Do you believe in ghosts?

Do you believe in ghosts?

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Historic Cemetary in NOLA

I don’t believe in ghosts and neither does RM. Of course, he is an engineer and doesn’t believe in much that can’t be proved with logic and science. But we still love a good ghost story and we love to hear and listen to friends and families experiences with the paranormal.

We live in a nearly 90-year-old house with an array of creaky baseboard, well-worn hardwood flooring, settling pipes and foundation noises plus this cottage was “home” to three different long-standing families living and dying in our little adobe on Ashland over these many years.  Texas families on Ashland have lived through the Great Depression, Dust Bowl, World War II, Vietnam, Cold War, the millennium, 9/11, various plagues, heat and drought without even a hint of a ghostly presence left behind and if these experiences don’t cause a soul’s unrest, what would?  When we moved into our home here in 1988, there was an inside closet with access to the outside through a small hole which exposed a tiny room that looked suspiciously like a prohibition bootlegger’s operation with rows of shelving inside and a very small rectangular passage door on hinges for sliding open or closed (enough for only a hand to poke through and back to either pass the bottle or collect the payment).  See… obviously a vivid imagination exists here in this house so we should be prime candidates for seeing ghosts, right?

We have never heard anything, smelled anything or saw anything that could remotely be interpreted as ghost-like.  Our ears perk up and our eyes peel to house sounds and sights of too many sleep-walking-kids bumping against our door, feral cats screeching outside our screen windows, and the distant Union Pacific freight trains’ constant chatter that ebbs and flows dependent on the direction of the southern wind.  The train noise combined with the playful rumbling and tumbling of raccoons on the roof and gutters are so common they have become our white noise… we may have interrupted nights of sleep on Ashland but not due to ghosts.  Many people do believe in ghosts and, please know, dear friends,  I want to believe you but I simply can’t find the evidence.  One day, I may be proven wrong.  I have ventured to some of the hot spots of ghosts including New Orleans, old houses, grave yards, and Roswell but no sighting yet.

RM and I and the kids all traveled to Roswell, New Mexico, several years ago to experience the world-renowned International UFO Museum and Research Center. The name sounds very official but the museum is not sanctioned by NASA or international officials but it is instead lovingly run by a small local nonprofit of enthusiasts for paranormal activity.   My dad would call them scam artists but then he was always a straight shooter.  In 1947, something happened northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, during a storm.  Believers are sure it was an alien space craft, others a balloon or a weather event.  Today, the town celebrates the Roswell UFO Festival.  The museum is a bit weak on primary and secondary source documents but it is a tribute to the human spirit and our fascination with the world we are unable to see or understand. Our children will never forget their thirty minutes in Roswell before trekking on to Santa Fe and the mountains.

2014 is the 30th anniversary of the original Ghostbusters Movie.  I loved that film and can still sing the theme song.  If you  needed to refresh your memory of the complicated plot, here is a link to the commemorative anniversary webpage.   Love Harold Ramus:  may he rest in peace (no irony lost here, I am certain).

In the end, and despite mountains of ambiguous photos, sounds and videos, the evidence for ghosts is no better today than it was a year ago, a decade ago or a century ago. There are two possible reasons for the failure of ghost hunters to find good evidence. The first is that ghosts don’t exist, and that reports of ghosts can be explained by psychology, misperceptions, mistakes and hoaxes. The second option is that ghosts do exist, but that ghost hunters are simply incompetent. Ultimately, ghost hunting is not about the evidence (if it was, the search would have been abandoned long ago). Instead, it’s about having fun with friends, telling stories, and the enjoyment of pretending to be searching the edge of the unknown. After all, everyone loves a good ghost story.  Happy Halloween from Ashland!

Below is the link to the tourist trap in Roswell….

Portland High Points

Portland High Points

RM and I are at the PBX waiting on our flight back to the fort and reflecting and sharing about our time together here exploring, learning, smelling, tasting, and savoring this unique corner of planet Earth called Oregon. We planned ahead an itinerary and enjoyed all of it to one degree or another. The conference on grant writing and management was informative and I have to laugh as nearly everyone in attendance resembled, in some aspect, all of the great grant writers I have met over the years. Grant writing attracts a certain type of species. We are attracted to this occupation because we are already copious readers, keen observers, and life long learners and then we discover we can get paid for it as well. My favorite grant writers are a sprinkle of Pippi Longstocking, Ramona Quimby and Hermione Granger along with a few of their very own unique ingredients. Many of us struggle tidying up our external persona but our internal thinking is spot on and based on experience and reason (our reason). We like to talk about logic, outcomes, and strategic partnerships and hope to leave the world a little better than we found it.

My favorite moments in Oregon…

Waterfalls…lots of waterfalls
Beef cheeks at Le Pigeon
Ice cream with Becky at Salt and Straw (gives Melt a run for its money)
Train rides over bridges
The smell at Powell’s Bookstore
Sips of wine from the Wilamette Valley
Walking in the rain
Vistas of the Columbia River
Ava Gene’s Fire Pit and Roasting Oven
Bike riders…views from behind can be quite enjoyable
Majestic Mt. Hood

American Airlines is calling Group 2. See you back in the fort soon and Go Ducks, I mean Boys!

Travel Observations about the City of Roses

Travel Observations about the City of Roses

Did you know that Portland, Oregon, is the City of Roses? I didn’t. I thought that label was reserved for Pasadena and their beloved Rose Bowl. I think this city in the Northwest should instead be called the city of bicycles or maybe the city of environmentally friendly and inexpensive transportation (e-fit)? I think a creative marketing person could do something with that.

We have traveled by train, light rail, trolly, foot and all at very inexplicably inexpensive rates. The train ride from the airport is $2.50 a person. Pedestrians must be alert and prepared to give way to the packs of riders crossing the many beautiful iron bridges, arching over the Wilamette River, entering and exiting the city central ringing warning bells and delivering staccato barks of “on the left.” We purchase, daily, a pass for the Max Line for $5 and no one has yet checked to confirm we have a ticket although the soothing, rather sexy female voice recording, reminds us on each ride that we are subject to a check at any time. This town seems to me to be a little lax on rules. Food trucks and shanty pop-up restaurants are the norm and are packed in all over town. Marijuana is legal and there is no sales tax. Prices for items are even. $5 for a sandwich, $4 for a large coffee, and $1 for a bottle of water. I wonder if pennies are out of rotation in Oregon just collecting on side tables, in quirky liquor bottles and heaped on cheap trays waiting patiently for use during that occasional out of state business trip. We dined at Pok Pok, a highly rated Thai restaurant on Division Street, that code compliance in Forth Worth would shut down in a heart beat. Glad the wind wasn’t blowing the night we dined as I am not sure what was holding up the structure. Rubber bands and moss? But the chicken wings were amazing along with the Thai chili dipping sauces.

Portlanders love books, coffee and craft beer. They wear plaid and sensible shoes and are loyal to the local brands of Nike and Columbia. Tourists use umbrellas against the constant drizzle but residents instead don repellant outerwear, layers, and continue to ride their bicycles through the pools and puddles that line the bike paths. Bike paths and car lanes are creatively divided by beautiful concrete planters full of flowers and plants that thrive in the rain and cool temperatures. We need to copy this technique in the fort.

All potatoes offered here are grown in the Wilamette Valley, all cheese is Tinnahook, and all food is fresh and local. We are having a relaxing time with our nose in a book, a hot cup of java, just hanging out at Powell’s. Tomorrow we check out the country side, Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood.

Good week in the Fort for Gender and Human Equality

Good week in the Fort for Gender and Human Equality

Carter in Fort Worth

This week we celebrated gender and human equality in the Fort with neighbors helping neighbors. It was serendipitous how events came together with festivities showcasing some of the best qualities of humanity and our unique sense of community here in north Texas.

1. Following President Jimmy Carter (JC as witnessed on his belt buckle) as he and his wife were out and about town, building at the age of 90, homes with Habitat for Humanity volunteers for Meadowbrook neighbors who could only dream of home ownership until this week.

2. Attending a Women’s Policy Forum meeting and listening to leaders from Fort Worth Housing Authority, Downtown Inc., and South Inc. discuss collaborative ways to build more affordable housing in FW even with the rising cost of land and the demand for real estate. FW is booming but we have a waiting list of thousands needing reduced rate housing options. At least we are exploring creative partnerships.

3. Celebrating the Day of the Girl marching down Main Street with the students from Young Women’s Leadership Academy and carrying signs and shouting out that women are “Strong, Smart and Bold”. Thank you to Girls Inc for sponsoring the event and for women and men who came out to support the walk.  FW has a strong mayor in Betsy Price and she has been all over town supporting the events this week.  About 17.4% of all city mayors are women, about on par with the U.S. House of Representatives. And the U.S. Senate now has 20 women, an all-time high.  But we can do better.

4. Breaking bread with a delegation of Saudi women visiting the Fort to learn about local politics including how to run for city council. The group met with our Mayor as well as staff from Wendy Davis’s campaign office.  Next year, in Saudia Arabia, women will have for the first time, the right to run for office and vote. The women we met were educators, business leaders, mothers, and volunteers in their communities. We will be watching to see how the elections turn out in 2016.

5. Celebrating that Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize and she is only 17. What is next for her and the future of other young women who are beginning their adult lives in 2014?

6. Sharing a bowl of soup with two of Fort Worth ISD’s board of trustees, Judy and Tobi, and listening to them discuss local issues with five women from the Saudi delegation. In Saudia Arabia, education curriculum is managed and led at the national level compared to local control in Texas. Everyone gained new insight as female leaders of their respective communities.

7. Keeping up with the rulings of laws against gay marriage and stricter voter registration rules…some of these laws took hits in the courts this week.

8. Affirming my personal freedom when the Saudi women were surprised that I drove a car alone after dark without a male accompaniment and their wonder that RM shares home chores with me. They secretly videotaped him emptying the dishwasher to share with friends back home.

9. Introducing our Saudi guests with our preschool neighbor, Nora, who quietly observed the guests’ pretty dresses and “ribbons” in their hair.

10. Experiencing an unseasonably hot week, followed by a cooling rain last night and now a week-end full of college football and the celebration of the arts with Arts Goggle and cooler temperatures. To life and to the freedom to exercise our rights to vote in the upcoming state and local elections in just a few weeks.

…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
Abigail Adams

Arrival of cooler temperatures = joy of baking

Arrival of cooler temperatures = joy of baking

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It has just been too hot in FW to turn on the oven for any extended period of time but the seasons are a changin’ and now is the time to get the cookbooks out, refresh the spice jars, place an order to King Arthur Flour and start baking.  I made kolaches and caramel candy over the week-end.  The kolaches were inspired by my Czech heritage and a recipe included in Central Market’s new cookbook celebrating their 20th year in business. Our friend, Babs Rodriquez, is credited as the lead writer so pick up a few copies for holiday gifts.  I am sure she will autograph my copy if I bribe her with a few of my cinnamon apple cider caramel.  For those of you new to baking, here are a few tips I wish someone had shared with me before I had so many failed attempts at this craft.

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1.  Invest in an instant read digital thermometer – worth every penny!

2.  Yeast needs sugar and water at 105 degrees to bloom.  Check recipes and modify if the recipes suggests another method.  I am always skeptical of a different approach.

3.  Check for freshness of your ingredients as items expire and it makes a difference in the outcome of your baking product.  You can’t lose with King Arthur Flour and America’s Test Kitchen for baking recipes.  Other recipes on Pinterest are often flawed because they haven’t been tested or vetted.  I also trust Pioneer Woman website.

4.  Equipment matters so invest in a good rolling-pin, cutting tools and measurement devices.  RM taught me that often the correct tool and quality ingredients are the key to an outstanding product.

5.  Don’t take shortcuts with baking and read the recipe to the end before embarking.

6 .  Practice and share with your neighbors and work mates your techniques and your baked goods.

7.  Enjoy the process and embrace your failures as they will happen even when you get to a mastery level.  RM worked on a wood-turning project all week-end only to have it break through on the bottom in the final sanding. He hadn’t had that happen in several years and considered it a rookie mistake.   We all have our rookie moments even the pros.  Bakers out there and there are some great ones from Kansas and beyond…. share with us your tricks of the trade.


Essential tools.  I like this rolling-pin because RM made it and there are no handles to get in the way.