A Grand Road Trip

Driving into a land of 75 mile per hour speed limits, motorcyclists with a “no helmet” option, and signs posted outside of restaurants and shops informing patrons of just when they can or can not bear their firearm…subtle changes like this remind me of the beauty and the strangeness that it can be to enter another culture, even if that means merely crossing the state line that is 276 miles away from home.  Two words that can fill my mind and soul with such sun-warmed memories of contentment like no other words can…road trip.

My mother, a very spontaneous traveler and day-tripper, was yearning for a little getaway to celebrate the infamous and highly academic spring break.  Through an everyday conversation with my uncle, my mother discovered that he’d never seen the Grand Canyon.  She also remembered that although I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji, have glided over the marine life of the Great Barrier Reef, and have island-hopped around Tahiti, I’ve never seen one of the greatest natural beauties in my own backyard.  Bam!  It hit her – this could be the spring break trip she was longing for – perfect road trip material: 8-hour car trip, a wonder to behold, and reasonably priced accommodations.  She was all set, within a matter of two days she made the necessary calls, checking in with lodging options, confirming serious interest on behalf of my uncle and myself, and was set to run off on a moment’s notice…until she remembered the appointment she’d set up for that pesky pain in her foot.  One doctor visit later and it turns out my mom has a minor, but definitely bothersome fracture in her foot.  Her hopes were crushed.  Disappointed that it didn’t work out for Spring Break, my mother was still determined to make the trip happen.  Just three to four weeks after her doctor visit and armed with a very attractive “boot” to protect her foot, we set out on our adventure.

To say that the Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring or even magnificent is a complete understatement.  Each step we took, I admired the changing landscape, marveled at the striations in color and rock, and tried to capture what I felt swelling inside with the lens of my camera.  I did my best, but even after two days and 249 pictures (and that’s after weeding out duplicates) I failed miserably.

Grand Canyon vista from Hopi Point

Grand Canyon vista from Hopi Point

Aside from the view, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to gain a “Glimpse into Geology” through a Ranger program, arrange my own self-guided tour via cell phone,

and hop on the free shuttle to travel from one end of the South Rim to the farthest stop West.  We were reminded of the three types of rock: sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic.  We learned about the four conditions that in their divine happening together resulted in the majesty that is the Grand Canyon – deposition, uplifting, down-cutting (of the Colorado River’s waters), and erosion – easily remembered by the pneumonic D-U-D-E!  But what made the Grand Canyon getaway for me truly memorable was the gathering of so many from all over the world – Sweden, India, South Korea, Germany, Japan, France, Portugal, Brazil, all over!  Listening to the many languages, seeing products with unfamiliar labels and brands, appreciating subtle differences in greetings, love it!  Add to that the inclusion of so many accessible and fascinating resources – Ranger-lead hikes and programs, free shuttles with incredibly friendly drivers, and the preservation and sharing of such great history.

Sign for mobile Ranger audio tour

Sign for mobile Ranger audio tour

How cool to learn (again – sure I learned it before in school) that when Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped into his challenging seat as President in 1932 he chose to stimulate the economy, occupy many unwillingly idle young men, and work to conserve our nation’s natural resources by developing the CCC, otherwise known as the Civilian Conservation Corps.  How interesting to discover that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is actually about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim.  Really?  Mules go through a training program of a year before they can carry folks down into the canyon (I hope so!) – wow!  We learned so much.  But more than that, we had great fun.  Car games like listing musical artists and bands from A to Z, then to actors, producers, and directors, stumped to come up with any performers to fit the “Z” – aside from the Zappa family, of course.  Wondering about such earth-shaking quandaries as “what’s the difference between salami and pepperoni?”  And delving into the far corners of our memories, trying to remember just what were those yummy chocolate and peanut-buttery wafery cookies that came two to pack in foil-wrapped paper?  No, we didn’t debate the pressing issues of our time, we didn’t solve the world’s problems, we didn’t even come up with a proposal for world peace, but what we did was step out of time for a couple of days, enjoy one of God’s many gifts, and rest in the company of family.  Good times.  Good trip.  Wish you were there.

Even if you weren’t there, if you know what is the difference between salami or pepperoni, or even a raven and a crow, for that matter, OR if you remember what those yummy chocolate and peanut-buttery-wafery snacks were –- do share – and you’ll be well on your way to your own road trip discoveries.


He’s Goin’ the Distance

Today I had the distinct honor of participating on the Colloquium Committee for a colleague and friend.  As part of concluding his Master’s program he was presenting on all that he has learned over the two years, his vision, and upcoming plans.  Having completed the program myself just last year, I know how busy and stressful it can be — especially at the very end.  So to celebrate I, of course, had to make him a card.

As I was trying to think of the best way to convey the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, Cake’s song, “Going the Distance“, began playing in my mind.  To understand why, here are a couple lines from the song:

He’s going the distance.
He’s going for speed.

Because he’s racing and pacing and plotting the course,
He’s fighting and biting and riding on his horse.
He’s going the distance.

I then had a vision of a runner’s silhouette breaking through the finish line — exactly how I wanted to convey my excitement for my friend’s final, graduating presentation.

Card with a runner breaking through the ribbon and the message, "You did it!"

You did it! card

Alternate view of "You did it!" card

View of the runner bursting through the ribbon

"Celebrate" message inside the "You did it!" card

“Celebrate” message inside the “You did it!” card

Through some Google searching I found the perfect image.  I printed it out, and cut it out with the curvy finger-swivel blade.  I used a contemporary black and white striped designer paper as the background, and decided it needed a little extra color.  I then used a bright yellow cardstock and cut out a circle — as the sun behind the runner, also a perfect place to stamp the message, “you did it!”.  I used red wraphia and cut a jagged edge through it to create a ripped effect in the finishing line ribbon.  I used the 3D adhesive squares to add dimension to the runner and set him over the sun and paper.  I glued the wraphia across the front and curled up the edges to give the effect of the bursting through the red ribbon.  On the inside I stamped “Celebrate” with red ink and embossed it with red dragon embossing powder.


  • “Me and My Big Ideas” Black & White decorative paper
  • Bright yellow cardstock
  • red wraphia
  • alpha rubber stamps
  • Celebrate clear rubber stamp ($1 bin at Michaels)
  • Stamp N Stuff Red Dragon embossing powder
  • Cranberry ColorBox Ink

Hope you enjoy the final product as much as I did.  And to those of you who are finishing your own “races” — may you continue going the distance and enjoy your own celebrations!

The Power of Relationships

Moving.  Intense.  Powerful.  Eye-widening.  Heartbreaking.  These are just a few words that can describe my feelings after watching American History X.  I know, I know — we’re in 2010, and American History X was released in 1998 – why am I watching it now?  To be honest, I don’t remember hearing about the movie back when it was released.  Wondering how I missed it, I did some digging.  Released in the same year were two other (and I’m sure more) notable powerhouse movies — one that I was too squeamish to watch until recent persuasion by my husband — Saving Private Ryan, and the other, La Vita e Bella, one of my absolute favorite films on the planet.  Perhaps the release of American History X was overshadowed for me by these other films, perhaps I saw the previews and was nervous by its intensity — I don’t remember and I don’t know.  But after recently stumbling upon the trailer, my husband and I had a feeling it would be a good, but incredibly hard movie to watch.  We were right.  Am I glad I watched?  Most definitely!

Movie Poster for "American History X"
American History X movie poster

Edward Norton, as he most often does, delivers a commanding and dramatic performance, not only as a skinhead, but as the skinhead, Derek Vinyard, in the struggling and confused community of Venice, California.  Edward Furlong takes on the role of Norton’s younger, and impressionable brother, Danny Vinyard.  In a time and place where things are changing, and people are losing hope, many turn toward the power of blame and hate.  After violence strikes, lives are changed, and lines drawn, it is through the twisting of circumstances and the bond of one unexpected relationship that minds and hearts show the first glimmer of hope.  Contrary to personal beliefs, prejudices, and worldviews, characters slowly begin to find that “others” can make them laugh, can listen, can soften the anger, and can turn their world inside out.  These are the beginnings of change.

While watching the movie I was reminded of many such relationships — those that broke all the rules and defied all social expectations, those that blur the dividing lines and change the world, one experience at a time.  It is my strong belief that beyond the realm of television, movies, and media, it is these same connections in our day to day lives that are of the utmost importance.  It’s for this reason that I advocate so passionately in education for study abroad opportunities and work with international students.  When we develop special corners in our hearts for particular individuals, towns, cities, states, countries, and even nations — we are then compelled to think twice before blindly blaming others for our misfortune.  When someone, perhaps out of anger, pain, or ignorance, says an unkind word (at the least) about one of those special corners — we, out of our experience, are more likely to protect and build bridges of understanding.

At a welcoming speech to incoming international students, a university president delivered an address, highlighting the importance of hosting these students on campus.  He shared historical stories of individuals, who based upon positive or negative experiences studying abroad, later were faced with moments that could impact the lives of many, and then chose to use their power to protect or to harm.

In your life, what people, experiences, or stories have blurred the lines of your worldview, your beliefs, or even turned your world inside out?