Laughing with Evelyn – A New Year's Eve Story

Four days in Oregon with our daughter and her boyfriend were filled with fun, delicious food, holiday cheer, late-night board games, movies, hugs, and plenty of rain. We had to say goodbye to the two of them, but not to the rain. We returned home to a rainy Phoenix. The rare rainy day in the desert is becoming the norm this season. We welcome it, and so do my flowers. Rain or not, we look forward to saying so long to 2019 and saying hello to 2020.

In four nights, we will be ushering in 2020, dressed in 1920s style clothes at a ’20s-themed party. As I was preparing our ’20s attire for the evening, my mind wondered to thoughts of my maternal grandmother, Evelyn (Rippy) Parker. My grandmother was born in 1920 in Arkansas, nearly 100 years ago. She departed this world during her 87th year and while I miss her, I am so grateful to have many fond memories of laughing with her. Evelyn loved to tell jokes, or at least the beginning of jokes. She usually forgot the punch line, but her lapse did not hamper our laughter. She also shared stories of growing up on a farm in Arkansas, and although some of those stories took place during the depression, her stories highlighted humorous moments of her life as a farm girl. Raised as a farm girl, her true essence craved the pace of city life. She loved fashion, she loved to dance and flirt, and she loved being in the center of activity. She also loved to gamble. Perhaps I will share some of her funny farm stories on June 20, 2020 – the day before her 100th birthday. For now, I am going to share a cherished Evelyn story that took place on New Year’s Eve. The year was 1996 and I was living in Henderson, Nevada, with my husband and young daughter.

Our home was only twenty minutes from the Las Vegas strip. The distance between our community and the strip gave us just enough distance to carry on lives that weren’t focused on the lure of quick cash, but if we stood at the top of the hill in our backyard in the evening, we could see the glow of “sin city.” That glow attracted my grandmother and her gambling sidekick, my mother-in-law, Judi. The twinkling neon compelled Judi and Evelyn to leave the Sonoran Desert and travel five hours in Judi’s maroon Buick to the Mojave Desert. Sure, they came to see us, their family of three living in Nevada, but they may have been a little less motivated to make the drive if our destination did not include a night out in the Gambling Capital of the World.

Two days before the new year, our adventurous matriarchs arrived with wrapped presents and wallets that they were ready to hand over to the casinos. We visited, ate dinner, and opened gifts, then the two Arizona grandmas were ready to buckle up in the Buick and visit the street of neon lights. Those flashing lights transformed the two elders into energetic twenty-one-year-olds. On any given day, neither of those ladies were up for the task of taking long walks. My grandmother had knee and foot issues and my mother-in-law had severe scoliosis that impeded her mobility, but there was something about those lights that suspended their disabilities and their pain long enough for them to stroll across carpeted casino floors and between brightly lit casino walkways; a youthful elixir it seemed. They were the young ones ready to seek and explore. We were the old married couple. They ventured toward the strip and we put our toddler, and ourselves, to bed.    

The next morning, I was relieved to see the Buick parked in the driveway as I set out to prepare for the New Year’s Eve cheer that was to take place later that afternoon. My grandmother found me in the kitchen making breakfast. We talked about their grand adventure from the night before. We talked about the casinos they had visited and the sights on the strip. Knowing my grandmother’s interest in the male gender, I teased her about finding slot machines next to attractive men. She didn’t respond, but I did see a sparkle in her eye and a smile that revealed more than spoken words. As my grandma talked about her evening, she talked about how she hadn’t won anything, and rather than wallow in regret or self-pity, my grandmother began to laugh, and soon we were both laughing – hysterically. In between the uncontrollable laughter she said she was one of those old people who would need to eat beans for the rest of the month because she had gambled away her SS check in the first week. She elaborated her fable, describing what the rest of her month would look like because of losing too much money the night before. Each scenario of fabricated misery became more enhanced as she continued to embellish her desperate situation. As her month of misery grew more desperate our laughter escalated and echoed through the house, signaling others to find out what was so funny. Soon we were all laughing at the thought of my never-missed-a-meal grandmother living on only beans for the rest of the month.  

Evelyn, neighbor Vinny, and Judi

We poured champagne and toasted the New Year’s with our gregarious Italian neighbors, while our daughter and their two children ate smores and lit sparklers. Kept warm by our fire-pit, we laughed into the morning hours. When it was time to say “So long for now” to the Arizona-bound broke grandmas, my husband and I stood on the carport waving goodbye. Any sadness we felt about saying goodbye was quickly replaced with joy when we burst out laughing at the image of the two little ol’ ladies driving away. Where did they go? Neither of their heads were visible from behind the car. They both had disappeared into the seat and it appeared that the car was driving itself.   

I smile when I think of the two of them meeting again in heaven. They are certainly laughing and causing some playful mischief. I wish I could watch the short-haired pair disappear into the horizon just one more time. For now, I have my memories and those memories still make me laugh. I am also reminded that we are never too old to seek and explore and, most importantly, we are never too old to laugh at ourselves.

Happy New Year’s to you! I hope your evening is full of laughter and that the memories you make on New Year’s Eve will keep you laughing for years to come. Michele

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Ten Gifts I Gladly Give to You

If you are celebrating the season,

your days have been packed with efforts of pleasing.

In less than 100 hours,

your hustle and consideration will be shared.

Gifts will be exchanged,

and you can finally collapse on a chair.

Before you head out to tackle last-minute holiday tasks,

I have but one favor to ask …

Grab something warm to nurture your bones,

then scroll through ten of my inspired photos.

Ten photos from 2019, along with twenty lines –

gifts I gladly give to you during this holiday time.

Please know how much you matter.

You are more cherished than anything hidden under shiny wrapper.

Paddle Fest on Lake Pleasant comes only once a year.

This shot is lovely, but the view from a board is better than the pier.

Granville Island in Vancouver was a quick ferry ride away.

Shops, art galleries, a park, a brewery, and a market that made us want to stay.

The drive from Eugene took some time, but the Cape Perpetua Overlook in Oregon was sublime.

After spending time with sea lions on the coast, we were famished and stopped to eat.

Watching the sunset beyond the Florence Siuslaw River Bridge made our day complete.

This majestic cactus at Desert Botanical Garden appears worn and spikey.

But every angle reveals a plant that is interesting and thriving.

A tiny winged creature busy pollinating; she was not concerned about me.

Thank goodness, because I have an allergy.

The Granite Dells that surround Lake Watson emanate a sacred presence.

Those who visit are often transformed by their mystical influence.

A replenishing walk along the water’s edge at Dead Horse Lake.

A flock of birds in the sky and Jerome, a town on the hill, too far for my lens to take.

Our view from a cabin at Lake Havasu State Park.

Gentle waves, the setting sun, and the moon, in the shape of an arc.

A challenging 8.2 mile hike in the Tortolita Mountains in Marana took longer than expected.

Nothing happened and we didn’t get lost. We just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful landscape that made us feel refreshed and uplifted.

Thank you for stopping by and glancing through ten holiday gifts I gladly give to you. I hope that your weekend isn’t too stressful and that you have some time to relax and enjoy the season with your loves.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimal viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

'Tis the Season for Tongue in Cheek

A holiday inspired poem is what I set out to write and sarcastic wit is what transpired. The final product, as you will see, is designed in the shape of a tree. Christmas Spirit highlighted down the left side – a feeling I hope this post helps to provide.

This photo was taken in Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee, a mining community, is located in the Mule Mountains of southeast Arizona. I call Bisbee a Christmas card town, because when approaching the town, and gazing down the mountain, the setting looks like a picturesque holiday card. If you’ve never been, it is worth the drive. The city is also becoming a vibrant art and food destination. Additional photo of Bisbee below.

Childlike  

hope and wonder  

return to us when we see

incandescent lights sparkle in the street.

Saint Nicholas in every store, where we pay to sit on his knee.

Tinsel sparkles in our eyes as we drink eggnog spiked with rum.   

Merriment at work, tacky gifts exchanged, strangers become chums.

Anticipation for that perfect gift, if not there is always a substitution.

Scrumptious sweets that plump our cheeks and usher in resolutions.

Strolling in the daylight, reveals a ten-foot reindeer flattened to a dime.

Posing in an ugly sweater that was once discarded, now ordered online.

In a quiet moment we

reflect on the season.

It’s not about Prime.

Tis about the Divine.

The Tumbleweed Christmas Tree in Chandler, Arizona (yes, it’s made out of tumbleweeds). The 30-foot tree has been a Chandler tradition since 1957. I visited the tree as a youngster and it looked like a 30-story building then.

My favorite cake to make during December is the Chocolate ‘Tato Cake. The recipe calls for potato flakes and sour cream. Sounds weird, but it is a delicious combination when mixed with chocolate. I wish I could share a piece with each of you. It is simple, sweet, and oh, so smooth. Email me at mlsefton@gmail.com if you’d like the recipe.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing some holiday humor with me. I hope your December is off to a healthy and happy start. If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

This photo was taken at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, during the Las Noches De Las Luminarias event. The garden features talented musicians, 8,000 luminaria bags, glowing creatures (Wild Rising), and countless holiday lights during this festive event. Our visit included nonstop rain, but that just made the desert plants smell sweeter! Festive DBG video below. Apologies in advance for whatever video thumbnails show up after mine. My freebie Vimeo account does not let me control that. 😉

Downtown Bisbee in the evening hours. It does get cold, so bring a jacket! Excuse my cell phone photo. 🙂
My clip of Mariachi Pasion performing at the Desert Botanical Garden is too short. Need more music from these amazing ladies? More videos can be found on their site. http://www.mariachipasion.com/
Enjoy!

© 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Discovering the Great in the Outdoors

Our favorite recreational activity is spending time in the great outdoors.

Finally reaching a sweet spot, we are now primed to head out and explore.

My lover of parks and I perfecting what we pack in the car, before traveling north, south, east, or west.

Discovering barely worn trails, both near and far, is always our favored quest, and visiting an Arizona State Parks site makes us feel doubly blessed.

Our recent visits to several Arizona State Parks have been invigorating, liberating, and breathtaking, but …

I have not always experienced the great in the outdoors.

I did not enjoy camping and fishing as a kid. Especially when my dad woke us up hours before the sun to “beat the traffic.” This idea strikes me as hilarious, since the traffic that happened during my youth, was nothing compared to the never ceasing traffic we now see on our congested streets and freeways. But, for the man who loved to fish, who was still the boy from Iowa, the lake was best experienced in the calm quiet of the still morning; a stolen hour or two before other boaters caught up with him. I would rather have continued enjoying the quiet of my warm bed, but as a child my opinions were often overruled. So, frazzled and grumpy, I dragged myself into whatever truck we had at the time. Sometimes I would climb into the cabin of the truck and other times I would climb into the camper. If in the camper, my brother and I would play cards, or board games, while traveling to our lake destination, and with one unexpected bump on the highway, our cards or game pieces were scattered in the air while we were tossed around, like two exploding kernels in a hot kettle.

Other times we did not have the luxury of a cab or camper. We were just two dusty smelly crispy lake kids bouncing around in the back of our truck. I was always trying to hide from the scorching sun, usually under a blanket or anything else I could crawl under and hang onto. My brother didn’t seem to mind the heat as much as I did, but his little leathered nose paid the price for overexposure. During the days before sunblock was an outdoor staple, it seems my brother had a peeling nose that is forever captured in just about every family and elementary school picture.  

Lake Havasu State Park, near Sunset Trail

The tortuous sun is what I most despised about our camping trips. I would hide away in any shady spot I could find on our bass boat, usually under the steering wheel when my parents were fishing. Waiting desperately for any respite of shade, my young grumpy self, turned into I am bored out of my mind self. Along with hiding from the relentless rays, we were discouraged from talking while on the boat. OK, we weren’t allowed to talk – we might scare the fish away. Maybe it was a plausible scenario, that two youngsters quietly talking could chase off fish swimming depths beneath our boat and ruin our chance at a fresh fish dinner. As an adult, I now believe that my dad just wanted quiet. I suppose I understand.    

Lake Havasu State Park, near cabins

The baking sun and a boring bass boat are the two things that made me want to hide under the covers when our parents began calling us out of bed, but there were happy moments to be had on the way to and at the lake. Most of those happy moments show up as memory highlights from our family outings, versus a my favorite camping story, with a defined beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes just the four of us went to the lake, and other times we joined up with my parents’ friends, or larger groups of people during fishing tournaments.

Saguaro Lake, Maricopa County, AZ (Four Peaks, part of the Mazatzal Mountains, featured in background)

If I could splice all the happy memories together, I would end up with a camping trip that begins something like this:  With our windows down we traveled down Bush Highway that led to one of the many lakes northeast of the valley. Going up and down the curvy stretch felt more like a rollercoaster than a road. We listened to songs like, “Bye-Bye Miss American Pie” and singers like, Willie Nelson on an 8-track cassette, that my dad turned down occasionally so that he could talk on his CB Radio. Sometimes he would even let us click and speak. We said silly things like, 10-4 good buddy to truckers passing by. As we passed the green spikey sentinels standing guard several steps off the road and up the hill, my mom and I would talk about what life might have been like for the Native Americans and early settlers who lived and traversed through the region, before dams were built and lakes were created. Driving and talking until a turn in the road revealed the lake below – the crystal blue water that reflected the sky and called my parents time and time again. We found our campsite, a cove, and began the setting up camp process. My brother and I would stand idly by or entertain ourselves while my parents partnered to back the boat into the lake. One of them in the truck and the other in the boat, working together to set the boat free. With that task completed, we would find the perfect camp spot and begin unpacking necessities for the weekend:  a stove, a lantern, a tent, sleeping bags, coolers, chairs, and fishing gear. Once organized our weekend adventures began.

I remember hearing the morning melody of mourning doves and other desert birds, before unzipping my tent, and the calm lake that looked like blue glass, before jets stirred the water. I remember campfires and the stars at night; both seemed more grandiose than they do now. Although still beautiful, as an adult, fires seem smaller and the stars seem fewer.

I remember learning:  Learning to put a hook through a squirmy worm, learning to cast and reel, learning to watch for signs that fish might be biting, learning to wait quietly, learning to filet a fish with a knife I never would have been allowed to use at home, learning to read a depth-finder, learning to swim, learning to slalom ski and realizing this sport made the torturous heat and the endless waiting worthwhile, and learning to watch vigilantly when others were skiing, ready to pop up the red flag when a skier went down.

Lake Havasu, near London Bridge

I remember watching my parents cook breakfast on the camping stove. The fresh open air amplified the sound of the simmering coffee, the sizzling sausage, and the bubbling eggs. An aroma carried along by the morning breezes that would rouse the last of the sleepy campers. I remember devouring what my dad called, Poor Man’s Lobster (bite size bass boiled in water and beer, dipped in melted butter). Delicious. I remember trying Coors in a gold can for the first and last time. Disgusting.     

Although I cannot recall a favorite camping trip story, there were some standout hilarious moments that did not seem so at the time. Laughter is sometimes a delayed dish, needing time and perspective to simmer.    

Funny camping moment #1: We were camping in a cove and my parents were fishing nearby in the boat, while my brother and I were back at the campsite. I ventured off alone to use the restroom (i.e. a large tree I could hide behind). While there, minding my own, I mean, taking care of my business, I was surrounded by about half a dozen grazing cattle, who were chomping their way toward me and staring at this strange little creature crouched by a tree. Being a bit compromised, I could not move, but I could scream. That scream echoed through the canyon and was more of a distress signal than any red flare I could have fired. When my parents found me, they were out of breath from sprinting to my rescue, but they did manage to laugh after they realized the reason behind the scream.

Funny camping moment #2:  Once again, my parents were fishing in the nearby cove while my brother and I were back at the campsite. The sun had set, and we were in the camper. I was probably reading a book and my brother was probably building something or taking something apart. At least we were doing those things until noises outside the camper startled us. We jumped onto the raised mattress and terrified, we began to quietly conjecture about what might be making the skin-crawling scratching noises outside of the camper. Frozen, we looked at each other with frightened eyes, imagining what creature of the night was going to bust through the door and drag us off never to be seen again. This scene lasted a lifetime, until our parents made it back to the camper. Huddled in the top of camper, we explained that something was outside, scratching its way in. The “something” was a tree branch resting on the camper, that was moving back and forth in the wind.    

I have other funny camping moments and not so funny camping moments, but I will save those for another time.   

Did I say I hated camping and fishing as a kid? I suppose being woken up before the sun to beat the traffic and find the perfect cove wasn’t so bad.

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Thank you for stopping by and for traveling with me through a few Arizona State Parks and down memory lane. If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow and read my blog. For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend and enjoy the great outdoors! Michele

This post is dedicated to all the parents who take their kids camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and exploring in the Great Outdoors. Keep doing it, even if your kids grumble and complain. 😉

Photo of my dad doing what he loved, a few years before he passed.

© 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.