Friday, May 10, 2019

Tulsa; Oil; Fleet Admiral Nimitz and the Museum of the Pacific War; Kerrville

On the road again, heading south and west! From Unity Village, we headed to Tulsa for an event and some special time with Lynette Setzkorn. Suzanne's Tulsa event, Magnificent You!, was very well received at Tulsa's Center of Light. (It is a totally new presentation that will grab your heart - if you haven't seen it, you're missing out!) The event were hosted by Rev. Monica McIntylre, and garnered the highest attendance on record. 

We had a delightful experience - and a delicious dinner - with Lynette, Rev. Monica, and several friendly and interesting members of the Center of Light.

While in Tulsa, we stayed at Expo Square RV Park, a very nice campground near a huge arena where the state fair, car shows, equestrian and cattle shows, etc., are held. This great statue, the Golden Driller, honors the Oklahoma men who drilled for oil and built the oil industry in this part of the country. 

Next time you turn on your home furnace, fly to a distant vacation, take a cruise, or get into your Chevy, Lexus or Mercedes, think about the hard work in rain, hail, snow or hurricanes that oil field workers, refinery operators, pipeline workers, and long haul truckers perform so that you can turn that ignition key and get to work or take your kids to school. I grew up in south Louisiana, where the offshore oil industry was the largest single industry, allowing anyone willing to work long, hard hours to make a good living for their families and even put kids through college. They are underappreciated today, and that's a shame. Our energy independence (and much of our national security) today is due to their efforts.

Before we left Tulsa, we had to go on a bike ride and walk through an amazing park, The Gathering Place, a brand-new attraction on the Arkansas River near downtown. It boasts great trails, gardens, a pond with a beach, unique and creative playgrounds, and eateries. With a price tag of $465,000,000, it is the largest private gift to a city park in US history; the park was the original idea of George Kaiser, and the Kaiser Foundation continues to lead the park project, although about 80 foundations, businesses and individuals also have made large contributions. 

We left Tulsa for Texas, and it was an interesting trip. We had a major mechanical issue in Jacksboro, when a leveling jack hydraulic line burst. The line had been replaced a few months ago by Ocala Camping World, a national RV sales and repair company, but the service tech evidently didn't secure the hydraulic hose with a retainer, because we found that it had been rubbing against the inside rear drive tire for 3,000 miles, and in spite of being metal jacketed, friction and heat took its toll and it failed. (We are NOT happy with Ocala Camping World... they won't even return my phone calls.) In spite of our problem occurring over Easter weekend, we were very lucky to have been just a few spaces down in our campground from a mobile repair technician, who fixed our hydraulic problem Monday morning.

On to a great stop in Fredericksburg, Texas, where we visited the National Museum of the Pacific War; the adjoining Nimitz Museum was closed for renovation. Watching videos and listening to radio news reports of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the Bataan Death March were particularly emotional, as were the displays and recordings of the battles of Midway, Guadalcanal and Tarawa. We were drained before getting to the Okinawa, Iwo Jima and other displays. You need at least a full day to see the entire museum. The ship model is USS Tennessee (BB-43), which was lightly damaged by Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor- she was protected from torpedoes by the USS West Virginia (BB-48), moored alongside, which was sunk. Both ships were repaired and returned to the Pacific war; Tennessee was hit by a Japanese kamikaze suicide aircraft off Okinawa. I was fortunate enough to have served on USS Iowa (BB-61), built during WWII, decommissioned after the Korean War, and recommissioned in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, one of my heroes. I also served as his escort officer when he and Nancy visited USS IOWA in 1986.

Admiral Chester Nimitz's famous quote, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue", was meant in that instance for the US Marines at Iwo Jima, but it can equally be applied to the young men and women who continue to be deployed and fight our enemies in the Global War on Terror, even though political correctness prevents the use of that descriptor any more. 

At Iwo Jima, the Leathernecks' incredible sacrifices against a dug-in, battle-hardened, suicidal enemy is one of most legendary in world history. Our Marines suffered over 26,000 casualties, including almost 7,000 killed in action; the Japanese lost 26,000 men killed. The battle is memorialized by the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, DC. The photograph of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal is one of the most stirring and iconic images ever taken.

Our next stop was Kerrville, in the heart of Texas Hill Country. This is a beautiful and very friendly part of America. Suzanne had two events here, and we enjoyed the company of our good friends Sylvia and Ed Reeves on multiple occasions. 

While in Kerrville, we stayed at a very nice RV resort near this stream. You don't think about Texas having such scenery, but come to Hill Country and find out for yourself how beautiful it is! I first came to Kerrville to visit a great aunt in the 1950s. (My Lovely Bride reminds me with a smile that she wasn't even born yet...)

During a walk around town, we saw this sign... it reads, "Camping... spending a small fortune to live like you're homeless". Yup, I think that's pretty accurate!

I went for a hike while Suzanne was teaching her Serving Spirit class, and this lake at Joshua Springs Park and Preserve near Comfort, Texas, provided a serene view for a weary hiker. 

This fisherman may or not be catching, but at least the setting is fabulous! This is just a mile from Joshua Springs Park.

The nearby town of Ingram has a replica of Stonehenge, built by local ranchers Al Shepperd and Doug Hill in 2/3 scale and originally erected on Al's ranch in Hunt, Texas. It sits on the path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse. The duration of the eclipse will be 4 hours and 26 minutes, and there should be some neat festivities.

Finally, the Ingram site also has two replica Moai, Easter Island statues.  This one looks like he could use a serious haircut!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Elvis! Sunrise; W-Holy You! Saint Bev and Saint Lynette; Bradford Pears; Always and Furever

I need to start off this blog post with a few words about my favorite pal and guy-dog, Rudy the Sailing Wiener Dog. The words are: "Stubborn, Attitude and Elvis". The first two may be self-evident, but we call Rudy "Elvis" on those frequent occasions when he shows us that he knows he is superior to us and expects us to cater to his every desire.  One of these occasions occurred the other day while on a walk. We wanted to go one way, Rudy wanted to go in the opposite direction. So he went into what we fondly call "The Four Foot Plant"... and what's with that "look"???

I have to give equal time to our Little Princess Gretchen, seen here napping on dog-dad's tee shirt. She is a very sweet girl, always loving and full of kisses, but only has one expression, "Adorable", unlike her brother Rudy...

During our events at Unity Village, we stayed at a Jackson County campground in Lee's Summit, Missouri. This sunrise over Longview Lake near our campground brought a beautiful start to the day. 

Suzanne's W-Holy You! event was a great experience for all 185 attendees, and included folks who came from as far away as Australia and Canada. It started on Thursday and ended on Sunday. Unity Village did a great job for us! 

Here is Suzanne demonstrating a Hoberman sphere, an isokinetic structure resembling a geodesic dome, but which can expand and contract quickly based on its scissors-like design, folding down to a tiny fraction of its normal size. Larger models can be found in the Smithsonian and the Liberty Museum, but the largest, 19 feet in diameter, is located in a science center in Tartu, Estonia. This shape consists of six great circles corresponding to the edges of a icosidodecahedron.  Suzanne did not go into this kind of detail; instead, she used this shape to explain something far less complicated, like ... Creation!

There were various exercises and presentations that brought attendees to tears, but I will not spoil My Lovely Bride's next event by describing them here. Just let me assure you that everyone had a fabulous experience. 

During breaks, attendees at W-Holy You! could walk the beautiful grounds of Unity Village and enjoy the Tower, fountains and nature trails. Suzanne is already looking forward to her next event here.

Before I wrap up with our Unity Village discussion, I would be remiss in not acknowledging two people who made that week and Suzanne's work much easier. Bev Garlipp (Saint Bev) and Lynette Setzkorn (Saint Lynette) are the unsung heroes of Suzanne's work. Bev flew in for the retreat from The Villages, FL, and the first photo shows Bev just as Suzanne was recognizing her and her work on this project - a shaft of sunlight came through one of the windows right onto Bev, almost blinding her! Lynette, Suzanne's Scheduling Princess, drove up from Tulsa, Oklahoma. (You should look at Lynette's blog, An Unexpected Mystic,  . It will touch your heart!) Thank you both for everything you do! 

During our last week at Unity Village, trees started blooming... here is one of the prettiest trees we have seen - the Bradford pear tree (Pyrus calleryana). But it has a sinister side... This species was introduced by the US Department of Agriculture as a landscape tree in the 1960s (another cute, but ill-thought out government program) - suburban landscapers initially loved these trees because they flower quickly and beautifully, but the fruit of this invasive species from Asia is inedible and the seeds mildly poisonous. These nuisance trees choke out other trees (especially in the South) as does kudzu (Pueraria montana), another Asian invasive species, nicknamed "the vine that ate the South". Kudzu was also introduced by the federal government, ostensibly to control soil erosion in Pennsylvania (I am starting to see a pattern here). Bradford pear trees are also prone to splitting apart at relatively young ages and crashing down on people, cars, fences, etc. Most agricultural extension agents recommend against using Bradford pear trees for anything but firewood - it actually burns as well or better than cherry, and you won't get in trouble for chopping down a Bradford pear tree like our first president did with a cherry tree.

Finally, I would like to showcase an amazing animal shelter south of Kansas City, Kansas. I was walking back from one of Suzanne's presentations and happened to speak to one of the attendees, Laurie Savoie, who mentioned that a friend had an animal shelter about 45 miles away. So after W-Holy You!, Suzanne, Rudy, Gretchen and I took a day trip... Always and Furever Midwest Animal Sanctuary was started by Jen Dulski, a lawyer by day and recreational athlete in her spare time, when she's not saving neglected older dogs. We knew that she had converted a barn to a shelter, and were expecting to see a couple of dozen kennels for the residents... imagine our surprise and delight when we saw this... it looked like a coffee shop from the 60s!!! Mismatched couches and dog beds where older dogs (many abandoned by their owners!) could live out their days in comfort and with love from Jen, Laurie, and a group of Angel Volunteers...

Here is Laurie introducing me to some of the wonderful dogs that Jen is saving. Many have been turned in to "kill shelters" (that sounds rather dreadful!) by their owners who don't want to (or can't) pay for their care in their older years. (I have a bit of a problem with that concept. Imagine casting off your kids or parents at that point... okay, some people do, but your dogs are helpless, don't have 401k's or Social Security). In any case, Jen, Laurie and the volunteers at Always and Furever epitomize the love and compassion that we humans are supposed to be known for!

So, here are Laurie, Jen and Suzanne with one of the shelter's residents. And, oh by the way, when one of their dogs is ready to pass, Jen or a volunteer holds them during their last hours in this existence. I cannot imagine any more loving gesture than that. We were so touched by Jen, Laurie, and the volunteers at Always and Furever that we made a donation in our daughter Susan's name - she loved animals, especially dogs that were abused or unloved. We ask that when you have a few moments, please look at the shelter's web site, and if it speaks to you, please consider a generous donation. The shelter needs $2,500.00 a week just to stay afloat. Thank you...                       

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Chattanooga, TN; Bad Weather and Flooding; St. Charles, MO; Independence, Missouri; Unity Village Tour; Audio Books; "You Are a Wuss!" Serrano Pepper Revenge; "Well, Maybe You Are, Too!"

We departed The Villages on March 23rd, and headed northwest through Georgia for a two-day trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Suzanne presented her Magnificent You talk to an enthusiastic crowd at Unity of Chattanooga. This city is a delightful place to visit; located on the Tennessee River, Chattanooga melds almost seamlessly with the town of Rossdale, in northern Georgia, where our campground was located. We were able to spend some quality time with our friends Keith and Laura Noyes, who had us over for a fabulous dinner and then...

... took us out mountain biking and hiking in this scenic and historic part of the US. Keith and Laura kindly slowed down for us flatlanders while we rode the Black Forest and TNT trails at the Enterprise South Nature Park, which is near the huge Volkswagen Chattanooga auto assembly plant. It was a great ride, so enjoyable that Suzanne and I returned a few days later to ride the trails a second time.

We also got out hiking on part of the Cumberland Trail, a very rocky and "up and down" route that left us wishing that we were in better shape, but the only way you get into shape for hiking rough trails is by hiking rough trails... funny how that works!

The last photo of our Chattanooga visit had us shaking our heads... this is a family home on top of Signal Mountain, where during the War of Northern Aggression, Yankee troops used to signal from inside the besieged city to other Union troops outside the Southern lines. It's an historic area, but obviously that doesn't keep people from building the home of their dreams... "Beam me up, Scotty!"

This next photo really doesn't need explanation, does it?

Weather "is"... whether or not you like it. On the way to St. Charles, Missouri, we had to pass through some of the worst weather we've seen in a long time. This screen shot doesn't look too bad, but we had very heavy rain and winds near Centralia, Illinois, bad enough to tear a piece of trim from the side of the bus and make me wish that we were in Tucson or Phoenix... 

We spent only one night in St. Charles, along the Missouri River, which was in flood stage, and moving like a freight train, with whole trees tumbling in the roiling brown current. (That's the Katy bike trail on the levee just a few feet above the river.) I would NOT want to be kayaking in the river right now. The Midwest has had so much rain, especially up in Nebraska, where flooding is at near-record levels.

Next stop: Independence, Missouri, where we spent two nights waiting for a county park to open. This amazing edifice is The Temple, completed in 1994 by the Community of Christ, an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It dominates the skyline of Independence, and is within walking distance of the downtown where many statues and displays honor that city's most famous son, President Harry S. Truman. 

Our purpose being in the area is to support Suzanne's major events at Unity World Headquarters, in Unity Village, MO. She spent three days recording her book Messages of Hope as an audio book that Unity will publish this year. (It went so well that she will be recording another of her books, Wolf's Message, next week!)

Unity's President and Chief Operating Officer, Guy Swanson, gave us the most incredible and thorough tour of Unity Village. We went from the top of the tower to the pump room below the fountains, seeing every facet of this amazing spiritual community. Guy and his wife Mary, and David and Julie Vest, (David is the Unity CFO) took us out for a fabulous fish dinner... many thanks!

Everyone we met at Unity World Headquarters was happy, helpful and friendly, but the most impressive single place was the 24/7/365 Silent Unity prayer facility, where dozens of staff members respond to email, telephone calls and letters to pray affirmatively with people, a reminder that we are never alone, not even in your darkest hour. We spoke to one of the beautiful ladies who works there, and were truly touched by her love, caring and concern for the people who call into Silent Unity for prayer support. Silent Unity has been operating since 1893!!! We will be here for two weeks... and next week is Suzanne's W-Holy You Retreat!

This is the view from the tower... what an incredible place! If you're in the Kansas City area, you have to visit here and soak up the love and positive energy...

Finally, I will end this blog post with a true story about My Lovely Bride... she loves Sriracha sauce, and often calls me a wuss because I find it too hot. Well, payback time came when I got a Serrano chili at a local market... I actually thought it was much milder than Jalapenos, but when I cut some up for my signature chicken enchiladas and black beans, I took a taste and my tongue was on FIRE! I asked MLB if she would like to try one, and she said, "Sure, how hot can it be, since you are a such a wuss..." Well, she put a tiny piece in her mouth, her eyes got big, and she grabbed a glass of water to put the fire out... (NB: beer works much better than water!) I wound up eating her portion and mine! Turns out Serrano peppers are 3-9 times hotter than Jalapenos... who knew?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Hilton Head; Fish On! Salaway; Surprise! Port Wentworth; On the Road Again! Back to The Villages; Mavis Pittilla; Home Construction Progress; Moon Pies!

We aren't generally beach people, but having spent the past 11 years in Central Florida, we are enjoying being close to the ocean here in South Carolina. Here is My Lovely Bride happily enduring a chilly breeze on the beach at Hilton Head, about a half hour drive from our new homesite...

Speaking of which, before we left SC, we stopped by after a workout on the day before the foundation was laid, and Suzanne simulated washing her hands at the island sink...

... and here are a couple of pics of recent progress there!

Regarding our new home, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I must give credit to our dear friend Irene Vouvalides, who became Suzanne's surrogate "husband", when my eyes glazed over during our first meeting with the builder's design specialist, Ashley, during which we were supposed to pick out kitchen cabinets... Suzanne was very excited, and I was ready to agree to anything, even camouflage-colored cabinets, just to get back to hiking or biking. Irene volunteered to fill in for me, and she and Suzanne spent the next two weeks selecting wall colors, door knobs, granite countertops (shown here), appliances, etc., etc., etc...... I would have been a millstone around Suzanne's neck during those meetings, but the girls had a ball together. Thank you, Irene!!!

Frequent readers of this blog know that when I go fishing, the odds are often stacked against me... whether it's foul weather (often too cold or too hot, never just right), too windy, too rainy, the moon is offsetting the fishes' feeding habits, the big fish were caught yesterday during a professional tournament, or the fish are vacationing in Miami or Timbuktu... like any fisherman, I can find 100 reasons for coming back home without catching. Imagine My Lovely Bride's surprise when she received these photos while she was at The Monroe Institute in Charlottesville teaching a class. 

The fish in question (which I am cleaning in this photo) is a sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus), but is also called a black drum or convict fish. They eat crustaceans, mollusks, shrimp and fish; I caught two that day on frozen shrimp. Tony Vouvalides, my new neighbor and Best Fishing and Sailing Buddy, took me to his favorite fishing dock near our new home in Moss Creek, near Hilton Head, SC. 

We ate the two sheepshead for dinner that night in fish tacos, and they were YUMMY! (Sorry, Sweetheart, you missed out on some great fish!) Irene graciously invited me to dinner every night Suzanne was gone... and she is a fabulous cook!


Tony is not only a revered elementary school principal (now retired), but also a master ship model builder who was asked by the Smithsonian Museum to restore some of their prized models. He also built a 19 foot wood sailboat in his garage, originally helped by his father-in-law Sal. Sal passed during the building process, but Tony completed the beautiful sloop and named it Salaway. He recently moved her from winter storage to a spot closer to home where she can be launched when the weather improves. 



Sticking to the outdoors theme for a bit, I also went on a hike while MLB was in Virginia. Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a big marshy refuge, but has some nice hiking and biking trails. These live oaks are typical of this area, and provide birds and mammals excellent habitat.

After an hour of hiking, I was looking for a dewatering spot, and saw an actual porta-pottie, the first I had seen on the refuge. While sitting inside and pondering the state of humanity, I sensed movement of a critter between my legs... forcing me to leap up, thinking it might be a snake! I was actually relieved (no pun intended) to find a gecko looking up at me! This specimen is a Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) and is not usually a threat to humans, other than causing heart attacks in unsuspecting porta-pottie users.

Near the wildlife refuge is the town of Port Wentworth, strategically located on the Savannah River. It is a major railroad hub and shipping terminal, especially for imported automobiles and containers that are then transshipped by rail and truck. The skyline of huge cranes and highlighted rails makes for a good photo, although quite different from the earlier scene of live oaks and Spanish moss.

During our two month stay in South Carolina, Mike and Beth Pasakarnis visited from their home in Darien, Georgia, south of Savannah. Many readers will recognize them from Suzanne's book Wolf's Message; their son Wolf (Mike, Jr.) passed when struck by lightning, like our daughter Susan. Suzanne and I were inside when Mike and Beth arrived at Tony and Irene's house, and during their visit, Suzanne told them that Wolf had signaled to her to check for a nail or screw in one of their tires. 

On going outside, Mike looked down and found a screw in the left rear tire. Even I continue to be amazed...

In a previous post, I mentioned that this part of South Carolina is called the Low Country; how low is it, you might ask? Well, here is a trail/road on Pinckney Island at high tide...

Next: We departed South Carolina and headed for The Villages where Suzanne was hosting Mavis Pittilla, the famous British medium who is also the subject of Suzanne's latest book, Droplets of God. Mavis is an extremely popular spiritual teacher here in the US, and was Suzanne's mentor at the Arthur Findlay College in the UK. That's Mavis next to Suzanne and Jean Else, Mavis' partner, standing next to Bev Garlipp, who is at the end of the front row. Bev did a tremendous job organizing this event!

Finally, on a somewhat less spiritual note, one of the surprises of our stay in Bluffton/Hilton Head was that most of the residents are actually Yankees, and unfamiliar with that famous Southern treat, Moon Pies. I was shocked... yes, shocked... by how many transplants from up North have not discovered Moon Pies. When Suzanne's sister Janice and her fiance Rodney visited, we went in search of Moon Pies, finally finding them at a local BBQ joint. For those of you who have not tasted Moon Pies, they are two round graham cracker cookies, with a marshmallow center and a choice of chocolate, vanilla or banana frosting. Those of us who grew up with Moon Pies always ate them accompanied with an RC Cola. Driving with a Moon Pie in the right hand and an RC Cola in the left hand was considered de rigeur, but both could be held in the left hand if your right hand was on your girlfriend's "heart".