Franklin Tree Obsession

Silent Watcher

A silent watcher perches on the extended limbs of the Franklin tree, patiently observing the daily heavy flow of traffic, and more recently the expansion from two lanes to four on that segment of road.  During the digging and reallocation of land process, workers cut down trees on the neighboring property.   Daily, while navigating the orange barrels directing traffic into lanes to circumvent the road work, I expected one day to see the Franklin tree meet the same fate.  The prospect of that sickened me.

Franklin Tree 2010

I first noticed the Franklin tree after moving to Meridian several years ago.  The nest and large unidentified bird, which at first I thought might be an eagle, charmed me and drew my focus.  No, not an eagle, but possibly another bird of prey sits among the branches.   I need to remember my binoculars the next time I leave the house to try to identify the elegant form nonchalantly seated on the survivor tree.

I feel like a tree stalker, or a bird stalker, and at times cannot decide if it is the lone scraggly tree against the Idaho sky that mesmerized me, or the unidentified bird lounging on the tousled limbs; probably the combination.  After the road construction started, it really was not a wise idea to stop along the road and take more pictures, or a get a closer look.  For the rest of the project, whenever I drove by, I held my breath hoping that the tree survived and the construction noise had not driven the stoic watcher away.  

Late afternoon on Thanksgiving Day, before going to a friends gathering, I took a left turn instead of right to travel east down a nearly deserted Franklin road and check on the watcher.  With the street empty, I was able to whip around several times, pull over and snap photos with my little pocket camera.  Of course once again I forgot my binoculars and do not having a fancier zoom lens camera, so I am still not sure the species of bird.  Nonetheless, the photos produced an intriguing, haunting image of the tree’s poetically extended limbs and the silent observer.  


More Zinger Mania

Monday evenings, after work, I go up the hill to Marlene and Jerry’s house, usually eat some dinner, and then we all go to the Idaho Bluegrass Association beginner’s jam session.   Marlene and I with our banjos, and Jerry with his guitar.  In my early twenties I attempted to learn, but failed to practice and eventually sold my banjo.  Marlene too tried to become a banjo player and we both had the same instructor 30 years ago here in Boise, Idaho.  Failure to practice also halted her banjo career.  However, Marlene was smarter than I and held on to her banjo.  A year ago, Marlene started playing again and I owe my re-entry into a second try at banjo playing to Marlene’s encouragement.  She even loaned me one to use until I decided if this was going to be the real deal for me, and I would keep practicing.  One month ago, I purchased my own banjo!  Now my Monday night dinners with Marlene and Jerry followed by our  Bluegrass Jam sessions are the highlight of my week.

Last Monday, while waiting for Marlene to arrive home, Jerry played a song that he was working on which sounded pretty darn good.  Soon, the barking hound dogs announced the arrival of Marlene, and as she came through the door she exclaimed, “Did Jerry give you that special treat we found for you.”   Intrigued, but a bit embarrassed because they have given me so much already, I could not imagine what gift they had for me.    Marlene’s grin signified the surprise was something pretty darn cool.     She goes to the table, picks up a bowl and starts loading it with – Hostess Zingers!!

Crazed Zinger Looks
Note the Laser Eye Dog in the background

After reading an earlier blog post on my quest for Hostess Ding Dongs, Marlene and Jerry  had gone on the hunt in  Cascade, Idaho where they have a cozy cabin.  From one end of the small town to the other, they hit all the little convenience stores and the one grocery store in their quest to find a box of Hostess Ding Dongs.  No Ding Dongs, but they scooped up the last shelve of Zingers at one store; about eighth packages.   Some guy watching them inquired, “You gonna sell those on eBay?” Listening to Jerry and Marlene tell the story of  the fun they had looking for Hostess products brought new fits of laughter to our Monday evening gathering.

Marlene and Jerry are wonderful friends and I am thankful for their friendship.  Their hunt for hostess products in Cascade, Idaho is now another cherished, hysterical shared memory we can chuckle about over the years.

Small Threads

Molly and Jennifer

Surprisingly, my daughters, both in their early twenties,  allow me to be friends with them on Facebook; a connection I cherish and try not abuse with over liking their posts or writing mom comments and advice.  As I logged into Facebook this morning, I saw the notification that my younger daughter had changed her location from living in Meridian, to living in Boise.

I suddenly felt a slight flinch of the heart, and unexpected tears slowly filled my eyes.  What is the big deal?!  Boise is a mere 20 minutes from Meridian.  Molly has not moved out of the state or to a different country, and I can easily call her, take her to lunch and even watch a movie at her cozy apartment.

Molly had been living at home with me, in Meridian, for about two years trying to save money, and we frequently discussed her desire to be out on her own.  Leaving the safety net of family and home, learning to successfully handle her finances and daily schedule without mom looking over her shoulder all the time, is a great accomplishment.

Miss Molly

I miss her quite a bit at times, because we had our charming little routines, such as our pastry day Sunday run, movie nights or waffle cone Wednesday at TCBY.   However, I am extremely proud and happy for her and my teary eyed reaction surprised me when I read her Facebook status change.   I once again realized that is often the small, mundane and less dramatic gestures in life that are capable of significantly tugging at the heart.

Last Saturday afternoon I caught the end of a PBS documentary on a historical topic that is not included in textbooks, and in fact few knew about the event.  When queried why the event had remained obscure, the Historian thoughtfully replied “History is like a large tapestry, and the small, muted or less colorful threads are not always highlighted or given much attention.  We tend to focus on the brighter, bold threads and tell those stories.”

An eloquent statement that applies to our day-to-day lives.  The dramatic changes, such as the loss of a family members or cherished friends gains a great deal of attention.  Time and experience walk us through those turbulent moments more frequently then we care to experience them, and yet we learn to toughen up and cope.  I know that at some point during Thanksgiving or Christmas, I will spend time crying, grieving, as well as celebrating wonderful memories of family and friends whom I used to share the holidays with.  The big, intense moments, or dramatic life altering events are the memory jolts that I plan for.

The moments I do not plan for and always catch me off guard are the smaller threads, such as reading a FB status update, a simple check of a box in a setting that changes –  from living in Meridian (with mom), to living in Boise (on my own).

Of Yoga and Tator Tots

Molly and Ocean Sunset

Sunday afternoon turned extra lazy after attending a movie with a good friend.  Returning home and entering the warm confines of my bedroom, I felt the strong urge to go get a greasy hamburger, tator tots and lounge the rest of the day away.  Of course I would exercise my mind, reading, writing, perhaps practicing my banjo.   The one complication of guilt is that I had committed to a yoga class and was scheduled to attend Sunday evening.    Get on down the road to yoga, or be a Sunday couch potato with hamburger and tator tots?

Growing up in the age of Twiggy and later Jane Fonda aerobics, I have tried to be conscious and vigilant of maintaining a fitness level my entire life.  At first it was all about how I would look.  Now my goal is to be in the best shape possible in order to participate actively in a life of travel, hiking, snowshoeing, camping, and enjoying food without packing on the pounds.   In addition to walking, and strength training with weights, I decided to add Yoga to the mix.  Research consistently reports that it is a great practice for flexibility, a great stress reliever as well as tones the body.

Having recently received a diagnosis of a heart condition, the stress management aspect has taken on greater importance.  The other primary goal I have is on the topic of  flexibility and lack of its existence in my body.  The flexibility issue came alarmingly to my attention during a trip to the Ocean in 2011 with my lovely dancer daughter, Molly.

Molly at the Ballet Tree

For our early May visit, the beach had rolled in a poetic looking prop that we entitled “The Beach Ballet Tree,” where Molly practiced her dance stretches. She encouraged me to try out some of the stretches.  Though I suspected my muscles may be a bit tight, I confidently took my place at the Beach Ballet Tree.

Upon striking the first pose, Molly, barely suppressing her giggles, exclaimed, “Really mom, that looks a bit awkward.”  I thought to myself, “What the hell is she talking about!”  You see, in my mind I had magically turned twenty or thirty again and was able to exhibit a high, impressive level of flexibility!

Me at the Ballet Tree

In the cool misty air, with soothing ocean rhythms, I was fairly certain my stretches extended as elegantly and as far as Molly’s stretches.   However, and a big However this is, the pictures tell a different story.  I truly felt and believed that my leg extended back and as high as Molly’s leg. Furthermore the issue of my arms not stretching out gracefully signifies I must have been trying to hold myself up!

Perhaps the tree was at fault and not connecting with me the way that Molly seemed to have bonded with the intricate branches. I decided to move my poises closer to the ocean seeking the energy that promised to transform my stiff muscles in to fluid and far-reaching stretches.  Again, in my mind I had achieved a full length body stretch, horizontal and perfectly balanced on the sandy stage while the damp windy air bolstered my spirit and sense of well-being. However, once again the pictures highlight an irritatingly different reality for me.

Molly and Ballet Tree

The memory and evidence of the beach ballet pictures motivated me to ditch the hamburger and tator tot plan and get to the Yoga studio.  Still self-conscious of the limited, creaky movements of my body I take my cherished spot in the back.  Believing that consistent attendance and practice will one day loosen those muscles, I take to heart the instructor’s guidance to go at my pace.  It is shocking at times to discover the loss of movement due to excessive amounts of office cubicle sitting and couch hamburger and tator tot behavior.  The good news is, my body still moves and I am feeling some progress, as well as sleeping better.

The Lovely Molly

Spiritual Face

Children add many sparkly moments that never fail to produce great laughs as we see ourselves through their eyes.  Over the course of our lives together, my two wonderful daughters have contributed greatly to the gift of being able to laugh at myself, and not take myself so seriously.

Staged or Genuine?

Life from my youngest years has been a quest to experience, understand, and connect with the gift of creation.  To understand and or participate in religious endeavors, spirituality, mediation practices, seek the meaning of life, what is my destiny angst, live a meaningful life, put more in then I take out, live from the heart, stay humble, play it forward, being enough – Seeking the Spark  – I am sure dear readers that you get the idea.

Ocean Spa Spiritual Poise

My lovely daughters have patiently endured many of my quests, at times mocking me and laughingly declared, “Oh, look out, mom has spiritual face on.”  The face that I would either naturally assume or I am somewhat embarrassed to admit would force up on myself, and everyone around me, when trying to evoke a certain mood.  Or simply get attention to myself.    One of my greatest spiritual look achievements occurred in my early twenties living in Boise, Idaho during the annual holiday parade.  Weaving in and out of the crowd, trying to look wise and peaceful, finally a guy looked at me and proclaimed, “Hey, who is that girl who has that faraway look in her eyes.”  That has really never happened again though.  Rather a random fluke and once in a lifetime spiritual face recognition experience in a public setting.

Miss Jen’s Spiritual Poise, Ocean 2010

Miss Molly & Mom
Ocean 2011 Faraway Spiritual Face

Meanwhile, within our family, this has now become a goofy, cherished sharing of sparkly moments with Jennifer and Molly. We snap photos of our spiritual faces on road trips or family gatherings. Sometimes the girls manage to sneak up on me and take pictures without me knowing.  Other times we stage them. But either way, the end result produces buckets of laughter and great memories.

Blue Shoe Spiritual Pose

Hostess Mania

The announcement that the Hostess company was filing bankruptcy, no longer in production or shipping its baked items to stores, set off a flurry of conversation via twitter, Facebook, emails, in office cubicles, and in grocery store aisles.  It triggered childhood memories of foil wrapped Ding Dongs, Zingers or fruit pies in our brown bag lunches.  Often a special Friday treat, after the homemade baked goods stash had been depleted during the week.  Hostess items were hot trading commodities and if you so desired, could often gain something pretty lucrative in lieu of a Twinkie, or Hostess cupcake.

I got caught up in the moment and as the day wore on, became increasingly obsessed with acquiring one last box of Ding Dongs.  My sister texted me and said “Remember how we used to put them in the freezer,” because for some forgotten reason that made them extra tasty.  I naively believed by the end of the day I would still score at least one box, if not two or three.  Carpooling that day with Noreen, who was also interested in the hunt for Hostess, we set out after work.  First Winco, then Fred Meyer, Albertsons, Fred Meyer again, Albertsons again, a couple of convenience stores, and finally to a local outlet bakery that stocked Hostess products.  More defeat as the outlet bakery had closed at 6 pm, and our hopeful faces plastered to the windows could see that nothing Hostess remained.

Except for the purchase of some Hostess Zingers, both vanilla and chocolate, we struck out.  What remained on the store shelve were bags of hostess donuts and orange or strawberry cupcakes.    Exhausted after a long week of week, we decided it was time to halt the Hostess hunt.   We have both been working on eating healthier and trying to detox our bodies from excessive processed food consumption, so in the end, it was okay not to stockpile Ding Dongs.

Going into the stores on the hunt was an adventure.  How many times have I walked by the Hostess product and yet when I went looking, it seemed elusive.  We started out nonchalantly, quite certain we would be done with our Hostess purchases at the first stop.   After the second store, we began to realize that of course many others had the same plan.    At additional stops, we would split up, walk fast, or break into little spurts of running.  Then I become a bit competitive, and paranoid, sure that everyone person walking into the store was going for a Hostess product.  I deliberately, yet slowly pretended to be looking for something else, in case someone was following me.  That strategy did not change the fact of empty shelves.

In the end we experienced jovial fun with store managers, clerks and other customers.  We went down teenage memory lane recalling how carefully, slowly the foil on Ding Dongs had to be unwrapped in order to savior the moment.    Through all the fun, jokes, and commentary on the highly processed, rather unhealthy nature of the product, we further reflected on the tremendous loss of jobs occurring right before Thanksgiving.  Our hope is the company will be quickly acquired, perhaps the recipes adjusted, and folks re-employed.

Thank You For Your Service

Early afternoon on Sunday, February 29, 2004, a leap year, the officially issued National Guard cell phone MSG Emerson carried at all times rang.  Roger is a member of the HHC 116th Armor Cavalry Brigade that has units located throughout Idaho, Montana, Utah and Oregon.  The phone call jolted Roger into focused action notifying others, as he had just received the official word from his commander that the HHC 116th Armor Cavalry Brigade  had been put on alert for mobilization to Iraq.

March, April and May became a blur of Family Readiness briefings to talk about the impending mission, prepare our wills, and basically get all paperwork and personal affairs in order. June 10, 2004 the 116 Brigade Combat Team that consisted of approximately 3,500 soldiers from Idaho left for six months of intensive training in preparation to join the coalition forces of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In November 2004 the 116 boarded planes to Kuwait and finally reached their destination of Kirkuk, Iraq, and did not return until November 16, 2005.   The 116 BCT call up was the largest mobilization in the history of the Idaho Army National Guard.


Again in 2010, 2,700 members of the Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat team mobilized for a September deployment to Iraq for Operation New Dawn; they returned  mid to late August of 2011.

Deployment 2010