Monday, December 31, 2012


Instead of dwelling on the setbacks in 2012 (Don't cry over spilled milk), I count all the blessings (Always look on the bright side) we have experienced including two wonderful road trips - Southward adventure in July and Kentucky Bourbon Trail in September.  These photos were taken from the Great Smokey Mountain train ride. 
We were riding along, then the train slowed down.  It came to a complete stop.  The conductor announced that there were tree branches on the tracks.  Good thing we had the iPad with internet connection.  After watching the man working on clearing the tracks, we sat back in our comfortable caboose.  I brought along two books (the real ones that I could hear the rustling sound of the paper while the pages are being turned).  I read while Ralphie checked the latest news on the iPad.   
The caboose (equiped with its own bathroom) was supposed to be for group rental with snacks and drinks for up to 12 passengers.  Since it was only himself and I, the train company provided two box lunches complete with chips and cookies.  We also got a basket of snacks, a cooler filled up with ice, water and soda.  We were given a walkie-talkie in case we needed to communicate with the conductor.  It was a great experience and we highly recommend it. 
I want to believe that the setbacks I have encountered 18+ months ago that had led me down this "bumpy" road and unexpected difficult turns, are just like the tree branches on the train tracks.  It is up to me to get the tools I need (like getting a certificate of legal studies), cut the branches into managable pieces (keeping a strong faith, a spirit of giving back with volunteer activities), move the branches off the tracks (be strong and not become discouraged) and get the train moving (getting back into the workforce) again. 

The tracks were cleared, the train started to move, and all was well againHere is to 2013 and to the coming years, no more tree branches falling on our train tracks!

Saturday, December 29, 2012


It snowed last night - the first winter snow in STLA gentle, steady fluffy started falling around 1700 hours, just right after we came back from dinner in Chesterfield.  We planned to see the movie "Hobbit" after dinner but decided to go home instead.  I am not really interested in this movie or others action flicks, i.e. James Bond, but I usually will go along to keep Ralphie company and to help himself eat the popcorn.
This was what our backyard looks like this morning.  I always like the image of snow-covered flower box.  I sure don't miss the winter months from the years we lived in Michigan. 
After breakfast, we watched a Shirley Temple movie, The Little Colonel, one of my favorite.  The Littlest Rebel was another.
I look forward to the Twilight Zone All Day Marathon as traditionally shown on the SyFy channel starting 800 hours on New Year's Eve (December 31st) to 430 hours on January 1, 2013.  We probably will fall asleep and miss the countdown of the Times Square ball drop ceremony, again!  Do you have any big plans for the New Year celebration?  Have you already made any New Year resolutions?    

Friday, December 28, 2012


More stories from our road trip on Lincoln Highway - we were driving along when we saw the red-white-blue "L" sign and the white pig with a black head.  At first I thought it was a real pig and commented about the pig being in the front yard instead of in the pen.  Then I got excited that it was a sculpture.  That made it even better as my adoring fans know that I love taking photos of public sculptures.  As we slowed down, ready to stop the car, Bluebell came charging from the house, barking and yelling "Rich people bad, poor people good".
Pointed to the pig, Bluebell continued yelling, "This is Napoleon, the beloved leader and he will lead the way to the promise land by taking from those who have too much to provide fair share to those who are in need and everything will be good."  (I asked Bluebell the question how do you define "too much" and "fair share".  Bluebell said that Napoleon, the beloved leader, makes up the definition.  Just like a certain politician who goes on fancy vacation while millions of American are jobless, homeless and unable to feed their family.  Supporters of this incompetent politician probably explain that he needs the fancy vacation in order to think well, and since his so-called work is brain work, it is in everyone's best interest that he should have his well-deserved and much needed fancy vacation.  Should his brain fail because he has been working so hard (without a fancy vacation and a few round of golf) the rich might take over.  That would be a very frightening option for the farm.
We decided not to get out of the car and just took the photos while slowly driving awayThere was no point trying to remove the invisible blindfold because Bluebell would refuse to see the false vision of reality that Napoleon has rewritten history, manipulate statistics in his favor, using lying and bullying tactics of a skilled totalitarian leader while "the farm" heading down the cliff.  Make no mistake about this, Napoleon will not be going down with the rest of the animals.  (All politicians, no matter which political party, are never on the side of the poor.  Politicians need financial backing.  Have you ever seen poor people like you and me at $1,000 a plate at fundraising luncheon?)  He will make sure that he will survive and avoid the impact which his failure policy has imposed on others.  Napoleon only is interested in his own power and never makes any contributions by doing any real work.  He does not care about what is good for all, but rather only his own good and what a new society should be under his regime.
When a politician tells you that he is fighting for you, working to make your life better and making your future brighter, don't be naive believing these empty words!  Be sure to watch where his hands are because they are most likely taking money out of your pockets!  

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I went to the post office today (two days after Christmas) to mail out Christmas cards to a long time pen pal in England and an uncle (not a real relative, just someone we knew from the refugee camp).  Better late than never I said.  This year I was really late with my Christmas mailing.  I dropped off the U.S. cards on the 22nd because I had a difficult time writing my Christmas letter.  I wanted to include an update with the cards but did not want to write about all the setbacks I have experienced the last 12+ months.  I wonder what president Lincoln wrote in his Christmas letter after the many job lost, a few defeats in politics, unsuccessful business ventures and other setbacks.

These photos were from our road trip on Lincoln Highway in September 2012.  The statue below might be in front of City Hall in Grand Junction, Iowa.  I like the sculpture in front of a private home (top photo).  It was a creative work of art made from a dead tree. 
We went to see the movie "Lincoln" a few weeks ago.  It was a good movie but I was not impressed.  The cast did a good job of acting the roles they were assigned to but the screenplays were typical of Hollywood drama.  I am glad the movie did not show when Lincoln was assassinated.  The movie was about the final months of the president, how he tried to heal the country from the war and the division, there was no need for the details of his death.       
There are two of Lincoln busts overlook a bend north of Scranton, Iowa.  If we did not have the guidebook, we probably would never find the monuments and thought they were just part of the cornfields.  Someone or a very dedicated group took good care of the busts because they look good having been put in placed since 1924.
(PS:  I just noticed that this post is the One thousand one hundred eleven (1,111) post published in this little boring blog of mine since that dark stormy night in August 2006 - congratulations to ME - haa haa).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


It was another quiet Christmas just Ralphie and me, the way it should be.  No kids running around, tearing up wrapping paper to get to the presents without proper acknowledgement of where the gifts came from.  No driving in the snow and icy roads for 8+ hours and then spending the next few days pretending to be interested in stories told by people you won't see again for another year!  Do I sound like a grumpy old woman who lives in a smelly big shoe?
We did not go to the zoo again.  These images were from our visit a few weeks ago.  I heard that the zoo broke its attendance records, thanks to the nice weather.  An inch of snow at Christmas would have been better.  The weather people kept predicting that snow would be on the way to our area but so far we did not even get heavy flurries.
Ralphie made his world-famous pierogies and instead of apple pie again, himself made blackberry pie.  It was good but I think we will go back to apple pie next Christmas.  After dinner, we opened all the gifts, watched the movie The Nativity, then to midnight Mass at the Cathedral on Lindell, got there early for the music and for good seats.  It was a quiet and relaxing Christmas, just the way we like it. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas to You and Yours (TOTA, Ralphie and Benjamin)

Monday, December 24, 2012


 'Twas the night before Christmas Eve, when all through the streets in the Historic St. Charles, not too many people, not even a shopper dashing in and out of the stores trying to find that perfect Christmas present.  The doors to the shops were closed and the people were nestled all relax in their homes. 
We went to St. Charles last night.  It was around 1800 hour, the main streets were not crowded, plenty of parking space, crispy cool weather, clear sky, we located a safe spot for "Ralphie" precious Mustang, walked along main street, selected a restaurant we have not been before, enjoyed a nice dinner, walked around, took a few photos (my cheesy camera did not take good photo even though it was set for twilight mode so I have to post old photos taken during the day.  Hey Qap, just think of what the streets looked like when you were there in April 2011 and use your imagination, adding the Christmas lights to the image - haa haa).  
Also, the St. Charles Carolers heard about "Da Qaptain" great work in NYC and they want to ask you to join the group here.  If you are interested, please let me know and I will negotiate a great contract for you for a reasonable commission - heh heh.
To all my adoring fans, faithful readers and all visitors to this boring blog of mine, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night"

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I just read two interesting stories about the end of the world in a book about Native Americans.  I don't have a photo of "Grandfather Beaver" or a buffalo robe, so these images from our visit to Yellowstone National Park in September 2011, will have to do.
According to the Sioux, the future of the world depends on an old black dog.  He lives in a cave where the prairie and the badlands meet on the Great Plains.  There, an old woman (I could post my photo here - haa haa) has been sitting in front of a fire for one thousand years decorating a strip for a buffalo robe.  She is carefully threading it with colored porcupine quills (ouch).  The dog sits beside her.  Behind her is a pot of soup (I don't cook so my photo would not fit the story) that has been boiling for one thousand years.  When the woman finishes decorating the strip the world will end, but every time she turns around to stir her soup, the dog pulls that porcupine quills out .  The old woman never finishes the buffalo robe; thus the world continues on!  Good old dog - if it was Snoopy, he would probably too busy flying around or writing/translating his novel into French.
The Cheyenne tell a different story - the date of the world rests with a great white Grandfather Beaver.  It is gnawing at the pole that holds up the Earth.  When it finally bites through and the pole topples, Earth will end.  Storytellers claim he is already halfway through (by the end of 2000 - remember Y2K?), and he chews faster when he is angry.  That is why the Cheyenne do not eat beaver meat or wear its skins.  They do not want to make Grandfather Beaver angry.  So remember no matter how hungry you are, please do not eat beaver meat.
Every year, someone tries to prove that "seeing is believing" theory while visiting Yellowstone National Park.  Every visitor is handed a little flyer with a drawing of a person being thrown through the air by a bison, aka 2,000 lbs buffalo with a big pointy thing on its head.  That day, I saw three people literally ran after Big B (below) to get a close-up photo - you just can't fix stupid!   
We were on our way out of the park thru the North Entrance, back to the hotel in Gardiner, Montana, when traffic came a complete stop.  We thought it might be a fire or a tree falling over blocking the road.  Whatever it was, we thought we should stay put and wait for directions from the park rangers.  Even though the warning was printed in bold in the visitors' brochure but in a moment of excitement, the people ahead of us got out of their vehicles and started to run up the road ahead.  Then we saw what got everyone excited - the Buffalo King of Wyoming (not the New York Buffalo Bills)! 
For an animal with an average weight at over a thousand pounds, Big B moves gracefully and really taking his sweet time.  We watched as it took a few steps, then stop, strike a pose (we pulled off the road to stay out Big B's way, yet we could hear his breathing and for a second I thought he was going to charge at us.  "Ralphie" probably would not hesitate to use me, his short-chubby-old wife's body, as a sheild to keep Big B from scratching his precious Pony), then galloping down the road, then stop, pose one more time and then it was time to get off the road, back to the grassland - dinner time!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012


We made it - the sun is still shining, the earth has not been shattered into million of pieces by an asteroid and you are still reading my little boring blog (thank you very much) - the real world did not end and most importantly, I am still part of the blogosphere (I always thought it was "blogsphere" without the second "o"), posting (or rather writing boring stories) when I should be doing something productive!  (All these images are from Yellowstone National Park - September 2011).
Just for the records, these were my activities on that "fateful" day - Friday, December 21, 2012.  I got up (this in itself is already a blessing), then got ready to be at an organization where I have been volunteering after the Fall semester ended a few weeks ago.  I've helped three mornings each week until the end of December.  Then I got to prepare for the Spring semester starting the 2nd week in January.  There was no traffic and the lights were green all the way (I am trying to count only nice things).  It was sunny, clear blue sky and in the mid-40s.  (I always thought of September 11, 2001 when the sky was beautiful, "good flying weather" the captains of those airplanes probably reported.  Who would have thought such terrible event could happen on such beautiful day?)  Ok, let's count only positive things.  
I finished my volunteer work at noon and decided to walk to the park.  (Being able to walk on my own two feet is another blessing.)  After a quick lunch (a fish sandwich and a banana), I walked to the library.  A visit to the library always makes me happy.  After picking up a book I have reserved, I selected a few from the open stack.  I planned to read the reserved book first since I have to return it in two weeks and won't be able to renew because other patrons are on the long waiting list.  But if the world ended today, it wouldn't matter, would it?  
After the library, I was safely back in my poor humble but proud home!  Nothing bad happened and we are all still here, walking around on the face of the earth (well, except for those who were arrested and jailed by the government in China for spreading rumors about the doomsday).  BTW, the Lunar New Year is February 10, 2013 and it is the year of the Snake.  Therefore, December 21st on the Lunar calendar actually will be February 1, 2013 on the Western calendar.  (For those who are not familiar with Lunar v. Western calendar, ask Qaptain Qwerty for help as he is better at explaining than I am).  That is really a bummer for someone who looks forward to celebrating her 52nd birthday on February 1, 2013!!!!!!! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


 Even Santa needs a hand - so we should not be bashful to ask for help and to gracefully accept a gesture of kindness.
I will remember to seek help when I feel overwhelmed and to allow others to lift me up when I fall down.  I don't have to be strong all the times.  Most of all, I will remember "to let go and let God".

Thursday, December 13, 2012


We have warm sunny in the high 40s weather today.  I was able to do more walking by parking my car far away in the lot at the grocery store then walked to the post office in the next lotThe gas price has been sort-of reasonable but I still combine all the errands in one trip and walk from one place to another as long as it is safe to do so. 
We saw a group of deer (about 8) when we were leaving Mammoth Cave in Cave City, Kentucky (top and above photo).  This particular deer (above) looks like it was starving because it was all bones.  Not sure what happened there whether it was sick or because it just gave birth.  We tried to take more photos but the babies all ran back into the wood.
We saw about half a dozen deer while driving along Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.  Thankfully the deer were either in the wood (above) or standing in the middle of the road but far enough that we were able to avoid hitting them.
OK, my adoring fans probably are saying, "TOTA, you are really losing your marbles here posting photos of deer while talking about walking."
Well, today is the 13th and parking lot might not be a safe place for walking anymore.  Why?  Because a few months ago, right here in my town, a woman was knocked down by a dear in a busy parking lot.  The woman was injured and hospitalized (she was in a coma for a few weeks) but has fully recovered.  Who would have thought that such incident could happen in a fully developed commercial area.
Just this week, there were three car-deer accidents on Highway 40.  Last month my husband was painting the nativity when we saw a 8-point buck jumping over the fence in our backyard chasing after a doe.  Last week, I saw another buck running across a 5-lane road (Alisa, that is across from Target store on Manchester Road).
So, if you see a short-chubby geezer looking around while walking in the parking lot, ready to take cover, that would be me just being caution!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


 Did you do anything special on this 12th day of the 12th month in the year of 2012?  Since I am already married (23+ happy years), I could not be among the couples (9,000+ in the US) who had their weddings today.  I am (could) not pregnant so no baby of mine born today.  (And no boomer-rang kids coming back to live with us after college or grandkids either.)  I did buy lottery tickets.  Why not, we all have dreams and I hope my dream comes true!
I took an image of my cell phone at 10:11 while the battery was being charged.  I thought if I could not capture the time at 12:12 as I might miss it while running errands, then at least I still have the date 12.12.12.  I was able to get both images.  I am sure for most of us, it was just another day on the calendar.  I will admit that I thought something bad might happen so I was a bit nervous driving and being in the stores.  You never know where and when crazy things might take place.  Who would have thought that a movie theater, a shopping mall or even in the classroom could be a dangerous place to be!  
Happy the 12th - it is one in a lifetime event and I am sure glad to be here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012




One, Two, Three penguins
Jumping left, then to the right
Much fun at Wildlights
We did not see these happy jumping penguins last year.  It could be that the display was there but sort-of hidden, away from the main walking path.
This week the temperature is more like December weather.  Yesterday morning it was in the low 30s.  Today it gets up to mid 40s by the afternoon.  It is cold even when standing in the sun.  (I bookmark Gardiner, Montana on my iPad and it has been snowing there.)   My husband's workplace offers free blood test as part of the wellness program to employees and family members.  My appointment was this morning.  The nurse had a hard time trying to draw blood from my small veins.  She was surprised that I watched her moving the needle around.  "You are a brave woman," she said, "because most of the people look away."  I just smiled and did not tell her that I wanted to make sure she did not take more than needed ;>)

Monday, December 10, 2012


I read an article published in a "highly respected" community newspaper about a finding by a "highly respected" university researcher listing the best way to improve academic success to a particular group of students.  The Classy researcher wrote"If states and higher education institutions want to maintain higher levels of retention and a diverse student body, they should do much more than simply provide scholarship funding.One of the recommendations was for universities to take a more "holistic" approach to providing additional funding, not just free tuition, to ensure that students can focus on academic issues rather than working to make a living.  
Is "holistic" a new word for entitlement, handout or taking from one group, giving to another group and calling it fair?  How I wish I knew about this kind of "holistic" approach when I was working during the day and attending evening classes at Hunter College.  It took me five years from 83' to 88' to earn my undergraduate degree.  My job at an insurance agency did not pay much but enough that I was not qualified for financial aid so I funded my own education and did not demand the school to provide a "holistic" treatment.  I guess you could say that I provided my own boots, pulled myself up by my own boot-straps and I am proud of that.
There seems to be a lot of Classy talk about the fairness and what should be done to help the working poor.  It sure reminds me another vision of an ideal world where the poor people no longer subject to the rich and everyone in society will be free, happy, well fed and treated with dignity.  Beware of the man who promises the sky will always be blue!
That burro threatened and held us captive until we gave him a carrot.  It was the only road out of town so we had no choice but paid the ransom.


Related Posts with Thumbnails