"" Writer's Wanderings: October 2004

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Stop the Political Ads! I Want to Vote.

Are they getting to you yet? If you live in one of the critical states (and I do), you've been innundated with point/counterpoint political ads since before the conventions. And what have we learned? That one party can sling mud just as well as the other party. Can we vote and get it over with?

Now we have "fact checkers" on the networks since the CBS incident over Bush's military record. Too bad the news media doesn't check facts all the time instead of just during elections. The media seems to slant the news to their particular way of thinking. We have one local channel that has been labeled the "tabloid news channel". They're not afraid to add a line of commentary on the end and, unfortunately, not mention that it is commentary.

But, I digress.

What I would really like to hear is not how much better my world will be if you are elected but how you think you're going to get it done. A vision is just a dream if you have no plan of action to deliver. I'd like to see campaign promises turned into campaign plans of action. I may know my destination but without a good road map, I'd have a hard time getting there.

Draw me a map.

My name is Karen Robbins and I approve this message.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Surprise Garden

Last week friends called and said they were dividing the daylilies I had given them originally three or four years ago. We have since moved to a new home and they wondered if I wanted some of the plants they had. Remembering the large empty spot I haven't planted yet in our new yard, I eagerly said yes.
When Eldon put them in my trunk he pointed to each bag and tried to remember what color the plant was. He needn't have bothered. By the time I took them out of the trunk, I had forgotten. Call it senioritis, dementia, or just lack of recall, it happens more and more and especially when I have a busy week.
I took the plants to the spot in front of the house bordered by rhododendrons and began planting. Instead of worrying about what colors were going where, I planted them where I dropped them and decided I would just be surprised when they bloom this coming spring/summer. The surprise will be multiplied by how many blooms the deer leave behind for me to enjoy. It's one of their favorite meals.
So, instead of a secret garden, I have a surprise garden--something to look forward to over the snowy months to come.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Cappuccino in Venice

This past summer, we traveled through Europe with Bob’s brother, Dick, and his wife, Polly. Venice was a unique adventure. We arrived amidst gray skies and drizzle. The buildings around St. Mark’s Square looked dirty and dingy. I wondered how anyone could claim this as a beautiful spot. After our dinner, however, the sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the façade of St. Mark’s Basilica bringing the building to life with shimmering golden mosaics.

In the square were outdoor cafes where some musicians were beginning to perform. We were attracted a café with a stringed ensemble and made ourselves comfortable at a table. When the waiter came three of us ordered cappuccino (Dick was off for gelato). We didn’t pay attention to the menu. We only wanted cappuccino. This was just dessert. Oh what a dessert! The cappuccinos were excellent but the bill was outstanding. When converted to dollars, it was $15 per cup of that delicious brew. By not looking at the menu, we had missed the mention of a cover charge.

Ah, Italy, so crazy, so frantic, so romantic, so expensive! Everyone said it was a once in a lifetime experience. That’s for sure. We’ll never order $15 coffees again.

(I have managed to cover the cost of my cappuccino by selling a story on Venice. It’s posted at http://www.familytravelfun.com/venice-italy.html )

Monday, October 18, 2004


There are two times a year that I cannot drink in enough of the scenery in our part of the country. Spring is one. There is a point in the emerging foliage on the trees when the dark branches appear delicately daubed a light yellowed green mixed with the tiniest flecks of burgundy color. The colors begin to swell and finally burst into leafy green with bountiful spring blooms interspersed throughout the landscape.

Autumn is the other one. This weekend the fall colors hit the height of the season. Golden yellows, pumpkin oranges, raspberry reds and every shade inbetween was bathed with beautiful sunlight that brightened God's glorious painting. Here and there a dark evergreen pine would contrast with the brilliant colors making them even more striking.

Today the rain is washing away the color. The leaves will grow heavy and the wind will blow them down. Another autumn will fade into winter. But I will remember the spectacle of color, and while the snow flies, I will look forward to the rebirth of spring. And I will try to find the beauty in the purity and softness of the new fallen snow while I wait.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Child Called It

For our book discussion group at the library this month, we were asked to read A Child Called It by David Pelzer. It is not a pretty story. Pelzer reveals, in graphic terms, the tortuous abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother. I almost quit reading half way through the small book. I kept hoping it would get better for him. It only got worse. Starvation, mutilation, near drowning, and ostracism from the family were only some of what went on seemingly forever in the four or five years she chose to single him out and perpetuate her sick punishments on a boy who never deserved them.

Thankfully the ugly part is sandwiched between two short chapters revealing his rescue by social services after a few teachers finally risked their jobs to bring the abuse to light. It occurred during the 1970s and Pelzer indicates that social awareness of child abuse was not in the forefront at that time. Hopefully, things have changed--but I wonder. Too many children still continue to die from shaking, beating and other horrendous abuse. Is it so cleverly concealed until its too late or are we not paying attention? This is not the situation where you use the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Secret Garden

In the middle of all the neon and noise, all the glitz and grandeur, we found an oasis of nature captured in a quiet shaded garden--a secret, hidden in the heart of Las Vegas.

While in Vegas this week, we stopped in at the Mirage to see Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden. The secret is a mini zoo on beautifully landscaped hotel property. Who would have thought! There are spacious areas for the animals to play and roam and three huge pools for the dolphins to exercise and show off.

The dolphins are the first attraction as you enter. There are 11 dolphins, three of which were born in the Secret Garden. The puppy dogs of the ocean, they were ready to play and display their talents. About every hour there is a team of behavioral scientists that play with the dolphins. It is not a choreographed show but they do jumps, spins, tail walks, flips, and retrieve objects in the water. I assume it takes the boredom out of being confined even if the pools are large.

Next we entered the shaded garden area and received an audio wand to hear the commentary given by Siegfried and Roy about their animals. I always thought of the pair as performers but our visit changed my mind. They are more conservationists than performers. You can feel the concern for the animals in their commentary. The white lions were first. They are unreal. Almost a pure white with a huge soft mane framing their faces, they sat regally on the rocks, blinking a hello and acting as though they knew how good they looked. They were about 8 feet in length and had to weigh at least 400 pounds. I was surprised to see two males together but apparently the males bond together to protect the pride.

A sleek black panther and a couple of cheetahs were in the next display. A little mouse ran out from one of the enclosed areas and a cheetah paced impatiently waiting for his "playmate" to come back in.

The next area held an Asian elephant, Gildah. Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have light markings across the nose area and around the head. She munched her hay and occasionally dipped it in the water before raising it to her mouth--kind of like chips and dip. She was looking good for a 56 year old.

Next we admired the beauty of the white tiger. Our commentary told us that the stripes of the tiger are like fingerprints--no two tigers have the same pattern.

The real show however was around the corner where three baby leopards, born in March, played with each other as well as a couple of caretakers inside with them. They would hide behind some clumps of high grass, one paw separating the blades for a better view, and then pounce on their sibling as s/he came by. An unsuspecting caretaker would find himself wearing a leopard hat all of a sudden if he wasn't careful. Toys were strewn all over the area to be picked up and discarded on a whim. Bundles of energy, they entertained us for quite a while.

You can find information about this little secret at www.siegfriedandroy.com/animals .

Friday, October 08, 2004

Upgrades in Vegas

We just returned from a few days in Las Vegas. It was our warm sunny alternative to the dive trip we had planned to Grand Cayman that was canceled thanks to Ivan. We arrived at Ceasar's Palace to check in and pleasantly bantered with the man at the reception desk. His keyboard clicked away efficiently as he looked up our reservation.

"Do you need to have a king bed or would you like two large queen beds in a larger room?" What a question. We looked at each other and wondered how much of our sleeping habits this guy needed to know. Thankfully, he continued, "The reason I ask is, there is a 900 sq. ft. suite available on the 24th floor with a his and hers bathroom. But it has two queen beds. You can have it for the same price as your other room." He looked at us for a decision.

"Sold." Our sleeping habits could adjust.

The room was outstanding. A floor to ceiling window looked out on the four pools below us and into the distance to the mountains that surround Las Vegas. Each bathroom had it's own sink and a little room with the toilet (mine included a bidet--Anyone know how to use one?). My bathroom had a large jacuzzi tub as well and a clear glass shower with two showerheads connected both rooms. The other usual amenities were there, TV, mini-refrig, etc. The whole suite was bigger than our first apartment.

We enjoyed four days of seeing the sights and sitting by the pool and enjoying great food. When it was time to return home, we caught our transportation to the airport and began our trek through the system to check in. When the e-ticket spit out boarding passes, Bob noticed we weren't sitting near each other. The agent suggested we go to the gate and see if someone there could find us seats together when the check in process was nearing completion.

At the gate, the agent had a difficult time finding two seats together. She held our passes and said she would work on it some more, apparently trying to get someone to switch with us. About five minutes before boarding she called our names and I went to retreive the passes.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I couldn't find two seats together in the back so I had to put you in first class. I hope that's all right." I had trouble closing the gaping mouth that showed my surprise. Two free upgrades in one trip. I don't recall ever getting one.

It just goes to prove not all winners are at the gaming tables and slots.
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