Monday, April 18, 2022

Labyrinth: New Creation Community Church, Lincoln, Nebraska

Location: 5620 South Coddington, Lincoln, Nebraska

Date Visited: March 20, 2022

This labyrinth is small, but it still a beautiful spot to visit. The adjoining prayer garden has been thoughtfully created by several gardeners and focuses on the Lord's Prayer.  A beautiful spot in rural Nebraska for contemplation.

Labyrinth: St. Benedict Center, Schuler, Nebraska

Location: 1126 Road I, Schuyler, NE

Date visited: February 27, 2022 (I had visited before, but this was when I took the photos.)

The St. Benedict Center is one of my favorite places. I enjoy walking around the pond and through the Stations of the Cross in the prairie. I have attended several retreats there.  I like this labyrinth because there is a bench in the center.

Labyrinth: The Art Park, Wichita Kansas

Location: 7230 East 29th St. North, Wichita, KS

Date Visited: February 20, 2022

I visited this labyrinth after attending a bluegrass festival in Wichita.  According to the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator, this was originally built by St. Alban's Episcopal Church. It's now part of the Art Park.  While I personally missed the spiritual emphasis, it's still a great labyrinth, and it demonstrates that labyrinths can be used for many purposes.  There were a lot of fun decorations around this labyrinth, and I enjoyed walking it.

Labyrinth: Christ Lutheran Church, Wichita, Kansas

 Location: 5356 North Hillside, Wichita, KS

More info

Date Visited: February 20, 2022

I visited this labyrinth on a beautiful February day after attending a bluegrass festival in Wichita.  I liked the spiritual emphasis of this labyrinth.

Labyrinth: Sheridan Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Nebraska

 Location: 6955 Old Cheney Road, Lincoln, Nebraska

Date visited: February 8, 2022  (for the first time)

Description: This is conveniently located and always open. I visit here regularly. Not only is the labyrinth nicely paved and easy to walk, the surrounding area is beautiful, with a pond, trail, benches, and stations of the cross.  A nice mini-retreat.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Here's Robert Frost's famous poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" translated into different languages in Google translate many times and finally back to English. It actually still sounds poetic, though the meaning is quite different: I think you know the jungle But his house is in the center of town He didn’t see me standing. The ice was covered I have to think Continue Between forest and water and snow It was the hottest night. And he cried Do you have a question? The only sound is the river Air and debris The forest is very beautiful, dark and .no. But I hope so So you want to get enough sleep Long before going to bed
If you want to have a good laugh, go to Google Translate. Type (or paste) something in English and translate it into any language. Then copy and paste that back into the translate box and use "Detect Language." Translate that into another language. Keep doing this as long as you can. Try to use a variety of types of languages. Finally, translate it back to English. Here is a bread recipe: In a large bowl, heat the mixture with 1/2 teaspoon of warm water. Hold the ball until it hits your face. Compare the other 3 layers with sugar, salt and sugar. Shake the dough. Whenever you do this, drink 1/2 cup of flour. They will open on the surface of the river. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Turn off the iron and turn it into a water bottle. Boil the coral in lukewarm water for 1-1 / 2-2 hours. Replace and replace without electricity. You have to clean your food. Lebanon is located on 9x5 Road. I ate for an hour and everyone was happy. Bake at 305 and 375 for 30-30 minutes until golden and warm marks are added, so that they are removed from the plastic cover.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

I belong to an email list called Idita-support, where we discuss the Iditarod and other sled dog races. Every year we do a Secret Santa gift exchange. It's become quite a tradition. Here are the gifts I got from Santa this year:

Misty enjoying her gourmet salmon entry

Moggle enjoying her kitty toy

A wonderful Alaska-themed purse that my Secret Santa made herself.

Some great deerskin that she bought from a Blackfoot Native American.
 I will enjoy making moccasins, hats, etc., out of this!

And a bumper sticker.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Don’t let October Pass

Don’t let October pass
Without crunching leaves beneath your feet,
Sipping spiced cider with flames before your face,
Or gripping a hayrack while goblins grab at you under a harvest moon.

There are harder days ahead:
Gray November mornings,
December busy frenzies,
Before the icy fingers of winter claw away any remaining joy.

So sing while you can,
Eat pumpkin spice everything,
Dress up like a zombie,
And cheer when your team makes a touchdown.

Take October’s gifts with open hands.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Viewing the International Space Station (ISS)

A few nights ago I was lying out on the parking lot behind my house, when a woman walked by.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Oh, yes, I’m just looking for the space station.”

“The what?”

“The International Space Station.  It should be coming by any minute now.”

“Oka-ay.  I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“Oh yes, I’m perfectly fine.  I do this all the time.”

Somehow I’m afraid she didn’t believe me.  I think she had visions of someone waiting for a space ship to come and beam them up for an alien encounter.

A couple of nights later I had three friends out there with me.  This time we had lawn chairs, bug spray and everything.  I kept hoping that same lady would walk by.  We could have come up with a great story!

It may seem crazy, but there’s just something about watching that bright speck speeding across the night sky.  It’s usually the brightest thing in the night sky, except for the moon (and those ubiquitous airplanes).  And I can’t resist the urge to wave at the astronauts in “outer space.”

Viewing the International Space Station (ISS) isn’t as mysterious or difficult as you might think.  All you need is a clear night and an unobstructed view of the sky.  You do not need to go out in the country.  I’ve seen the ISS from a brightly lit downtown parking lot. Of course it helps to know exactly when and where to look.

I use the site Heavens Above. It’s very important to enter your location at the website. If you do not put in your observing location, the website defaults to Greenwich, England.  Just click on Change your Observing Location, put in the correct spot, scroll to the bottom and make sure the time zone is correct, and then click Update. You can also register, so it keeps your location. I registered (it’s free), so I’m always logged in.

After you click Update, you should be back to the home page.  Click on ISS.  You will get a list of the upcoming visible passes. Sometimes there aren’t any upcoming visible passes in your area.  Other times there will be several a day.  Click on the date to see all the information.

The map may seem a little strange, but keep in mind that it's meant to be observed lying down and holding it above you.  If you look at it that way, it makes perfect sense.

Pay special attention to the Brightness.  The LOWER the number, the brighter it will be.  I prefer to watch when it is below zero. 

Lie down about five minutes before the start time to allow your eyes to get used to the dark.  Then fix your gaze on the area of the sky indicated.  The ISS always travels from west to east, but sometimes it is directly overhead, while other times it will be closer to the horizon.  You will probably not see the ISS rise above the horizon.  Rather it will gradually become visible during the pass.  Look for a very bright star moving across the sky.  It’s always exciting the first time you see it.

Another website that is helpful is Spot the Station. Run by NASA, this site also gives viewing times, and you can even sign up to get emails whenever the ISS is visible in your area.  However, I find that it isn’t as reliable as Heavens Above.

Nope, there will not be any alien abductions, but it’s still fun to spot an actual spaceship!

Happy sky gazing!

Friday, May 23, 2014

The New Scrabble Word (or how a snarky Facebook comment got me 15 minutes of fame)

I usually try to keep things positive and light-hearted on Facebook.  No heavy drama, no put-downs, and definitely no arguments. But once in a while something sets me off, and I have to respond. Such was the case when the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page announced a “Face off” for fans to choose a new word to be added to the official Scrabble Players dictionary, which is the ultimate authority on allowable words in Scrabble.

They had narrowed it down to 16 words, and the fans would vote off until there was only one word left.  There were some interesting words on the list, but most avid Scrabble players agreed that the contest would end up as a face-off between the words EW and ZEN.  These are two words that Scrabble players want to use all the time.  Two-letter words like EW are priceless for connecting two words.  And ZEN is a great way to use that Z.  I was cheering for EW.

But something strange was happening.  The word GEOCACHE kept winning the face-offs.  When it won against BITCOIN, I wasn’t too surprised, but when it won against COSPLAY, I was confused.  COSPLAY would be a great word to use in Scrabble because it has an S that can join on to many other words, and because it has 6 letters.  GEOCACHE? No Scrabble player would vote for an 8-letter word with two C’s.  When would we ever use such a word?

Then GEOCACHE went up against EW.  Surely EW would win.  It was a much more logical choice.  But when people started furiously voting for GEOCACHE, I grew suspicious.  So I did a little sleuthing, and I discovered a message on the forum urging people to visit the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page and vote for geocache to win the contest.  It turns out there were Twitter messages on it too.

I was livid.  Here Scrabble fans had an opportunity to choose a new word for the official dictionary, and this opportunity was being hijacked by some geocachers who just wanted to spread awareness of their hobby.
Now I’ve done geocaching, and I agree that it’s a great hobby. I’m all for spreading the word about great activities or things you love.  But it’s not acceptable to spread the word about your hobby by messing things up for another hobby that people love.

So I went against my “no drama” policy and started complaining. I posted the link to the forum post and requested that they disqualify the word GEOCACHE. I went onto the geocaching forum and pleaded with cachers to “stop spamming the contest.”

But GEOCACHE won that round and went up against ZEN for the final.  The final?  Seriously?  How could such a ridiculous word win the contest?  It became obvious that people were voting for GEOCACHE just to get out the word about their hobby.  But they tried to give reasons for voting for the word, such as “Think of all the words you can add to it.”  I responded with comments like, “I don’t think you actually play Scrabble.”

But GEOCACHE won the contest.  The Facebook page announced it by saying. “You voted for it. Don't blame us if your opponent beats you with it.” I responded with: “Too bad that this contest was taken over by people with an agenda other than playing Scrabble. Hopefully there will be other revisions that make more sense.”

And then it happened:  I got Facebook hate comments: “That is the stupidest comment I read on here,” and “Are you really that naive to think that people have never asked people to vote a certain way before? If so, step away from the Scrabble board and go see the real world.”

At first I was upset.  I want everyone to like me.  And here were people—albeit total strangers who didn’t have a clue—who were calling me stupid and na├»ve and saying I wasn’t aware of the real world.  But after a bit, I was amused.  Anyone who knows me realizes that those comments are far off from reality. And there is a sort of badge of honor to getting an insult on Facebook.

But it was my last comment that got me my fame: “And no opponent is going to beat me with it because I can probably count on one hand the times someone played an 8-letter word. Most bingos are 7-letter words that are connected to other words with an S or by a two-letter joiner (such as EW).”
I was looking for news articles about the new word (Yep, I was a bit obsessed) and came across this article on the Time magazine page.  And there it was:
In fact, some might say it will be easier to find “caches” than to find a place to put down “geocache” on the Scrabble board because it’s an eight-letter word. On the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page, players are complaining in the comments section, arguing “Most bingos are 7-letter words that are connected to other words with an S or by a two-letter joiner (such as EW)” and “When will we ever need to use that one- always try to use ZEN and EW- many more opportunities for that to happen.”
Ha – I was quoted in Time magazine, but they didn’t even use my name.

And in case you’re wondering, my ire has died down.  (Yes, I have played IRE in Scrabble.) I realized that this contest was not really about adding a word, but about getting publicity for Scrabble, for the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page, and—in the end—for geocaching.  And it achieved that purpose.  Also, what most people don’t realize is that many, many more words will be added to the new edition of the official Scrabble dictionary, scheduled to be published this fall.  I’m hoping those responsible for the decisions will do the right thing and add EW and ZEN.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recycled Art and a fun library in Beatrice, Nebraska

On Sunday, I went with my friend, J. Pario of Painting on the Ceiling to see the recycled art exhibit that featured some of her work.  I love the idea of recycled art.   I love this tree mosaic she made out of pieces she had cut from Christmas cards and other pieces.

Here's the artist herself, with some of her work:

I like the idea of working with fused plastic

And then there is plarn.  I don't think I'll ever have the patience for that, but it certainly is interesting:

The show was held in a library, which was quite large for a small-town library.  I found a quiet spot to read:

Yes, that IS a bathtub!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Can you trust your memory? Lessons from the Protecting Hand Sculpture

In Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live, there is a sculpture called “The Protecting Hand,” originally created for what was then Woodmen Accident and Life (Now Assurity Life Insurance). It still graces the south side of a downtown building, clearly visible from the state capitol, that unique tower on the plains.

I remember when I was a child, the parents were nude. 

Or were they?

I even remember my second grade teacher commenting on how terrible it was that the figures were all naked, that someone should put clothes on them.  Then I remember seeing them with clothes on for the first time. I seem to remember something about a controversy and how they finally agreed to put clothes on the figures.

But are those memories accurate?

A photo of the sculpture was recently posted on a Facebook page about Lincoln, and people began commenting on the fact that the figures were formerly nude and the clothes were added later.

Then someone had the audacity to state that the figures had always been clothed. That can't be true, I thought.  They were once naked.  Everyone knows that.  It’s part of Lincoln’s lore.

Still unbelieving, I searched for visual proof, and found this photo from the 1957 University of Nebraska yearbook:

Yep, they had clothes in 1957 – and that was before I was born.

Yet there is this collective memory of the figures being naked.  I showed the picture to my 20-year-old daughter, and she said, “Weren’t they naked at one time?”

The Facebook page shows the common consensus: The parents formerly had no clothes. Here are some comments:
  • I remember when the man and woman had no clothes
  • They are hilarious with clothing. I hope they never put clothes on the naked ones in the State Capitol Building!!
  • Remember when woodman had to dress the people. So stupid
  • Glad they never put pants on "The Thinker" or "Venus de Milo". What were the city fathers thinking?
  • I remember when they were not dressed. Really never made sense to me why they had to "clothe" them. Ridiculous.
When someone explained that it was an urban myth that they were naked, people refused to believe it:
  • there was a time, for a very long time, they were unclothed and it was very nice sculpture.
  •  Urban fact. We're talking full frontal nudity, man, woman and child. I was titillated and proud of my city. What poor hired mason had to spackle that penis?
  •  Sorry, not an urban legend. When I was young they were not clothed. Remember it vividly.
  •  I grew up in Lincoln as well. I'm positive they were naked as I also remember the big to-do when they were made to have clothes put on them. It wasn't a story I heard...I actually saw it with my own eyes countless times.
And when someone finally showed pictures to prove it, including one of the sculpture going up, that clearly shows pants:
  •  You can show me all the pictures you want, but I grew up in Lincoln, and I can tell you, they were not clothed. In fact, there was a fig leaf cod piece before there were pants. My mom thought it was so funny, she stopped so we could have a good look see. Don't know what to tell you all, but parts was parts, not pants.

 Some pretty strong feelings here.  And some pretty strong memories.

And then, after we had proved that the figures had always been clothed, someone added their comments (evidently without looking at the previous comments):
  • Miss the original art. Whoever changed this art, was a coward. If you cant handle art, leave the art. Dont change it. I mean, its the art of an insurance company, with 1950s standards. Pretty dang mild.

 Here we go again .. .

Like many legends, there is an element of truth to it.  The artist’s original model showed all the figures entirely nude, but he was asked to modify it before creating the full-sized version on the building.  That model is now on display in the Assurity building, which is now in a different location.

Why do so many people remember the figures being nude?  And why is it such a strong memory? Did it just seem like they were nude because the clothes were so understated?  Did we focus on the children and miss the clothes on the parents? Were we somehow remembering hearing about the artist’s original model and getting it mixed up with the full-sized sculpture?  Did we get some false information somewhere?

The fascinating thing about this memory is that it is not just something we heard or experienced.  It’s a strong visual memory.  Many people can “see” those naked people in their memories.  How could those memories be wrong?

I still find it hard to believe that they have always been clothed.  And what about my second grade teacher?  Was she just talking about the kids being naked? 

I’ll never know.  But what I do know is that we can’t trust our memories all the time.  And certainly not when it comes to naked people in a huge hand.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Impossible Pie

Here's a recipe I've gotta try.  But I'm not a big fan of coconut.  I wonder if I could make it without coconut.  ♥

2 cups milk
1 cup shredded coconut
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Place milk, coconut, eggs, vanilla, flour, butter and sugar in blender. Mix well.
Pour into a greased and floured pie plate. Sprinkle nutmeg on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Balsamic glazed fish

I adapted this recipe from one I found on the package of Trader Joe's Frozen Sablefish:

  • 2 T honey
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
  • 1 T orange or lemon juice
  • 1 T orange or lemon zest or peel
  • optional: ginger (powder or fresh minced)
  • 2 T oil
  • pepper

Season fish with pepper. Combine other ingredients into a glaze and spread over fish. (You may need to melt the honey in the microwave first.) Broil 3-5 minutes, then finish in a 450-degree oven until it flakes with a fork (about 10 minutes per inch of thickness of fish).

Friday, May 31, 2013

Grammar Tip #8: Lightning vs. Lightening

This one should be obvious, but I've seen it misused so many times lately, that I decided to include it in my Grammar Tips.

Here’s how to tell the difference between these two words:
  • Lightning is that flash of light in the sky during a thunderstorm. 
  • Lightening is a verb (specifically a gerund) meaning making lighter in weight,  color or intensity.

Some examples are in order:
  • I saw lightning in the sky.  We’d better go inside.
  • I am lightening my load by taking some books out of my backpack.
  • The sky is lightening as the sun comes up.

Now, here is where it gets confusing. “Lightening CAN refer to the flash of light in a thunderstorm, but only when it is used as a verb, to express action and NOT when it is used as a noun.

Confusing, right?  The best way to figure it out is to ask yourself, Would I use “thunder” or would I use “thundering “ to replace it? If you would use “thunder,” then use “lightning.”  If you would use “thundering,” then use “lightening.” You can remember it by associating the longer word “thundering” with the longer word “lightening.”

  • It is lightening outside. (You would say, “It is thundering outside.”)

  • I think we are going to have a lightning storm tonight. (You would say, “I think we are going to have a thunderstorm tonight.”)
  • There is lightning in our area tonight. (You would say, “There is thunder in our area tonight.”)

The instances where you would use the word “lightening” are really very rare.  When in doubt, use lightning.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Update on Meditation and My Blood Pressure

In my previous post, I shared how slow breathing, or meditation, can lower blood pressure, with or without using "helps," such as CDs, podcasts or the famous (and expensive) RESPeRATE machine.

After I started practicing slow breathing/meditation, I found my blood pressure readings becoming consistently lower. When I saw my doctor, she gave me surprising and happy news:  She said I could try going OFF the blood pressure medicine to see how I do. "Most people just want drugs, so that's what I give them," she explained.  "But if you're willing to use other methods, I'm willing to work with you." It was refreshing to hear that from a doctor.

It's been almost two weeks now without the med, and so far my blood pressure has been stable.  A few times it has been a little bit above normal, but ten minutes of meditating will almost always bring it down.  Here are some examples:

Before meditating: 130/93. After meditating: 115/79
Before meditating: 128/90. After meditating:  114/80

What's even more exciting is that usually when I take my blood pressure without meditating, it gives me a completely normal reading, such as 117/77 or 118/84.  I haven't seen readings like that for over a year.

I've also varied the way I use the Jesus prayer in my meditation.  Sometimes I use the shortened form of the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me."  I say it silently once as I inhale slowly and once as I exhale slowly.  I usually do about eight breaths per minute.

Meditative prayer has also greatly relieved my anxiety and depression.  I believe as I continue to practice it, I will notice other  health benefits as well.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Alternatives to RESPeRATE Breathing Tool for High Blood Pressure

If you've googled anything about blood pressure, you've probably seen the ads for RESPeRATE , the machine that's been shown to lower your blood pressure. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it showed up as a featured ad on this blog post. (Sorry about that.) If you're like me, you've been tempted to buy it.  But let's face it: The $300 price tag is pretty steep for what you get:  a machine that gives tones to tell you when to breathe and some cheap headphones.  Oh, it does have a band that measures how your chest and stomach moves in and out when you breathe.

Research has shown that slowing your breathing to 6-10 breaths per minute can lower your blood pressure. But do you need to spend $300 for a machine to help you? What are some alternatives to using RESPeRATE?

I discovered these podcasts at               In order to share them with friends, I made a tiny url:  Listen online or download the podcasts entitled "Paced Breathing for Hypertension." These podcasts give you tones to signal when to breathe.  They're simple to use and free.  If you find yourself getting ahead of the tones, just take a few breaths to get back on track.

You could also try a music CD that has tones to help you breathe.  I found this one:
The Slow Deep Breathing Music Album for Yoga, Meditation and Relaxation

The podcasts or CD are a good way to become familiar with the pace of breathing.  After using the podcasts, you may wish to try slowing your breathing on your own. That way you can practice breathing exercises anywhere: while waiting for an appointment, at your desk, or (better yet) outdoors in a peaceful setting.  Try to make your exhalation a slightly bit longer than your inhalation.  From time to time during the session, test your breathing by counting how many breaths you take in one minute.

I find it helps to use a phrase with my breathing.  You can do something as simple as counting 1-2-3-4 while breathing in and then count 1-2-3-4-5-6 while breathing out. Or you can use phrases, such as "I am very calm. My body is resting peacefully." or "My blood vessels are opening up. The blood is moving easily."

I like to use an ancient prayer called "The Jesus Prayer" or "The Prayer of the Heart," which was developed by the early Christian monastics as a way to "pray without ceasing."  The monks and Orthodox faithful still practice this prayer today.  It's simply: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  I breathe in while saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God," and I breathe out while saying "Have mercy on me, a sinner."  Actually I have found that it works better to make the second phrase a little longer, so I usually say, "Have mercy, have mercy on me, a sinner."  I sometimes use a prayer rope, which has knots that you finger with each repetition.

If you are a Christian, I highly recommend the Jesus prayer, because it has been used for centuries as a tool of meditation and devotion in much the same manner.  And the monks of Mount Athos are some of the healthiest people on earth.

Of course, you may use a phrase from your own religious tradition or beliefs as well.

I find that when I spend 10 minutes practicing slow breathing, my systolic blood pressure lowers by about 12 points each time.  It's gone down as much as 19 points.  I've been doing this for several weeks and I seem to be getting lower blood pressure readings overall.  Although I am on a small dose of blood pressure medication, I am hoping to be able to reduce or eliminate the medicine in the future.  My doctor is fully supportive of my breathing sessions.