One Small Step

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing: “One small step for man—one giant step for mankind.” I went into my father’s box of old newspapers to see what moon-landing treasures he had saved.

We have the liftoff, which is being recreated by the Air and Space Museum with a projection on the Washington Monument of the rocket which carried the astronauts to the moon. This is a very cool use of technology.

     

Next is the photo of Buzz Aldrin, taken by Neil Armstrong, as he climbed down the steps of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon.

 

And the most famous—Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon as the reflection of the American flag and Armstrong are seen in his helmet.

I recall staying up late to watch the landing. Thank goodness is was summer vacation so we did not have to get into a battle with my parents about staying up past our bedtime. That first lunar walk was scheduled to occur at 2:00 am, but they pushed it forward three hours earlier to just before 11:00 pm. Thank goodness for that.

When they returned to earth, the astronauts were quarantined for nearly a month to protect them from any “moon germs” they may have been exposed to during that historic event. Even the astronaut who remained aboard the spacecraft remained in isolation with his luckier moonwalkers.

The ship went through a fiery reentry. Check it out.

What I had forgotten about but learned while viewing those old newspapers was that the astronauts shared their big day with the Ted Kennedy scandal. The day before the moon landing, the senator from Massachusetts was involved in an accident, which left a young woman who was a passenger in his car dead and left his political career in jeopardy because he left the scene of the accident. That news put a slight damper on the excitement of the day, but not so much because I bet most of you youngins know little, if anything, about the scandal. History remembers the joy more than the Teddy event, although at the time, it was a huge distraction.

Americans needs something to get excited about again.

 

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Buc-ee’s or Bust

Our recent trip to Texas did not change my mind about the Lone Star State. I still have no interest in moving there (apologies to the few family members residing there), but I know now that it’s not all that bad. Once we got beyond the city limits of Houston, I discovered that there is beauty outside the concrete city limits.

Traveling westward on Interstate 10 are miles and miles of nothing,  until we reached rest stop heaven—otherwise known as Buc-ee’s.

Buc-ee’s is a rest stop with probably 100 gas pumps and “the cleanest restrooms in America.” While I am not disputing the sparkle in the loos, unfortunately, on my 10-point ranking of public bathrooms, Buc-ee’s scored a “9” because if failed to provide a changing table for the diaper-wearing crowd.

Every other item on my checklist received five stars:  Clean, neat, purse hangers, filled soap dispenser, plenty of paper towels, doors that opened out so one did not need to touch a dirty door handle upon exiting (I believed there was a hallway thereby eliminating the need for a door), good locks, plenty of room (although no room for shopping bags like at the Charleston outlets), and tight doors so no one can “peak while you leak.” Although there were no changing tables (a huge no-no for families with young children), there was museum-like artwork adorning the walls of the restroom.

Did I mention the snacks? If your stomach begins growling at you are approaching Buck-ee’s, just know that your appetite can be satiated by an assortment of goodies such as a candy selection which will make your mouth water, sandwiches, pickled quail eggs (I kid you not), cheese, dried fruit,

trail mix, candied jalapeños, an aisle of assorted popcorn, and jerky the likes of which mankind outside the state of Texas has never seen before.

 

Knowing that I had never experienced this extraordinary delicacy, Dad insisted we try some. When Dad asked the man behind the jerky deli counter for a recommendation for a jerky newbie, without skipping a beat, the jerky dispensing worker quickly ripped off a piece and handed it to me.

While I could see the appeal for some, it did nothing for me. Dad, on the other hand, purchased two different varieties—turkey jerky and teriyaki beef jerky. He spent the next hundred miles happily chomping away on his jerky.

So the next time you find yourself in the state of Texas, do not leave without experiencing the wonders of Buc-ee’s. Trust me. You will not be disappointed. And if the Christmas season is on the horizon, I suggest that you consider doing your holiday shopping at Buc-ee’s.

Back to my Roots

After Galway we hopped onto a bus and headed toward Castlebar, which was the home of one of my 3x great grandmothers (A fun fact is that we have 16 sets of great-great-great grandparents). I must say, for anyone considering travel to Ireland, we were quite satisfied with Ireland’s buses. They were clean, on time, and all that we used were equipped with Wi-Fi.

During our stay in Castlebar, we were lucky to have a friend from our trip to London five years ago drive us around, and our hotel was located close enough to the town that my two-year-old hip was able to walk to dinner and the library with little effort.

While at the library, I was introduced to a woman who allowed me to view the contents of a large box containing inventor Louis Brennan’s stuff: photographs, letters, a ruler (I learned at that moment that Ireland did not go metric until 1965), his will, and a small notebook with Louis’ notes on his inventions. Dad was able to show the librarian and me how those drawings became the prototype of his gyroscope. I had a grand old time photographing the contents of that box to later add to my family tree.

We walked past Louis’ childhood home, which leaves no doubt that Castlebar’s famous inventor had once resided there.

After a lovely Chinese dinner (You probably know we are not traditionalists when dining out), we headed to the cemetery, where we noted that the Brennan grave site truly was the biggest monument in the Old Castlebar Cemetery. Sadly, so many of those buried there were children.

Louis’ wife’s family’s final resting place was sadly overgrown with tall grass and weeds. Dad was happy for the fence, because he feared I would be attacked by a critter or two if I ventured inside. There were stairs leading down to the vault at the side of our grave. Our guide told us that children used to go down there and play. (Creepy!)

The following day after a lovely breakfast at McDonald’s (I am not kidding. It was quite impressive, but more on that another time), we met our friends at the Peace Park and then were taken on a lovely tour of the Mayo Heritage Centre before heading into town for the presentation of the Bible.

More on Castlebar another time.

The Teeth-Brushing Challenge

Thanks to a blog I have been reading for the past few years—The 80-Something Blog—I was directed to the 30-Day Well Challenge in the NY Times. If the 80-plus author of the blog, Judy Kugel, was up to the task, how could I not accept the challenge? I would hang my head in shame if I can’t compete with her.

Each day I am emailed a video with four 30-second exercises to perform, separated by 15 seconds of rest. At the conclusion of the fourth exercise, the routine is repeated. It is not too difficult, although I am discovering which parts of my body clearly cannot do what I could have done during my youth.

I have only found one particular exercise to be difficult, and this is one which I have been instructed to repeat at least twice a day for the duration of the month. I am challenging all of you to attempt to do this and report back to me.

While brushing your teeth, you must close your eyes and stand on one foot. The next time you brush your teeth, switch to the other foot. This is to increase one’s balance, and since my mother has a poor track record of falling as you all know, I want to do whatever I can to prevent this from happening to me someday.

I admit that on the first day, I found it almost impossible to do, and even now on Day 3, I cannot do this with my eyes closed. However, each time I see improvements, although spitting is not something I can do on one foot and am not even certain that it is a good idea. (I see the potential for a mess.) Dad just rolls his eye but won’t participate.

So the next time you all brush your teeth, close your eyes, stand on one foot, and clean those pearly whites. Then let me know how it goes.

Nobody Noticed?

I assume that a lot of people have taken a break from Facebook and texting and emailing and making phone calls for a while. That is the only explanation I can surmise after the silence we experienced today.

Looking back on my Facebook posts in September, I admit that I have only myself to blame. Prior to Hurricane Florence hitting our state last month, I posted a series of photos, beginning with “the calm before the storm,” and ending with a photo after she had left town.

Today, I was awoken at 4 am by the wind of a much more powerful storm—Hurricane Michael. I slept through the tornado warnings so I did not have to stress about where to hide.

By no means did we experience the path of destruction which Florida and Georgia saw when Michael invaded our southern neighbors. However, I thought I would get inquiries from more than just two friends.  Just two!!! FYI, we experienced more rain and wind today than during Florence. We will have some cleanup to do.

I saw the weather maps on the national news, and it was quite clear that the path of the storm went right through Columbia, SC. But I was too busy moving my furniture indoors and watching the water being driven up the hill to think about posting on Facebook.

I assumed someone would ask about our welfare.

Now I know the names of the two people to add to my will.

I Marched For All Our Lives

This past weekend I was a participant in the March for Our Lives demonstration in Palm Springs, California, which was my third march—the first being the Women’s March and the second the Science March. Both were in the city where I now live—Columbia, South Carolina; this last in the city I visited as a tourist.

Each time I was not disappointed in what I witnessed. No longer would we sit quietly, particularly when the lives of our children are at stake.

I awoke early that morning and made my poster. After all, what is a protest without a sign? I researched Facebook, Twitter, and various Internet images and decided on “Today I March, Tomorrow I Vote.” After a hearty breakfast of a scrumptious cheese omelet and toast, I donned my Mom’s Demand Action tee shirt and headed off to a local high school stadium, where the March was scheduled to commence.

Not knowing what to expect, I arrived early and settled into my seat in the bleachers midfield with my friend who I have known since kindergarten. The stands were soon filled and I was surprised at the number of marches who looked more like grandparents than parents— some even in wheel chairs. It was quite inspiring to see the support that the high school students were receiving from the elders of the community.

Each life lost was recognized. Their photos were held high for all to see, and a few students shared a few short descriptions to personalize each murdered Parkland student or teacher. It was quite sobering. The sounds of sniffles could be heard emanating from every corner of the stadium.

Then we matched , and as we headed toward the Palm Springs City Hall, the air was filled with the shouts of, “This is what democracy looks like.”

On the news that day and the next, I saw hundreds of thousands of marchers in cities throughout the country as well as in numerous cities around the globe.

I hope this is finally the beginning of changes in our government pushing us toward a more safe country. I hope that someday, I can open the history books and read the story about this movement to my grandchildren and tell them that grandma marched for all of our lives one sunny day in Palm Springs, California.

The Worries of a Child

Do you recall what worried you when you were five?  I recently engaged in a conversation with newly-turned-five Bryce while we were in the car, and he shared his fears with me. They were both cute and sad. I hated that his thoughts are not just about his day at school, his recent trip to the golf course with his dad, or perhaps a new show he discovered on television.

“Grandma, I’m worried that a big building or a tree might fall on my house,” he told me as we were on our way out to lunch. Where and why did this feeling originate? Was it a conversation with a friend or an episode from one of his favorite shows—PJ Mask? I tried to assure him that those particular fears were unfounded.

I know that he was afraid when we watched the Polar Express two years ago, so I know he is not ready for the Wizard of Oz. Thank goodness he is not aware of what is happening on the news these days, or he may be fearful of going to school. Isn’t that an awful thought?

At what age are children aware of the dangers of going to school? I would like the kindergarten teacher in our family to weigh in on this topic. When you have lock-down drills, what do your students know and have they ever expressed any fear?

I long for the days when the only fear related to school was the scary punishment of a teacher.