful" I refer to is more about living in the present moment, taking note of what is actually happening, and paying attention to the tasks at hand.

Multitasking has its place, but there comes a time when multitasking becomes a habit that is - distracting.  Thoughts race ahead to what I will do or say next, or memories and replays take up so much mind-space that I am not sure how I got from one place to another in my travels.  Mindful attention will keep me from wondering what that person was trying to tell me - or wishing I had noticed more landmarks as I try to find direction to a destination for the second time.  My intent to be more mind-full will encourage me to pay attention to the trees I walk by everyday and hear the bird songs as they change with the season.  It will help me to really listen to what others are saying.

Joyful! - I am adding "joyful" to my "mindful" resolution.  Sometimes it takes an effort to live knowing true joy in a day.  This is not to say that each moment will be deliriously happy or that we have to await a windfall of joy to come our way..  Rather I will learn to claim the joy in the generic circumstances of a day, joy that I know is there for the taking.  The idea that we can change things for ourselves prompts me to look for the joy in the ordinary as I gravitate towards people and places that lay a foundation for my resolution.  I will seek experiences that make my soul sing! ... Or even just hum a little.  These little, ordinary joys will not go un-noticed because of other distractions that seem to pop up and try to overtake my emotions, leaning them toward worry and regret. I will choose JOY - even more than I do now - in 2015!

My four adult children all love to cook.  This brings me great joy to see how they inspire the people they spend their time with to have fun with meal preparation.  It becomes infectious to those who look on, not wanting to be left out of the happiness factor they notice, as the careful decisions are made during the chopping and blending of ingredients.  Three of them worked in food services (one still does) and the one that did not has recently started a food blog.  I see this "talent" as a true gift of choice - to take something as simple as preparing a meal and turn it into a ritual of joy.  I am sure this was handed down through generations but as I look around at our culture, I know this is certainly not the norm amongst most of their peers.

The point I am making is that joy can spread and grow!  It multiplies - everyone wants more joy!  How would that be if the whole world became a little more joyful?  Maybe that starts with me...

I will mindfully and joyfully choose more time outdoors!  Noticing the rhythm of nature sets up a canvas for living in the moment and choosing joy.  It is difficult to see the shooting stars or a flower blooming if one stays indoors most of the time.  All Seasons have their glory so even in Winter I will bundle up and venture out into surroundings that have so much more to show me than the confines of my own creature comforts, within the walls of my home.  The ritual to open the front door to greet the day or throw open the shutters to let sunshine stream into the kitchen are touch stones to this idea.  But taking that a little further means dressing for the weather conditions and stepping into the elements. If the weather conditions are so severe that I have to put this off, I will long for the time to get back outside knowing storms pass quickly and the sun will shine again.  It will make my whole year better to spend more time outside, I know it will!

2015 is almost here and I vow to "work on" my choice to be MINDFULLY present and to seek JOY as it happens!

I am wishing for those who find themselves reading this blog post a Joyful year full of opportunities for whatever makes your heart sing! 
Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cutting the Pomegranates

Growing up in California, we were no stranger to the cutting of the pomegranate!  My Dad would meticulously cut an X into the top and bottom of the fruit, then score the skin connecting each corner of the X.

We shared a pomegranate last night.  He is 87 now.  He was happy to have me cut it and seed it so he could eat it out of a bowl with a spoon!

I recently learned that scoring it around the middle, avoiding the top and bottom where the flesh is thick and harder to split, would result in an easy way to crack it open.  Then to patiently peel away the interior layers of the flesh to break out the juicy red seeds......  Patience, still!

This method looks kinda messy - I have not tried it!

On Facebook, I ran across this posted video - now this totally makes sense!  So how many ways are there to peel a pomegranate?!
Now here is a combination of all of the ways I have learned that you cut a pomegranate!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

White Pines Picnic

Bike Ride in the Woods

"Time for a bike ride and picnic", I told my husband.  "Let's venture out and find a new trail."

bike, bike trail, single track, mountains, arnold, california
Single Track Bike Trail
In the early days of acquiring mountain bikes, we scoured the internet for bike trails and read the reviews and ratings, looking for trails rated "easy"  and knowing not to attempt trails that are considered "difficult". Something happens along the way of adventures in general where the tendency to throw caution to the wind in the spirit of excitement makes you forget your own rules.

There are very thin lines between the different elements of wanting to have some fun. There is the reach for something new as well as finding an unknown while surprise and risk play into the equation as well. Adrenaline and how it feels is a big contributing component.  Safety issues remain in any sport, so being mindful of how much risk to take is important as one weighs all the factors of how to proceed.

"The big pencil"
We re-read the directions, veer left at the town of Arnold, go past the elementary school and turn right at the big pencil.  We looked at each other in amusement.  The big pencil!  The directions were spot on as we pulled into the parking lot at the Sierra Logging Museum with the gate to the trailhead right in front of us.  We were in the woods!  It was the perfect weather this last day of May.
Paved Road 
The paved trail started to climb - here is where we start to get our bearings, it has been a while since we had the bikes out.  Once the asphalt gave way to a dirt single track I really got excited to think we were traveling deeper into the woods.  The trail got steeper both up and down and my tires, not treaded heavily enough for this terrain started slipping all over the place in the dusty, powdery pine needles. Though we have taken mountain paths through thick woods and ridden on the pine needle covered forest floors during other rides, this slippery carpet seemed to be a combination of  fine dust and pine pollen.  We found ourselves walking the bikes a third of the time, anxious to get up to "the rim" where surely the trail would level out.

Hairpin turns and steeper climbs made it less possible to ride the trail and there was no sign of reaching an area that would suffice for the kind of riding we like to do, so we finally turned around, knowing we had to navigate through each difficulty over again in order to get back to the car.

We made it with one spill, a bent wheel, a cracked reflector and the resolve to get my tires replaced with a deeper tread,  ASAP!

I found this video of the trail, but it seems like there are a lot of uphill parts cut out!  By the way, I do not jump logs with my mountain bike like the rider featured in this video does!  The video does show how gorgeous it is along this trail!

Arnold Rim Trail from South County Ciclista on Vimeo.

White Pines Lake Picnic
Bikes back on the rack, we drove out of the parking lot (at the big pencil) and down to the White Pines Lake Picnic area to find the most charming little kayaking lake with recreational percs everywhere.  Playgrounds, Horseshoe pits, a little league field, a Disc Golf Court, a sand beach and swimming hole, and trails all around the lake.  For all the people present, it is a quiet area with lots of fishing and Kayaking, no motor boats allowed.

We will be back to this lake for sure, but next time we will try a different entrance to the Rim Trail rather than start at the top of the mountain trailhead.  It might be time to go and read the reviews again before choosing the next new trail.

california, arnold, mother-lode, gold country
White Pines Lake

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Twelve Months In A Year

Time to.......

The Holiday decorations are finally put away, and with the same feeling of satisfaction that putting them up produces in early December.  "Let's get on with it" is the calling that beckons.  The year is stretched before us now and I feel myself perching on the marker of last year's transition into this.

2013 will go in my own history book as one of the most eventful years in my entire life. The lineup was evident this time last year as the calendar filled up, barely leaving gaps for all the other important stuff that happened that could not be foreseen.  The timeline of occurrences is one that most certainly will be remembered when I am older and all the memories just start running together like colors of paint spilled out of cans.  I can see myself saying, "Remember in 2013....", "I will never forget that in 2013..."  It was all somewhat crazy in a happy way.  Memorable for sure!

This year there are only a few markers on the calendar and the contrast between the two years has me wondering... There is more room for surprise this year!  Though this idea excites me, I find myself wishing to keep the calendar clean and uncluttered.

We all have the same twelve months in a year, the same 24 hours in a day.  How we spend them has a lot to do with obligation, life's circumstance, our motivation factor, and choice.  I look back on the many unfinished things that I have started: the scarf on the knitting needles, the flowerpots to be transplanted, and the room that still needs painting.  It is only a mere setback, I say to myself. Prioritizing is part of living life, after all.  The unfinished things will be there when I get back to them, knowing that the interruptions in life are a sacred opportunity to live in the moment and embrace the unknown.

Yes, we all have the same twelve months in a year....

It's time for me to start to write that book now.....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Gift of Christmas and Wishes

A Christmas tree for Connie's Fall from Autumn

by Cherie Colombo

I remember an Autumn, a September's warm and sunny day in Santa Clara, California, 45 years ago. Anxiously awaiting for my kindergarten son of five to make his "big man walk alone" home from school. I watched the clock calculating my little five year old's couple of blocks' strategy. "That's it!" I thought, "taking too long!" As I was about to bolt out the door for rescue, the phone rang. A smiling voice on the other end saying, "don't worry, he's here, he gave my daughter a rose." I arrived at this nice lady's home. The door opened and I walked into Connie's life and a friendship that would last for decades.  
Connie K. Garcia Hoy. Our lives shared the trials and tribulations that a relationship of blessed longevity brings. She was married and had two sons and a daughter. I was married and raising my only son. Young mothers, young wives, and young lives had a lot to share in common. The swift passing years brought multiple changes. Changes in marriage, change in career. A change in location with a major move to Idaho, cultural shock in our 30's. The teen years of raising those kids, and then the death of my son in my 40's, the divorces, serious life threatening diseases, medical procedures, ageing parents, dying parents, care giving to parents, loss, and death adjustment, and us aging..... It all plays out like a fast forward movie in your mind. But, we were solid lifelines, encouraging, laughing, crying, and talking and talking our way through it all.
Connie K. Garcia Hoy, we called each other best friends, but after knowing each other for forty-five years, we merged as family somewhere along the line and I will forever see her this way. "Happy Birthday", I had said to her on September 13, 2013. We laughed that she didn't feel anything different at all! I sent her a card with sentiments relating to how much we had experienced together and that we now were in the Autumn of our years, not knowing when our winter would come.... but still looking forward to all we would share with new beginnings.

Connie had recently lost her husband Ray to Alzheimer. An intense few years of care-giving had left her recouping and searching for a new direction in life. She died four days later after her 72 birthday. An unexpected massive heart attack. Connie literally did fall on September 17, 2013, but not without a last wish to be realized. Truly, my heart and mind will miss her for the rest of my days. You just keep looking for those subtle messages that make you go, hmmmm.
Connie treaded lightly on this earth. Her love for nature and philosophy galore! Not to be confused that she wouldn't stand up for a cause if needed be, but, intelligently weighed her convictions of justice with grace of wisdom as she saw it. Her thrust was for fairness in truths revealed and although I argued she could take some things too seriously, her analytical mind remained restless. Thank God for a wonderful sense of humor and good nature that would eventually maintain her balance of goodwill, and, realize her wish in the outcome....                   

Her life was relatively quiet and content in her marriage to Ray Hoy. They settled in Nampa, ID. And Connie's love for gardening, exotic plants, and rare heirloom seeds grew. For a few years she made a business of servicing restaurant's chefs with her beautiful edible herbs and flowers. My interest in gardening was not as extensive as hers, but I learned a lot from her that shows in my own gardening skills of today.

Later in years, Ray retired and his health began to slip away. Connie still kept gardening but the grounds once maintained with both of their efforts were now out of control and overgrown. Her time, now devoted to Ray when the devastating disease of Alzheimer slowly took its toll. Her strength of handling the situation is to be revered.  

Christmas Tree. memory, spruce, City of caldwell
Spruce Tree
After the passing of Ray, Connie's determination of putting things back in order became her ominous mission. We had hour long conversations of what needed to be done for restoration. And then, a real focus occurred.  The front of her home had been obscured from view for some time due to a monster huge Spruce tree. " I am going to remove it," she said with conviction. "Oh, really? How's that going to happen?" I said with much apprehension. I could tell she had given this much thought, after all, the tree was part of the family! Being the wonderful researcher she had become, she told me she had found an interested connection for the tree and it would be donated in Ray's name as a beautiful "City Christmas Tree"!  What a tribute to Ray, what a honor, I was so excited for her. The anticipation of this event would truly be soul healing and gratification..... who knew what was to be?  Was her wish gone with her own demise?

city of caldwell, christmas tree
Tree Transportation
for the City of Caldwell
Christmas Tree Lighting
Connie was blessed in many ways through this life. The best being she had three beautiful children who grew into amazing adults! Rina, Frank and Steven. She referred to them as the jewels in her crown and I admired how she knew how to love each of them equally with all the differences of individually they presented. They all lived in distance in the pursuit of their lives. 

The devastating news would bring these three together in the most challenging ways they have ever known. I share the grief with them, but they were the ones that had to deal with the physical closure and all that must be addressed physically and mentally when these kind of life events presents itself in our lives..... I know somewhere, my dear special friend smiles and is proud. It is perfect completion of a life cycle. Her children have met all her wishes, and then some. The three came together as an awesome team! Accomplishing things together and establishing a new bond between each other that will last forever. Big Smile Here! AND, the last wish of my friend, the tree? It was removed by the fine City of Caldwell, ID. and stands tall and proudly waits for the Christmas lighting ceremony November 22, 2013 in the name of Ray and Connie Hoy. 

caldwell, spruce tree, christmas tree, connie, memory
Connie and Raymond Hoy's tree has reached its final destination.
Placed in The City of Caldwell and is now ready to be decorated!
For the Christmas Tree lighting on November 22, 2013.

MERRY CHRISTMAS my friend and to all, wishes do come true.... and new beginnings.....

This guest post contribution is written by my friend and mentor of many years.  Though 1000 miles separate us, my inspiration to write was generated by many beautiful and descriptive hand-written letters sent to me from Cherie. The three children in this story.... I was their babysitter when I was 13 ~  a fact non related (seemingly) to my friendship with the author.  ~ It's not the destination..... it's the journey ~