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Interstellar Adventure
Adventure: the pursuit of life — Daniel Roy Wiarda

Interstellar Wordcloud

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I meant to post this before. Like when I made it on the 10th. But I forgot. And, since I have nothing better to post today...well, without further suspense...
In case you want one too!


A Twilight Bark

Monday, February 27, 2006

Calling all dogs! Calling all dogs! Wrigley here with a breaking news story! Usually, Tori and I just sit around during the day, lazing in the sun. But today, we caught wind of a situation that really gets our Milkbones. Over at MommaK's place, darlin' Lil sent out a Twilight Bark. This means there's a dog in trouble that needs our help! So, we're passing along the news, hoping that you'll send it on down the line!
Please go check out Oreo's story over at The Muttering Muse. Why, it's just positively unbelievable! Please help Oreo her stay with her family!
Oreo Was Framed!


Let the Sun Shine!


Well, for a bit anyway. The last two weeks have been dreary, gray and rainy. Elle's soccer season was supposed to start February 18. But, that weekend's games were cancelled due to freezing temperatures and ice on the roads. Her second game was supposed to be yesterday, but because it rained Friday and Saturday, the fields were soaked, and so the game was cancelled. My baby wants to play some soccer! She was so disappointed that her games have been rained out. Today, tomorrow and Wednesday are looking good...but Thursday the clouds are supposed to come back and then it's supposed to rain Friday, Saturday and Sunday! NOOOO! All right, everyone together now. "Rain rain go away, come again another day, little Elle wants to play!".

Whatcha Readin'?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Laura, over at Vitamin Sea made up a new meme. As an individual with a BA in English with a concentration in British Literature...we'll, it's mandatory for me to do this. But the books I've been reading lately, and I use 'lately' quite loosely, aren't the classics. Nope. They're fiction. I'm a fiction fan. Very rarely do I read non-fiction. These are the books I have lined up to read at the moment.

This is the Tom Robbins novel that I've started twice and haven't been able to finish. I'm not sure why. I love all the other books he's written. I will finish this book...one of these days.
Another Tom Robbins book. I've gotten through the first chapter. But I'm stuck there. Mainly because I'm not in the mood to read right now. But I'll get there.
My most recent Robbins book. Nick got it for me for Valentines day. My sweetie knows who I like to read!
The last of the Robbins books that I haven't read. Yes. I bought all his books at once. I had been getting them onsie-twosie, but one day I picked up the rest with the intent to read them all. Good intentions that haven't been realized yet.
Jennifer Weiner is another writer that I've read before. This is one of her new ones.
I didn't know this one was out until I started looking for books I wanted to read. Now that I know I'll have to read this one too!
Well, there they all are. Between running, painting my bathroom, painting my kitchen, knitting, and solving Sudoku puzzles, this is what I'll be reading in my spare time.


Los Tres Entierros de Melquiades Estrada

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Last Friday night I went with my mom and sister to see a movie. We were thinking about going to see Walk the Line, but when we got to the theater, it was starting later than we wanted to wait for. As we ran down the list of what was showing we realized that all the movies sucked! But wait! The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was starting at 10:05. What's that one about? My mom and sister asked. I'm not exactly sure. But I know that Tommy Lee Jones directed it and it was shot on his ranch in Texas. I said. Why do they bury this guy three times? my sister asked. I don't know. I answered. Then we all looked at each other. I saw Tommy Lee Jones on Jay Leno talking about it and it sounded interesting. I offered. OK then. they said. So we bought our tickets. By the way, it's Mel-key-ah-des. I'm not going to tell you anything about this movie except that you need to go see it. If you like Tommy Lee Jones at all, you will love this movie. If you want to see Dwight Yoakam in a hilarious role, you'll love this movie. If you remember January Jones from Love Actually you'll love this movie. (It took me half way through the movie to remember where I'd seen her. Whew! What a relief!) If you've never heard of Julio Cedillo, you'll love this movie. If you want to see the raw desert beauty of Texas, you'll love this movie. Can I get any more clear that I really really loved this movie? One of the best I've seen in a long, long time. I highly recommend this movie.

Bein' a Texas gal

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I've been a Texan since the day I was born. I came into this world by way of Houston, making brief hops between Texas and California during my diaper years, then a year in Oklahoma before coming back to my native land at the age of 6. I lived in the same house for the next twelve years. I had no Texan pride at that time. I didn't hang out with anyone that wore blue jeans or cowboy boots, I couldn't stand country music, and I masked my Texan accent as best I could. Especially when I had that British boyfriend. My first idea that Texans were different came during a summer vacation to England with said British boyfriend. I was more friendly and outspoken than most people there were used to. The bartenders there couldn't make a margarita to save their lives. And, at a party, when people learned I was from Texas, they asked me to talk like a Texan. I opened my mouth and a very flat accent came out. The look of disappointment spread on their faces. The sad thing was, a girl, originally from Zimbabwe but living in Huntsville, Texas, had a much better Texas Accent that I did. So they turned to her and giggled and laughed at her talk. I was a disappointment as a Texan to them! I spent a few more years trying to disguise my Texan-ness. Why? I guess I wanted to seem more cosmopolitan, more educated, refined. Then I realized what a load of baloney! In the car this morning, I was listening to a country song. Senorita Mas Fina by by Kevin Fowler. Something in the tune made me think of Texas. About the way it's got everything there is. Mountains, rivers, deserts, cactus, forests, ocean, plains. It's got big city and middle of nowhere. And the middle of nowhere is more than just nowhere. It's dangerous, desolate, and beautiful. Texas still has that "Old West" kind of feel to it. Rough wood, heat, dust, sweat, boots and jeans. Friendly, laughing, hard-working, adventurous. Yep, I'm a Texas girl.

A Funeral and an Impromtu Family Reunion

Monday, February 20, 2006

Not starring Hugh Grant, but rather, yours truly. Friday, Nick and I traveled down to Houston for a family funeral. My uncle's ex-wife passed away. My two cousins are only 20 and 23. She was only 45. She was my aunt longer than she was my ex-aunt, and I went to support my cousins and my uncle in their loss. Only one of my mom's siblings wasn't there, and she would have had to come from Missouri to get there. The flu and distance kept her away. Since my uncle divorced his wife, she had experienced trouble with drugs, alcohol and bulimia. She never ran with what most would consider 'nice' people, and after the divorce, it got worse. Her current boyfriend was a Vietnam vet. He had plenty of issues of his own, evidenced by him showing up to the funeral late and drunk, nevermind that he was asked not to come at all. The service was rather sad. It was graveside, closed-casket and brief. It was a cold, drizzly day. I don't think the priest knew her, and couldn't pronounce her name. Someone, not a member of the family, told the priest that "we all called her Angie". Not in the 30 years I knew her we didn't. I liked my aunt. She was a nice lady. She had a great laugh. And she loved my cousins. I'm sad that she couldn't overcome her problems and straighten out her life. I'm just glad that she's at peace now. The next day, Nick and I went with my sister to go visit our grandfather, my bio-dad's dad. He's 82 years old. My grandmother passed away two years ago. My uncle has lived with my grandparents for as long as I can remember, so he's there to take care of my grandfather. I use the term 'take care of' rather loosely. He does as well as an odd bachelor can. My grandaddy sounded better on the phone than he looked. When I talked to him, I was quite encouraged because his voice sounded so strong. When I got there an hour and a half later, he was putting on wrinkled clothing, needed help to finish getting dressed, and couldn't locate the comb to run through his hair. I wanted to cry, but I held back my tears and instead hugged him. I could have gone on hugging him for the rest of the day. We chatted for a bit with grandaddy and my uncle Dan. It turned out they were expecting more company too! My uncle John was coming from Huntsville, and my uncle Richard and his wife and four kids were expected, as well as my aunt Kathy. She was coming in from Georgia for a visit. How fortuitous! We took grandaddy out to lunch at Luby's while Dan stayed behind waiting on the rest of the kin. Kin? Oh, I haven't talked much about this side of my family, have I? When we go out with them, I often feel like Marilyn Munster. My sister and I are the 'normal' ones in the family. I joke that this is my 'hillbilly' part of the family. They are some of the nicest people you would ever meet. If you're stranded somewhere, they're the ones that are going to stop and help you in any way they can. "Well sure, come on in!" they'd say, if you stopped by their house unannounced. And they'd be genuinely happy to see you too. Whatever is in their cupboard is yours if you need it. At the church they've belonged to for the last I'm guessing at least 40-45 years, all the children call my grandfather Grandaddy. He and my uncles drove the church busses since before I was born. You could drop my uncles in the middle of nowhere and they'd be just fine, and probably beat you back to civilization. The back yard at my grandaddy's house has been home to sheep, turkeys, rabbits, chickens, and a host of other animals (smack dab in the middle of the biggest metropolitain city in Texas). Many of these animals often ended up on the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table. This greatly upset my sister and I when we were young. My grandaddy has traveled to all but three of the Spanish-speaking countries in this world, was in China on the day I was born, and many, many places in between. He was an engineer for a company that searched for oil all around the world. He's actually stood on every continent. But now, my Grandaddy is old. My uncle said he's had to take his keys away. He would drive off and get lost. The last time it happened, he ran out of gas on Beltway 8 in Houston. It's a major tollway. He walked off to get gas, and an hour later, when he came back, his van was on the tow-truck, almost about to be towed away. Fortunately the tow-driver took my grandaddy and his van back home, rather than to the impound lot. The entire time we were at Luby's, he couldn't stop telling us that his Wednesday Lunch Bunch would meet at Luby's and take up the whole back of the restaurant. He must have told us this 15 times while we were there. He still tells his stories, but he tells them to you three times in 15 minutes. He's shrunk a lot since the last time I saw him, and he's almost all gray now. It was so hard for me to see him like this. Out of all the people in my life, I feel like he was the only one to love me without any strings. There was never any "Well, we're disappointed in you, but we still love you.". It was always just "We love you". When I was little, sitting in his lap in his big recliner in his office was about the safest place in the world. Nothing could touch me there. Rather than play or watch TV or play dress up, I'd rather be sitting in my grandaddy's lap, just being quiet, or listening to him tell stories. He's got a thousand stories. He was a member of the 103rd Cactus Division during World War II. Got an all-expense paid walking tour of Europe from October 1944 to September 1945. He's traveled to every country on this planet that has oil. He speaks five languages. He was an engineer. And he and his children not only believe in God and the Bible, they live it. They are better people than I could ever hope to be. And I'm so lucky that they love me.
My Grandaddy Grandaddy
Me & Grandaddy. The Kin. Yes, the man with the long beard is related to me. He's so totally cool. Me & Uncle Dan Me & Grandaddy Family Photo Me & Dan
The Horsey. He's been around forever! The old phones. There's one upstairs too. Grandmother used to call my uncles and aunt rather than yell up the stairs. They all had their own rings. My grandmother as a young woman. Horsey Old Phone Grandmother
An old computer. I used to play on this when I was a kid. The plates we used to eat from as kids. These are over 25 years old! My grandaddy and grandmother. Computer Plates Grandaddy & Grandmother


Vuelva del El Paso

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It was difficult for Nick to leave his dad. Pop is one of those old-school tough guys. He's 85 years old, lives alone, is 99% deaf, and all his family has left El Paso. And, despite offers from all the family to move closer to them, he refuses. He's self-sufficient. El Paso is his home. It's what he knows. It's all he's known for nearly 70 years. He was a man that worked with his hands. Hard work. And he's not going to let anyone move him from his home, either to an assisted-living facility or nearer to his family. His house, his haven, his security. We took Pop for breakfast before we headed out. I was tired of Mexican food by now, and after chips and queso and beers during the Super Bowl, I opted for fresh fruit, granola and low-fat milk for breakfast. Nick and Pop just looked at my breakfast plate and laughed at me.
My guys. The mountains leaving the neighborhood. El Paso's largest and finest video store for adults. Nick & Pop View of the Franklins from the 'Hood Just what every girl wants for Valentines
Headed back home, we enjoyed the scenery of the desert mountain region of Texas. Nick said "It's just dirt!". I on the other hand thought it was beautiful. The massive boulders and hills that were so tempting to climb. I even saw my first roadrunner! Meep! Meep!
Rocky Terrain. Roadrunner. Pink cactus. Boulders Tempting to Climb Roadrunner Pink Cactus
About an hour after we left El Paso, we got pulled into a Border Patrol inspection station. The highway was blocked off, and all vehicles had to exit. I took a few pictures. Nick and I both decided it wouldn't be a good idea for me to hop out and try to get a picture with the Border guard. One of the vehicles ahead of us got pulled to the side for inspection. When it was our turn, they asked "US citizens?". "Yes sir." was our reply. Then he waved us on.
Inpection Station ahead. Selected for inspection. Border Patrol. Inspection Station Pulled aside for inspection Border Patrol
Our final view of the mountains. Final view of the mountains
Nick did most of the driving on the way back. I only drove for a couple of hours. So, I got in a lot of Sudoku, a bit of knitting and a good nap. We ate on the road from our picnic basket, only stopping for the potty and gas. We also made a stop at one of the many cotton farms along the highway. The cotton had been picked, and many of the farms had re-plowed their fields already. We saw lots of bales of cotton waiting to be picked up and taken to the rail stations. I've seen raw cotton before, but never on the plant. So, we stopped when we saw a bit still on the plant. It was right by the side of the highway access road. I didn't figure the farmer would mind since it'd already been harvested and this was just extra stuck to the plants. I jumped out and picked a bit. It was very soft. There were hard lumps in the cotton, which are the seeds. And it was a beige-ish color. I don't know why I thought this was so cool, but it made me happy! The other big thing we saw along the way besides cotton farms and oil fields were wind farms. All around the Midland/Odessa area, there are windfarms on a long, high mesa. Giant windmills, absorbing the energy of the wind.
Cotton Farm Shack Picked cotton Wind Farm
We made it back home just three minutes over ten hours total drive. We would have made it in under 10 hours had my gas light not come on and had Nick not needed to potty. Overall, I enjoyed the trip. El Paso is a city with a lot of history. And, the desert was beautiful in it's own way. But I don't know about it's future. The military base is the only thing there. If the base were to close, there wouldn't be a lot else to keep people there. The official US Census in 2000 had El Paso at a population of 563,662. But there were a lot more people there than that, I can assure you. There is very little zoning in El Paso, so there were residences next to businesses all over the place. And there were some businesses (exotic-type clubs) in strip malls next to doctors offices in neighborhoods. El Paso seemed more like the US suburb of Mexico than it did an American city. I was greeted in Spanish everywhere I went. I felt like more like the alien that didn't belong there. I was stared at as an outsider in my own country. And I have mixed feelings about that. I had a previous post about the bilingualization of my own city in far North Texas, away from the border. Directly on the border, at least 1 in 4 cars that I saw had Mexican license plates. Nick has related a story to me of buses that drive up to the border-crossing walking bridge and pick up children from the Mexican side of the border that we then educate in our US taxpayer funded schools. At dinner Saturday night, we didn't get good service at the restaurant. At one point I wondered if the reason was because I was Anglo. I'm still thinking about how I feel about this. On one side I love to explore other cultures. I want to know their history. And the US is a place where people can come to make new lives. But when they come here just for the money, don't keep up their homes, bring crime to our country, and don't put forth any effort to learn the language, or become active in the community or the society, then I have an issue.

Happy Valentines Day

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

WARNING: Mush alert! There is a strong possibility this post could be very mushy. If you have a weak stomach or are otherwise inclined to gag at yucky love-type stuff, look away now! Ahem. Can I have everyone's attention, please? Yes, everyone, look over here! This way! Yes, yes, come closer. Thank you. Now that I have your attention, I would like to make an announcement. Now, I know some of you are married to your own wonderful man, or have a significant man in your life that you think is just da bomb. But, I'm going to have to disappoint you all. I truly, truly have the most fantastic husband in the world. Now, before you all get your knickers in a twist and start debating over who has the best guy and why, please refer back to my post on Romance 101 and be sure to note the penultimate paragraph. Nick and I have the kids tonight because of the visitation schedule with their dad. So, we decided that we wouldn't try to do anything special tonight. We're rebels and all, so our Valentine's will be celebrated tomorrow when Elle and Zed spend the night with their dad. As such, I wasn't expecting anything today other than a kiss and a 'Happy Valentines Honey'. Which I got. And then I sat down to check my email. I pulled my laptop from the carrying case, sat down in the recliner, and when I opened it, I found this:
My Valentine
Yes. A handmade Valentine. Everyone all together now...awwwww!. See, so without explaining, you all can see exactly why he's the most fantastic husband ever! Yes, this guy here! The handsome one! The one that makes me laugh and smile and sigh and feel all bubbly and silly and gushy and mushy on the inside. The one that makes me feel safe when he wraps his arms around me. The one on which I can depend. The one that I can trust. The one that will clean bathrooms when my family is coming to visit. The one that lifts me up when I am down. The one that makes me breakfast in bed. My constant friend and faithful partner. My Nick. I love you baby. Happy Valentines Day. {kiss}
Nick


Superbowl Sunday in El Paso

Monday, February 13, 2006

The original plan was to go get breakfast, then drop Pop back at the house. Then Nick and I would go play up in the Franklins before the Big Game. Another breakfast at Franky's. This time, carnitas. Eggs scrambled with shredded beef. Good, but not as flavorful as the chorizo. Ah, but plans were meant to be changed, right? It seems Nick's dad couldn't bear to be separated from us. He doesn't get much company. So, I was very understanding even though I was itching to be scrambling over some rocks up a hill. We drove around some more with Pop. Then went home to make a shopping list.
El Paso is in the desert. That's real tumbleweed. These brilliant homeowners, rather than employ xeriscape gardening techniques like the majority of El Pasoans, used green outdoor carpeting for that year-round lawn. Tumbleweed Evergreen Lawn
Nick and I headed back towards downtown. He was in search of one of his favorite Mexican restaurants. And, I still had to get closer to the border. Believe it or not, the bridge that dumps people from Juarez, Mexico into El Paso, Texas, United States is right in the middle of El Paso's downtown. On both sides of the bridge there are parking lots. Both cars and people can cross over the bridge. Cars are, of course, stopped, identities verified, and if suspicion is aroused, promptly searched. People not so much. I mean yeah, if you're wearing 10 pounds of clothing trying to cover up a drug belt, the you're probably going to be pulled to the side. Or, if you're acting overtly suspicious, then you could be stopped. But, if you're just strolling along with not a care in the world, you could manage to get weapons of mass destruction anything of carrying size into the United States. I won't list all the things I can think of. But use your imagination.
That's Mexico over there. Just park and walk. Oh, and that guy that's wanted...a Mexican drug lord. If you see him, call the government. Mexico Park & Walk Adios Walking
Not daring to exit the car for a trip over the bridge just to say that I'd been to Mexico, Nick and I resumed our search through El Paso's, er, bustling downtown pseudo mercado for the Mexican restaurant. Once we found it, turned out it was closed on Sunday. Damn. No tamales for the game. Back home we went with a stop at a Barnes & Noble for a book Nick had been looking for. It wasn't in yet. Bummer. We made a stop for some Superbowl Snacks, then headed back to the house just in time for the Game. I was rooting for the Steelers. And I'm glad they won. But I think they had it handed to them. That's all. Oh, and the Whopperettes? What kind of sick joke was that? I was stumped at the dancing, singing lettuce, tomato and onion, but then at the end of the commercial when they all got thrown on the bun? Just weird. And I loved the MacGyver Mastercard commercial. That was brilliant. I give nods to Ameriquest and Sprint for some clever ads as well. But overall I thought most of the commercials were lame. The funniest thing though? A local spot for El Paso's ABC affiliate. Check out the link that says SuperBowl Gary & Estela. HA HA HA!

We'll be drivin' round El Paso all day long...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Saturday started with more coffee and Dunkin' Donuts. These guys are crazy about their donuts I tell you. The El Paso Times was a quick read. I guess not a lot goes on in El Paso. OK, maybe I'm joking a little bit. But not really. Nick worked at several radio stations in El Paso, and even hosted a morning show there. I've seen the tapes. As we were driving in on Friday, we were listening to the radio, and the show was, well, not so good. El Paso radio...where DJs go to die. It's all gone downhill since Nick left. :P Let's see...it was Mexican for breakfast again on Saturday. This time it was Franky's. First, the lady that took our drink order greeted us in Spanish. My rusty high school/college Spanish got me well, nowhere. Coffee and water? Then, never before have I been served chips and salsa with my breakfast. I decided to get daring and ordered the juevos con chorizo. It was actually very good. But I've also never had refried beans served with my breakfast. I also found that it was very difficult to get a refill on my water...until I finally asked for it in Spanish. What am I? In France?
Nick and Pop at Franky's. My breakfast and Nick's breakfast. Franky's Juevos con Chorizo Juevos Rancheros
After breakfast, we went on a drive around El Paso. The biggest thing in El Paso, besides Wal Mart, is Fort Bliss. The city is built around the Army base. Nick's mom is buried in the military cemetery there. As the wife of a Navy man, she was able to be buried there. I've never been in a military cemetery before. It was definitely an experience. Seeing all the headstones with the various wars and service engraved on them. The precision with which the stone are laid out is also impressive.
Fort Bliss Military Cemetery. Headstones & Mountains Cemetery & Mountains Military Precision
Then we took the Scenic Drive up into the Franklin Mountains. Before the Transmountain Road was there, this was the first road that went up the mountain to cross to West El Paso.
Pictures of the mountains. Pictures from the Scenic Overlook Franklin Mountains Radio & TV Towers Border Bridge
More Photos of El Paso Nick & Pop wave Map of El Paso & Juarez Big Houses on the Mountain
We took Pop back home. A couple of hours driving around really took it out of me the old man. We all took a nap. Then Nick and I went out and drove around some more. I got some cool new boots at the Tony Lama factory outlet. I wore them out to dinner Saturday night. Pop took us to the Great American Cattle Company. It was a decent steak. I never did get the cold glass for my beer. Back at home, we traded boots for jammies and Pop and I played some poker and some cribbage. The old man had skillz! He gave me a good run for my buttons (come on! what's more fun than playing poker with buttons!). Then Nick and I took a look at the vinyl records (remember those?) hidden away in the old-fashioned record player. Pop told us to go through them to see if we wanted any. We found a few good ones. Can you believe that Terry Bradshaw actually did a gospel album??? No friggen' way! That was the find of the night.
Me & Pop at dinner. I never knew Terry Bradshaw sang! Evidently he's done six albums! Me & Pop Terry Bradshaw Terry Bradshaw2
Day 2 complete. Day 3...ya can't wait can ya!