Standing in My Integrity

I once stayed in a 16-year relationship because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. Like most women, I’ve been trained since childhood to put everyone ahead of myself. And I’m good at it. Too good.

Some things never change. I came across this article about a school in Utah where the little girls have been instructed that when boys ask them to dance at a school function, they cannot say no. (We wouldn’t want to hurt little boys’ feelings, now would we? Even if it makes the girls uncomfortable in the process.)

I had a visceral reaction to this story. Girls need to learn to say no. They need to know it’s okay to say no. They need to trust their gut instincts. And boys need to learn that no means no.

Without these lessons, you wind up with 53-year-old women like me, who prize integrity above all else, but still tend to sacrifice it to smooth things over. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruffle feathers. Keep your opinions to yourself.

It’s really kind of funny. I’m always told I have a strong personality. (Like that’s an insult—and one that’s never directed at men.) People have absolutely no idea what an inner struggle accompanies my ability to speak up.

Speaking up does not come naturally to me. Not at all. When something is bothering me, I generally have to agonize over it for days on end before I can take action. And during that whole process, my stomach is in knots. I lose sleep. I grind my teeth. I rehearse what I want to say over and over again in my head. It’s not a pleasant experience. But I’ve found over the years that not speaking up is even worse.

I’ve been working really hard on standing in my integrity lately. Speaking up more promptly. Agonizing less. Saying, “No, that’s not okay.” Figuring out why doing what feels right to me is such a torturous undertaking.

Integrity should be the place where I reside all the time. It shouldn’t be some thought balloon that I pull along behind me. It should be my natural habitat. And the fact that I was ever trained otherwise is outrageous. That there are still girls in this day and age that are being spoon-fed this crap is disgusting.


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Why Does Food Taste Better Al Fresco?

I just got back from a fantastic trip to Southeastern Utah, in which I shared my sister and brother-in-law’s motor home, and we did quite a bit of outdoor dining. It reminded me of something that has been reinforced again and again and again during my travels: food always tastes better when it’s eaten outside. Why is that?

(This is by no means a scientific essay. If you’re looking for something that’s peer reviewed, you may want to look elsewhere. But as usual, I do have my opinions.)

I suspect that one’s attitude greatly enhances one’s taste buds. Generally, when I’m eating outdoors, I’m surrounded by people that I love, and the scenery is usually spectacular. (You don’t often hear of people picnicking in the town dump, do you?)

Also, when vacationing or just having a picnic lunch in the park across the street, there’s an opportunity to set stress aside. That has to enhance one’s appetite. I know that when I’ve been forced to eat in highly-charged situations, I’ve often felt sick to my stomach. So it stands to reason that the opposite would be true in times of relaxation.

And then there’s the effort factor. If you’re eating outside, chances are that you’ve gotten a little more exercise in than usual. In other words, you’ve “worked up an appetite.” (Well done, you!)

And cooking over a campfire or a grill tends to take a little more planning. It’s not like you’re popping a TV dinner into a microwave. So by dint of the extra preparation, you have really earned this meal. Even with the simplest of foods, that feeling of satisfaction is a good psychological sauce, indeed.

I’ve also noticed that food seems to taste better even in outdoor cafés. While traveling in Croatia, for example, more often than not we supped at tables located in quaint little alleyways filled with potted plants. I think I gained 10 pounds on that trip. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

steak on the barby

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The Journey

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey, they say. I sometimes have a hard time remembering that. As a general rule, I hate the “travel” part of travel.

I particularly miss flying in the ’80’s, when you could saunter onto your plane at the last minute, with your Crocodile Dundee-sized Bowie knife and nail clippers on full display, settle into a seat with plenty of leg room, most likely having the entire row of seats to yourself, and expect something other than a single pretzel to eat. These days, I just want to get there, preferably with all my luggage, and let the adventure begin.

On my most recent trip, to Utah, a lot of irritating things happened during the journey. I booked a ziplining tour, something that has been on my bucket list for decades, and I was really looking forward to it. I went to Sundance Mountain Resort and wandered about, feeling like a country mouse as I often do in rich places. I had time to kill, so I bought an outrageously overpriced but delicious meal and ate while reading a book.

I got to the ziplining office at the designated time, all excited, only to be told that it was cancelled due to high winds. They had been trying to contact me for hours. (Why does everyone assume you’ve got a smart phone with e-mail access? Pick up the phone!!!)

Terribly disappointed, I headed to my shabby little motel room in Provo, Utah. (I did stop to see Bridal Veil Falls on the way, which was pretty awesome, but took all of 5 minutes.) I wouldn’t have been stopping in Provo at all were it not for the ziplining. If there’s anything entertaining to do in that town, I certainly didn’t find it.

So I sat in my threadbare accommodations, listening to the really loud construction next door, until 9 pm, when they quit for the day and I was finally allowed to get to sleep. (But to do that I had to turn the fridge off to stop it’s squealing. When the fridge finally thawed at midnight, the sound of the falling ice scared the life out of me.)

Back to sleep. That is, until the police raid in the motel room directly beneath mine at 1 a.m. Lots of shouting and door pounding. That was fun. Not.

So was the car alarm that went off at 3 a.m. and didn’t stop until the battery died. I was beginning to think someone was sticking pins in a little Barb voodoo doll or something.

But, as my previous posts about this trip will attest, the rest of the trip was amazing. And even when you’re having a bad time in Utah, you have fantastic views as a backdrop. So here are some random photos I took during the journey.


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Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

I can imagine that after days of visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, when people see signs for the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park, they’ll be tempted to give it a pass. By definition, a state park must be inferior to a national park, right? Wrong.

Dead Horse Point, despite its grizzly name, is one of the nicest state parks I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Admittedly it is smaller than its national cousins, but it is well worth several hours of exploration.

The first view that treats your eyes is that of the turquoise blue potash mine 2000 feet below. I wish I could say my photos did it justice, but no. I highly recommend you check out the photos here. This vivid blue swath amongst the red rocks is quite startling. It’s the only mining operation I’ve ever seen that was actually pretty. (Potash is used for fertilizer, I’ve since learned.)

The view of the Colorado River is pretty darned impressive, too. And most of the rim walkways in the park are well-paved. I’d say this park is a lot more wheelchair accessible than either of the national parks, by a long shot.

And the visitor center/coffee shop/gallery/gift shop is stunning. Come the apocalypse, I’m confiscating this place as my house. It is fronted with a wall of glass that looks out over the breathtaking views, and has a delightful balcony to sit on when you want some hard-to-find shade, but still wish to enjoy the great outdoors.

In their educational exhibit, I finally took a picture of their picture of the elusive little White-Tailed Antelope Ground Squirrel. I’d been seeing these cute little critters scurrying everywhere and thinking they were fluffy-tailed chipmunks, for days. But they are just too quick to get a good photo. (I think we got spoiled by our trip to Yellowstone a few years ago, and therefore we were expecting to see large game, at least a bighorn sheep, during this trip, but we never did. Just squirrels, ravens, and the occasional lizard. Here in the high desert, most creatures are nocturnal.)

I’d talk about how this park got its name, but it’s too depressing. If you’re curious, you can read about it at the state park website. Now I’ll leave you with a few of my photos, and hope that you can go see for yourself someday.


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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Believe me, I know how excruciating it can be to sit through other people’s vacation photos. You’re happy for them, yes, and a little envious. But beyond that… you’ll never get that hour back.

But guess what. Nanny nanny poo poo. This is my blog! I know I’ve already written about Arches National Park and the cool rock art I encountered, but oh, I’m not done yet.

Comparing Canyonlands to Arches is like comparing apples to oranges. Utah is funny that way. 30 miles down the road, the terrain completely changes. Heading into Canyonlands, it begins to look a lot more like the Grand Canyon. The rocks turn from red to tan and chocolate brown, and you see hazy blue mountains in the distance. You are treated to dramatic river valleys and insane switchback roads. You still see some arches, but you encounter more buttes. You are blown away by the distance to the horizon, and by the influence the flow of water has on the landscape over time.

Sadly, for much of this park you need a four-wheel drive, or extreme hiking chops, neither of which I possess. But what we did see was stunning. Beyond stunning.

According to the National Parks Service website, Native Americans first visited the area over 10,000 years ago. And then came a long line of European explorers, culminating in the official expedition by John Wesley Powell down the Green and Colorado Rivers. Miners and Ranchers did a great job of tearing the place up for a while there. Then Canyonlands National Park was established in 1964, just a few months before I was born. If you ever get a chance to check this area out, I highly recommend it.

What follows are some of the pictures we took during our visit. I wish cameras did it justice!

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Rock Art Rocks!

I have always been a huge fan of aboriginal art, especially that of the ancestral Puebloans, formerly known as the Anasazi. Whether it be pictographs (paintings) or petroglyphs (images cut into stone), they all leave me mesmerized. I could gaze at this art for hours.

When I look at this ancient creativity, I feel transported to another time. I try to imagine the artist. Was it a man or a woman or a child? What message was that person trying to send? Was it meant to be spiritual, or a warning, or informational, or simply decorative? Why did he or she choose this particular spot to work on?  (More to the point, with all the flat rock surfaces throughout Utah, why is there not more rock art? I want more!)

There are several opportunities to view rock art in the Moab, Utah area. The first I got to see was this petroglyph of longhorn sheep and men on horseback that is located behind the Wolfe Ranch in Arches National Park. This, to me, says that people have worked and hunted on this land for centuries. We humans do have a tendency to want to make our marks.


The next opportunity was not far from the park’s entrance. It is a panel called Courthouse Wash. Sadly, it’s very faded, because some fools decided to vandalize it, and park rangers had to clean it up. This removed a lot of the stunning pigment. (Why do so many people enjoy destroying things? Why? I will never understand that urge.) Click the link in this paragraph to see images of it before it faded.


This panel depicts all manner of strangely shaped people, some with horns. If anything makes me think we’ve been visited by beings from other planets, it’s this art. Were these their Gods? Or were these peyote-influenced visions? Perhaps they were attempting to scare off intruders. It’s all been lost to time. Beneath this panel was a petroglyph of still more other-worldly creatures. I kept thinking that I was standing on the very spot where the artists once stood. I could have reached out and touched this work, but I didn’t want to damage it.


Next, thanks to my highly observant brother-in-law, who saw a notation on the edge of the park map that said, “Petroglyphs, 5 miles,” we went on an adventure down Scenic Byway 279, toward Potash. That was fun. We passed dozens of rock climbers scaling the cliffs, and then finally reached a spot where they are not allowed to climb for very good reason. I’ve never seen such a long stretch of petroglyphs in my life, including some that look like a string of paper dolls, and another that was a hand print. Amazing. I will leave you with my photographs, which definitely do NOT do the Potash Panel justice. Enjoy!

(While doing research for this post, I discovered that there are dinosaur tracks near the Potash Panel that I completely missed! That’s what I get for not doing my homework. There is also a very impressive bear petroglyph that we couldn’t find for some reason, but you can see it in the Potash Panel link.)


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Arches National Park, Utah

Sometimes I think I am the luckiest person on earth. I really do. I finally scraped and clawed myself up to the lower middle class (even as it seems to be disappearing), and I now have a job with decent paid vacations. Woo hoo!

So this time I decided to go and explore Southeastern Utah. This is a state that has always intrigued me. Its landscape changes dramatically in the blink of an eye. One minute you can be in lush green mountains, and the next you’re down in red rocky canyons or on the flat, forbidding Great Salt Lake. There are arches and plateaus and caves and sand dunes and salt flats and rivers and waterfalls. It’s going to require multiple visits for me to see it all, but I am up for the challenge.

On the first part of my visit, I explored Arches National Park. According to the National Park Service website, there are over 2,000 natural stone arches in this park. In 1929, President Hoover signed the proclamation that set aside the first acreage for it. At that time it got 500 visitors. In 2016, more than a million and a half people explored its 119 square miles, and yet its budget is being cut. Frustrating.

Along with the amazing arches, you’ll see precariously balanced rocks, enormous fins, and amazing pinnacles. And red. Lots and lots of red. It’s stunning.

We were lucky enough to visit on a day where the park was to remain open all night long, so we brought lawn chairs and blankets and set ourselves up in an overlook that gave us great views of a wide valley. I can say with certainty that I have never seen so many stars in my life. And satellites! We saw 8 satellites fly over. And some shooting stars. And the Milky Way. And later, the moon, in all its yellow glory.

I remember thinking on several occasions while there that I was going to remember this trip for the rest of my life. It is one of the high points, literally and figuratively. Like I said, sometimes I think I’m the luckiest person on earth.

Without further ado, here are some of my photos from the trip. Including my favorite rock formation of all time, simply because it’s called The Three Gossips. Enjoy!

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