Cruising The Badlands

At the beginning of our South Dakota trip, my sister, my son, and I cruised through the Badlands.  This tradition began in 2012 when my children and I first drove through and fell in love with the stark desolation and breathtaking beauty of the skyscraper pinnacles, rounded buttes, and neck breaking coulees.  Since then, every road trip to South Dakota includes at least one Badlands Cruise.

My son scrambling down the natural stairs cut over time on a Badlands formation.

My son scrambling down the natural stairs cut over time on a Badlands formation.

We parked at the largest visitor’s stop just inside the gate to stretch and take photographs.  I was wearing a sundress  and gray Vans sneakers and my sister was wearing jelly shoes, so we weren’t dressed for hiking, but tourists rarely are.  Besides, as native South Dakotans, we had something to prove.  This was but one of our many South Dakota playgrounds, and we were ready to frolic.

Many other characters were climbing on the formations that day.  Two massive body builder types in flimsy tanks and flip flops parked next to us.  In their flip flops, they somehow scrambled up a precarious trail to a little stoop offering a panoramic view of Badlands glittering in the sun.  One of the men shed his top and began posed for his companion’s camera, the majestic scenery in the background.   We nearly interrupted their photo session when we stumbled around the corner onto the stoop, and had to turn briskly on our heels, swallowing giggles.  The man with the camera was heard to say “Oh, that’s beautiful as his friend flexed his sweaty arms.  My son was confused.  My sister grinned and murmured, “They are either updating their UFC profiles, or they are lovers, or both.”  A group of female tourists resembling Old Apostolic Lutherans climbed in matching ankle length navy blue skirts with tucked in blouses and thin canvas Keds.  Their blonde hair swished past their tiny waists and they climbed like rail thin Gazelles, speaking very quietly to one another in Nordic accents.

My sister getting a good shot for her scrapbook.

My sister getting a good shot for her scrapbook.

My son was not satisfied with our brief climb on the most popular formation.  He wanted a more challenging, less occupied spot.  We drove until coming to Saddle Pass, a deceptively harmless looking mound.  It turned out to be incredibly steep, with sliding sediment and pebbles galore to inhibit one’s climbing abilities.  My son easily scaled the trail and was waiting impatiently for my sister and me to struggle, red faced and heaving, up the pass entire minutes later.  This is where my sundress really worked against me.  In shorts I could have lunged and scurried, unimpeded by modesty.  In my skirt, I had to at least try to be more ladylike, especially after sensing that someone was moving up behind me, and fast, on the trail.  It was during my last effort to crest a tricky rise, while I made a most undignified scramble, that the wind lifted up the back of my dress and revealed brilliant purple Betsey Johnson underwear to the young man who chose to follow too closely behind.  He quickly disappeared up the trail, red faced and now schooled in Badlands trail etiquette.

Resting with my son on Saddle Pass.

Resting with my son on Saddle Pass.

I sat down to rest, and to keep my dress from blowing up around my hips.  The view was gorgeous, and we felt triumphant.  My son, still not satisfied with the  amount of hiking accomplished, wanted to go further on.  I told him to be back in five minutes.  As much as I didn’t like to let him out of my sight, I knew that he needed to go out on his own and test his limits.  He reminds me of myself, always wanting to go further up the trail, to see what lies ahead, to push the limits and rise to new challenges.

An older couple was hiking down, slowly and carefully, speaking quietly in French.  They paused where we were resting and made a polite comment about the steep trail.  I cracked “Yeah, I think it might be easier if I just hurl myself back down the trail.”  They smiled politely, not sure if I was being clever or mildly suicidal.  I noticed that the man had a nice camera, and offered to take a picture of the couple on Saddle Pass.  They politely declined and began to move away quickly, and I sensed that behind their sunglasses, their eyes had narrowed with suspicion.  After they disappeared down the trail, my sister and I smiled and shrugged at each other.

“Geez, Georgeann, trying to steal cameras from French tourists?” my sister teased.

“Did they think I was going to take off sprinting down the trail?”

We noticed that my son had been gone longer than five minutes.  I started to feel uneasy.  A young couple stopped to rest before going further up the trail.  The woman looked athletic and graceful, but the man seemed rather clumsy.  Maybe he was just nervous; maybe he was going to propose or something.  We decided to yell for Dylan to come back.

“Dylan!”  I hollered “You get down off the Badlands right now!”  The young couple giggled.  We saw and heard nothing.  My sister tried.

“Dylan, did you hear your mother?!  You get off those rocks and come back down here!” she yelled.

Within another minute we saw him shuffling easily, like a panther, back down.  His face was red and sweat trailed along his hairline, but he looked happy and relaxed.

“Did you see me?”  He asked excitedly.   “I was way over there!”  He pointed to a place far in the distance.  It seemed impossible that he could have been so far away in such a short amount of time.

My sister, thrilled to have made the ascent in her jelly shoes.

My sister, thrilled to have made the ascent in her jelly shoes.

We started back down.  My son was down the trail and waiting for us once again before we had even decided the safest way back.  We chose a very steep and ever deepening, but very narrow crevice that we could use for foot and hand holds, and we crept across.  My sister followed behind me, taking embarrassing photos when I became stuck in an awkward squat position.  We finally had to crawl out, hoisting ourselves over the scratchy edge like injured prairie dogs.  After getting back on the trail we made a dash to the bottom.  When on a steep, slippery downhill trail, I just make a dash for it and hope for the best.  The young couple we met was galloping down the trail behind us, having finished their hike.  The young man  slipped on loose pebbles and fell on his ass, confirming my suspicions about his clumsiness.  My sister and I made it down safely thanks to years of climbing on steep terrain in Idaho forests.  My son was bored, thirsty, and tired by the time we finally caught up with him.

 

“I’m glad you both made it back down.  I was getting really tired of waiting.” he yawned.  “I think I had enough hiking for today.”

When we got back to the car we saw the French speaking couple, parked next to us.  They were, it turned out, from Quebec.  They had changed from high tech hiking boots into regular sneakers, and the camera was nowhere to be seen.  They smiled and nodded and watched us closely as we loaded into my car.  They must have thought us mad to have been hiking in our strange clothing, with only cameras and chutzpah.  The man took a long drag on a skinny cigarette and watched as I backed out of the parking spot.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, my sister shook her head and said “Smoking a cigarette after an intense hike on a really hot day!  That is so French!”

It takes all kinds to cruise the Badlands.  I think that is why I will never get tired of going back there with my children to be part of the group of characters that hike there every summer.

~G

More Precious Than Gold

During my trip to South Dakota, I spent a fantastic afternoon with my family on one of our Black Hills mineral claims.  Named The Razzamatazz after my parents’ dog, the claim offered easy dirt road access and a gorgeous view of both hills and meadows.  We packed enough provisions for a day of exploration and set out through the hills, singing and chattering happily.

My son enjoying a moment on a pile of stones left over from mining attempts.

My son enjoying a snack on a pile of boulders left over from past mining attempts.

After turning onto the muddy dirt track vaguely marking out a path, we spooked a doe, who melted into the trees.  A huge family of turkeys strutted across  the trail and crouched in the tall grass, eyeing us suspiciously.   We rolled down the window and yelled “Gobble, gobble!  Gobble, gobble!” Dad pointed out pastel wildflowers and we breathed in the piney scent around us.  After parking under the shade of a huge spruce, we unloaded and prepared to hike up a steep ridge so Dad could show off what he had aptly named The Hole.  He wanted a volunteer to go into The Hole, and had brought along rope to pull the volunteer back out, but the majority ruled that this sounded like a terrible idea.  Instead, my sister and son threw rocks into its never-ending darkness while I yelled at them to keep away from the crumpling edge: “Get your damn ass away from that hole!”

Raz, for whom The Razzamatazz claim is named, romping through the grass.

Raz, for whom The Razzamatazz claim is named, romping through the grass.

After the excitement and danger of The Hole wore off, we started looking for interesting rocks to take home.  Dad pointed out characteristics indicating which rocks were more likely to contain veins of gold, and showed us iron pyrite sticking out of pink quartz.  The claim we were exploring had immense reserves of schist and quartz, and had been mined in years past.  We were very likely standing on top of a huge vein of priceless minerals and gold, just deep enough to be beyond reach.  Dad believes there is more than we can imagine, but it would be extremely difficult to extract without heavy machinery and crates of explosives.

We didn’t see any obvious veins of gold in the boulders we pulled from the ground, so my father and sister hiked further up the ridge to get a view of Dad’s favorite meadow.  I helped my mother and son transport arm loads of pink and white quartz back to my SUV.  Once back at the car, we decided to take a lunch break.  I kept my eye out for mountain lions, or “MLs”, as my son calls them, while chewing my steak and red onion sandwich with horseradish mayonnaise.  It was a quiet afternoon, but on our way down the ridge we had spotted predator scat, and an animal was making faint noises in the distance.  My father and sister came back down from the ridge with tales of a colossal belt of quartz that had been pushed out of the ground by massive tree roots.  Dad was thrilled about this discovery and planned to return for more investigating.

Sword fighting on the claim.

Sword fighting on the claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

We stopped at Dad’s camper, Chipmunk Village, as he calls it, because no matter where he parks, the camper attracts hordes of the pernicious creatures.  I needed to pick up camping gear belonging to me and my husband so we could outfit our camper (which we haven’t yet purchased).  In no hurry to leave the hills, we wandered around a field surrounding the camper and reminisced about family camp-outs from decades ago.  My sister and son fought a protracted battle over a piece of braided grass.  Mom drop kicked conks while Dad and I hauled a footlocker and folding table out of the camper.  We let the late afternoon sun seep into our bones and the smell of Black Hills Spruce trees envelope us in hazy perfume.

Nothing mattered but the feeling we felt at that moment.  We had no cell phone service and no way to get updates from the world.  For the time being, we weren’t affected by ISIS terror threats, protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the death of Robin Williams, the spread of the Ebola virus, or the stacks of bills piling up in our respective homes.  We just wanted to play out a daydream, much like my childhood full of summers camping out in pristine Idaho forests.

When it was time to go back to the real world, I don’t think that any of us really wanted to go back.  We had soaked up the sun, the smell of dry pine needles, and the memories of living a simple life, spending entire summers embracing the wilderness.  We wanted to stay in the forest, but we were out of water and food, it was time to go back, cook a big dinner, smile at all the photos we had taken, and fall asleep dreaming the dreams of children: a sunny day, a grassy field, a muddy hole and a rock perhaps hiding a sliver of gold.  We were satisfied with our consolation prize — knowing we could walk away cherishing the memory of a day that we stood on top of a priceless vein of gold that we might never possess, because we had something much more valuable: family.

~G

At the Chipmunk Village.

At the Chipmunk Village.

 

 

 

He Who Owns Us

My Mini Tatanka, a treasure found at a favorite second hand shop in Belle Fourche.

My Mini Tatanka, a treasure found at a favorite second hand shop in Belle Fourche.

For the next few posts, I will be writing about my latest trip to South Dakota. Rather than start from the beginning, I have chosen to work backwards, so that in effect, the posts will read (hopefully) in chronological order once completed. I don’t know if this will actually make reading them more enjoyable, but since the return trip is freshest on my mind, I begin with this story.

It always seems to rain when it’s time to say good-bye.  I try to remember back to childhood.  Did it rain every time my grandparents finished their summer visit?  And there is a tradition in my family that no road trip to South Dakota would be complete without Mother Nature hurling her most creative weather concoctions at us as we rocket down the parched and patched roads.
My sister and I left Belle Fourche on a cloudy morning, my car so loaded with “treasures” that we could only see out the side mirrors.  Traveling this way makes some nervous, but we’ve done it so often that after looking at the pile of bags, coolers, boxes, and assorted furniture crammed into my SUV, we just shrugged, laughed, and started the ignition.  My parents were depressed to see us go, and as we prolonged our farewells, rain clouds stacked up in the sky.  I noted this but said nothing of my observation about rain and families splitting.  I volunteered to drive first so that I would be less likely to pout in the car.  I did not want to leave.  South Dakota had seeped into my bones and was coursing through my blood.  I burned with the fever of wanting to return to the dreamscape –Black Hills Spruce, impossible geography, and frosty creeks  hiding gold flecks — all muted the outside world.

 

The Al's Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

The Al’s Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

We made small talk in the car and let the conversation twist down whatever trail seemed appropriate.  On Interstate 90 east of Rapid City, I looked up into the sky to gauge the probability of a storm and saw an enormous bison in profile, charging majestically across his cloud prairie.  Tatanka, or He Who Owns Us, according to the Lakota language, demanded our full attention above the horizon.  The literal translation of Tatanka is buffalo bull, but the meaning of the name — He Who Owns Us — implies the Lakota’s great reverence for the king of the Plains. Legend and tradition ingrained through generations has made the bison a permanent central character defining life in South Dakota.  Symbolizing the sacredness and abundance of life on the Plains, the bison is not owned by any person.  Instead, we who walk the earth are owned by him, who has sustained us.

 

It was difficult to keep my eyes on the road; the Tatanka cloud was practically mesmerizing.  Within minutes it morphed into a smaller bison, maybe a cow, and soon it was strolling slowly with its humped back framed against a bluebird sky.  By the time we reached Wall, the cloud had changed once again, breaking apart to become the wispy face of an old bull, staring down as we passed the cemetery like a great sentinel watching over his vast domain.  Tatanka certainly owned us that day as we wallowed in the bittersweet memories of our adventure.

The next day we left South Dakota in the early afternoon.  It was raining.  As I said, it always rains when I have to say good-bye.  The clouds, a reflection of my breaking heart, streamed quiet wet tears down the canvas of the sky.  They swirled above and around, creating the impression that we were enclosed under a great inverted bowl of steel blue wool.  A few tears escaped from behind my sunglasses and I brushed them off my cheeks quickly.  Suddenly Tatanka appeared one last time, humped up and riding the cloud bank shot through with lightning, reminding me to keep my aching heart strong and wait for the next time I would return to South Dakota.  The question is, can I hold out?

~G

How Dr. Who Saved My Family

My kids know how to manipulate me. Doesn’t matter how busy I am. I could be knee deep in dinner preparations or trying to locate important documents for Tax Season. “Hey Mom, would you watch ‘Dr. Who’ with us?” I drop everything and sit on the couch with them for one or two, — okay, let’s be honest — five or six episodes.  We are becoming die hard fans, nearing hyperventilation level geekery each time we spot anything that is Dr. Who related.  My sister discovered this last time she took us to a Barnes & Noble.  I think we drooled on every single mini Dalek and fingered all the Dr. Who Magazines featuring the last three Doctors on their covers. It wasn’t always this way.

I recall last spring, when I’d vaguely heard of some show with a cult following based on the antics of some rather emphatic British guy and his assorted companions, with a cast of ridiculous aliens in tow.  Not my thing at all.  I should have known it would become my kids’ thing.  And then my thing.  And then our thing.  And then the mad, bad, crazy world would start to make a little more sense.  Which is probably the genius of the show, and why so many people adore it.  But this really is not a critique.  It’s a story about a family coming together and bonding through shared nerdery.

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Dylan’s clay TARDIS, ready for adventure. Geronimo!

So last spring my son and I were talking on the phone and he said “Mom, I need you to download this show for me on Netflix so I can watch it when I’m visiting.”  I am a noncustodial parent.  Not by choice, and not an ideal situation, but I make the most of it by bonding with my son however and whenever possible.  He comes to visit for the summer, and we try to strike as many wishes off his list before time is up.  So when he started talking about a show he likes, I promised to look it up and got my pen and a sticky note ready.

“What show is it that you want to watch?”

“It’s called ‘Dr. Who’.  Have you ever heard of it?” slightly condescending, because adults have NO idea about anything in a preteen’s stratosphere.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” which was about as far as I knew anything about the show, but I tried to be impressive, AND… I already have it downloaded!”  This was true.  My son was impressed.

He made me promise not to watch any of the newest episodes before he arrived.  No problem!  I am not a science fiction fan.  But curiosity eventually won the day and I watched the pilot episode from the reboot with Christopher Eccleston.  It was a bit campy, but I could understand why my son liked it so I watched the second episode.  Before I knew it, I had watched my way well into David Tenant’s stint on the show, chatting with my son on the phone in between episodes. “Oh, you’re watching the old episodes?” slightly condescending again. “Yeah, I don’t like any of those.  The special effects are no good.  I only like the episodes with Matt Smith.”  Okay then.  He is apparently an expert.

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My daughter’s drawing of Dr. Who during our Fall/Winter 2013 marathon episode watching.

We talked extensively about ‘Dr. Who’,  comparing what we liked and reviled, gushing over favorite characters and exploring plots we would like to see unfold.  We discussed episodes to watch together.  Then we just started talking about everything else.  My son was more open and willing to talk after Dr. Who broke the ice.  Now we have something in common, something neutral to dispel any tension and discomfort from external sources.

My daughters took an almost immediate interest in ‘Dr. Who’.  I was surprised at first, but we are a family of dreamers.  Why not come together to enjoy a show that reminds us to think big, be extravagant, and believe the good guys always persevere?  The idea of the Doctor as a theme of kindness, humor, and love has become  indoctrinated among my children. One day while feeling ill, I was surprised to find a Lego TARDIS on my coffee table after an afternoon nap.  A tiny Matt Smith made of cardboard was propped up next to it. It brought a smile to my face.  Best. Gift. Ever.  Inevitably, characters from the show show up in my children’s drawings and dioramas.  My son’s 3D scene of favorite things included Olaf the snowman from the movie ‘Frozen’ and…the TARDIS.  My oldest daughter has been planning the dimensions for her construction project of an actual TARDIS as soon as she finds a box big enough…we are forever on the lookout!

In our home, being active and busy is encouraged.  There is always something to do and somewhere to go.  Sometimes we are all so busy that conversation becomes a daunting challenge. But when we pause and spend time together enjoying this one show that we all really love, I am reminded that we are all connected by a strong bond.  And when my son has to go at the end of the summer, I know that there will still be many conversations.  You can argue all day long about the Doctor’s best act of courage and compassion, but I know that it was creating the greatest icebreaker and saving our family from frigid conversation and unfriendly silence for years to come.  Thank you, Doctor.  Because of you, my family and I will all have so much more to discuss about the great mysteries of the universe.

~ G

Post dedicated to my son.

“Fifty One”!

1-BeeI  get such a kick out of being able to track the location, by country, from which readers view my blog in the Status Page!  What a fun application to keep a blogger motivated!  The country and flag is displayed for the viewing day, allowing me to “travel” the world!  I always wonder what viewers from other countries find most interesting about my posts.  Since starting the blog in early October, I have collected views from 51 foreign countries.  But why not stop at 50, or even 25?  Why go to Number 51?  Well, that is my magic number.  When I enlisted in the South Dakota Army National Guard, I signed on as a 51 Tango (a land surveyor).  And that is how I met my husband, also a 51 Tango.  Ever since, 51 has been my “lucky” number.  Now that I have reached 51 countries it is time to celebrate!  Perhaps by drinking margaritas in beautiful San Antonio…

 Some of my favorite moments over the past nine months of blogging:

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Visiting the Bull Head at the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

1.  Canada

2.  Holland

3.  Italy

4.  Indonesia

5.  Japan

6.  Sweden

7.  Poland

8.  United Kingdom

9.  Jamaica

10.  Australia

11.  Germany

 

A new feathered friend.

A new feathered friend, Henya the Cinnamon Queen.

12.  Saudi Arabia

13.  Spain

14.  Kuwait

15.  Serbia 

16.  Uzbekistan

17.  Luxembourg

18.  Netherlands

19.  France

20. Switzerland

21. Korea

22. Iraq

 

Fishing at Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota.

Fishing at Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota.

23. New Zealand

24. United Arab Emirates

25. South Africa

26. Slovenia

27. Norway

28. Hungary

29. Kyrgyzstan

30. Taiwan

31. India

 

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project.  I retain no rights.

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project. I retain no rights.

32. Philippines

33. Austria

34. Ireland

35. Brazil

36. Turkey

37. Ecuador

38. Estonia

39. Colombia

40. Peru

41. Russian Federation

42. Bangladesh

43. Greece

 

Ross the Dog being ridiculous with his new toy sheep.

Ross the Dog being ridiculous with his new toy sheep.

44. Denmark

45. Singapore

46. Portugal

47.  Mexico

48. Vietnam

49. Belgium

50. Mauritius

51. Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying Lessons

last summer my children played a made up game they called Flying Lessons. My son would lift the girls in his arms as high as possible, spin them around, let them go, and whatever happened next was their problem. They loved it, no one got hurt, nothing got broken (that I knew of) and they laughed themselves silly. Our flight to San Antonio to visit relatives this week reminded me of the game, only the stakes were a bit higher.

2014-07-11 10.42.14We stumbled into the Kansas City International Airport at 5:00 a.m., bleary-eyed and as cranky as everyone else. It was a madhouse, even that early, with people racing across the ticketing area, pushing and pulling overloaded suitcases and duffel bags. Ticket agents shouted “next!” over the din of fussing babies, tussling siblings, and griping adults.  There was a constant crush of bodies moving to the next point of interest.  Our family got separated briefly when an impatient man pushed in front of my children, who were trying to follow my husband to the ticket counter.  That was when reality hit: no one else cares if my children get lost in this airport.

We were to go through TSA Precheck, an accelerated checkpoint for anyone with a Known Passenger Number, including military and dependents with DOD ID numbers and their children under age thirteen.  This year our whole family would be eligible, if for only one last time! An unpleasant airport employee stopped us at the Precheck line and harassed me because my DOD number had failed to print on my ticket.  Refusing to even look at my military ID, she told me I didn’t have an eligible ID for Precheck, and I must go through regular security.  She spoke to me as though I had done something unseemly.  In no mood to be trifled with, I called her bluff: “I called Southwest two days ago and requested that my number be printed on this ticket.”

“But you don’t have an ID!” she insisted, still looking at me as though I had crawled out of a gutter next to a neon encapsulated whorehouse.

“Yes I do, it’s right here!  This is my DOD number.” I attempted to point it out.

“I’m not going to stand here and argue with you” she snarled, “Go with your family, and see what they have to say at Precheck!”

The TSA officer didn’t give me any static; I didn’t see him even check for a DOD number!  I wanted to go back to the nasty old lady and contemptuously stick out my tongue at her.  But deciding to be humble in my victory, I continued onward.  The Precheck looked easy, too easy, so we must have done something wrong — too many somethings — because we presented as “potentially threatening” and a tall tan middle aged man with his TSA shirt tucked in tight shouted “RANDOM CHECK!” before half my family made it through the machine.  My son had a mostly empty water bottle in his back back, so it was ripped open to reveal other dangers to the nation’s safety.  Like Beanie Babies, packs of gum, and a book about werewolves.  Yes, very dangerous indeed!

And then there was Annie, my eight year old daughter, who was swabbed for bomb residue.  My eight year old daughter.  Bomb residue.  Total nonsense.  It’s hard enough getting my irate husband through security checks.  He gets searched.  EVERY.  DAMN.  TIME.  Don’t tell me it’s random.  Imagine the level of Zen I had to achieve by that point just to usher my angry, now burgeoning-on-threatening family to a wall to squat in the overfull terminal.  I walked my youngest daughter to the Starbucks to get Husband some coffee.  While standing in the slowly snaking line, I posted “Dear TSA, I think you suck” on my Facebook status and silently fumed over x-ray machines and bomb residue swabs.  By the time we got back with the coffee (just in time to board the plane) everyone had calmed down enough to enjoy the flight.

My children insisted on each bringing a big fuzzy fleece blanket on the flight.  I told them, “You can bring a blanket, but you have to carry it, and as hot as it is here in Kansas, add ten degrees. That will be the temperature in Texas.”  When we settled into our seats, and I was sending up a prayer of thanks that we had made it safely onto the plane with no catastrophic mishaps, it occurred to me that the blankets were security items.  Sources of warmth, easily transportable, and reminiscent of home, what better items for the kids to bring along on a trip full of unknowns?  Much like Arthur Dent’s highly functional towel in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘, they served a purpose beyond that of a mere fuzzy blanket.

2014-07-11 10.43.54We all require specific security items for a successful flight. I brought my favorite flannel shirt and a small bottle of peppermint oil.  The shirt became an impromptu pillow; the peppermint oil kept airsickness at bay.  The peppermint oil came in a glass bottle, so I was relieved that it was not “found out” and taken away by TSA.  During our long layover in Dallas I watched people and tried to figure out their security items. One man sat reading a book with Japanese writing on the cover.  He pulled what looked like a passport from a small knapsack and scrutinized a paper tucked inside.  A handsome but smarmy man in a gray suit (clearly his item) leaned against a wall conspicuously and made intense duck faces, as if auditioning for a modeling job.  Many very well dressed women clutched at large Tory Burch handbags protectively and sipped Starbucks drinks.  I tried to imagine if they had anything more interesting in their bags than what I had in mine.  Probably not.

It’s sad that we — our bodies, items, and lives — must be thoroughly searched and picked over in order to fly.  Sitting in an airport terminal playing a guessing game that involves people-watching and being mildly nosy towards perfect strangers is one thing.  It’s quite another to have your personal life publicly violated by a team of ethically dubious busy bodies in police-y looking uniforms.

2014-07-11 10.45.34Allowing the kids to have their security blankets made the flights — and the entire trip — more pleasant.  Still so innocent and clueless about how big and bad the world can be, they need a way to wrap up in something that feels safe when strange things are happening around them.  I think about the game they played last summer.  Now the girls are too big for my son to spin them around and send them flying across the room.  Now they are big enough to go out into the real world and face real problems, like pushy, rude adults who could care less if their actions cause children to get lost in an enormous airport.  Or insensitive TSA officers who rip into personal belongings and treat military families like potential terror threats.  It’s not easy to watch my kids grow up, but it is a necessary part of life.  One thing we can do is provide them with tools to cope with stressful situations and teach them how to reach for those security items that give them the confidence they need to come out of even the most unpleasant situations with minimal bumps and bruises.

Don’t Panic and Carry a Towel (or Blanket)!

— G

My skin has been breaking out in swathes of pimples and streaks of rashes, thanks to my ongoing Mirena cleansing process.  With buckets of toxins and bad hormones oozing from every pore, hair and skin has taken the worst beating.  Coarse and wild, my hair resembles a horse’s uncombed tail.  But my face!  Oh, the horror.  I used to look in the mirror and say “Hey, not bad.  I can leave the house without makeup”.  Now I resemble someone slapped across the cheeks with a hot waffle iron and then squirted with olive oil for good measure.  Yuck.  I pamper my skin, but lately every well intended product just scatters more red welts across my cheeks.  Even the most gentle of moisturizers has left my face dry, itchy, and pitted, with pores large enough for someone to dive into.  Gross.  I couldn’t wear makeup, much less wash my face, without inducing yet another flare-up.  My skin has never been so sensitive or so irritated!  What to do?!

 

2014-07-03 09.28.42Fortunately, I remembered a special purchase during my recent trip to South Dakota.  I visited Prairie Edge, one of my favorite shops, in Downtown Rapid City.  Tourist attraction, souvenir/gift shop, Sioux trading post, history center and art museum rolled into one gorgeous historical landmark, Prairie Edge is nestled on the corner of Main Street and 6th.  The best is the Sioux trading post.  While my rowdy children fingered sumptuous fox tails and exclaimed loudly over the price of bison sinews and leather pieces (and I pretended they weren’t my offspring) I stared at the herbs and prairie plants.  One whole corner was dedicated to medicinal plants and herbs used by the Lakota.  Sage, the predominant healing herb, took up much space, but many other fascinating products caught my eye.  One was a small tub of salve labeled Ha Pejuta, or Skin Medicine in Lakota.  The ingredients are natural — wild bergamot, arnica, calendula, lavender, garlic, tea tree oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, and locally sourced beeswax — no chemicals.  The label states “This salve stimulates circulation and heals”.  I purchased it and a bottle of sweetgrass hydrosol, a distilled liquid smelling of the delicious water grass.

On the first night using the salve, my skin was so sensitive I could hardly cleanse without crying!  Gently dabbing the sweetgrass hydrosol over my face with a large cotton ball cooled the irritation.  Next came a few drops of tea tree oil on my T-Zone, then I rubbed a little Ha Pejuta over my face.  My skin was still very sensitive and at first the salve stung, but within a few minutes my face felt warm — the salve was living up to its claim!  The next morning my face looked clearer.  Cleansing still proved uncomfortable, but I followed the same pattern; soap for sensitive skin (the only part of the routine that included any chemicals), sweetgrass toner, tea tree oil, and Ha Pejuta salve.  I then added a dab of moisturizer with sunblock.  The salve created a barrier over my skin so I could add sunblock or moisturizers without causing further irritation.

For one week I followed the same regimen and tried not to wear makeup if possible.  The dryness and oiliness has resolved and my pores have shrunk.  The raised red areas smoothed out and disappeared.  My skin has even started to glow again!  I also made my own facial mask: a cherry tomato plucked from the garden, a dash of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of rolled oats, all pulverized in the blender with a bit of water.  I spread the mixture on my face and let it set up for 5 minutes, just enough for my skin to feel tight.  I will continue to use my Ha Pejuta salve to protect and heal my skin, and keep my fingers crossed for better facial health this summer!

2014-07-03 09.23.58

Just pulse in blender or food processor with a few drops of water and you have a homemade facial mask!

Update: After going back to my former skincare routine, my face started to look kind of blah again.  My chin broke out and I noticed dryness as well as oiliness on my nose and forehead.  So I believe the Ha Pejuta salve made an improvement.  Not wearing makeup for several days also didn’t hurt.  If you need a facial overhaul, you don’t have to buy Ha Pejuta, but try tea tree oil and a salve based on natural ingredients and try to avoid products with chemicals.  See if it helps.

— G