Thursday, September 22, 2022

San Francisco sail: Adventure Cat is purr-fect way to see the bay

Adventure Cat is a beautifully designed, smooth sailing vessel available for a variety of sailings.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Enjoying the sea breeze, two of our "catamaran
companions" on a unique sailing trip in San Francisco.



A SAIL like you've never had before.
That's the promise that enticed us to book a relaxing afternoon with Adventure Cruises on a recent San Francisco visit.
What a way to see the bay!
As veteran Bay Area visitors and veteran sailors, we always look for something new -- on the water, if possible.
San Francisco from Adventure Cat at night, its lights aglow.

Christene "Cookie" Meyers
 and Bruce Keller aboard Venture
Cat on a brisk, sunny sail.
 
We found it in this adventure, which offers an exhilarating, fast, thrilling catamaran ride across the occasionally choppy waters of San Francisco Bay. In this sleek catamaran, we were seldom aware of the waves. Nice!   
ADVENTURE CAT offers a variety of sail adventures:  private charters for a special party or celebration, sunset sails, bay sails and city lights.
The spacious catamarans have a distinctive logo -- a sleek black cat.  And a fun blog follows the adventures of the crew and clients.  Naturally, a nautically inclined cat is featured.
We recommend Adventure Cat for many reasons, including the spacious nature of the catamaran. We joined only a handful of other guests, so we had our run of the boat for custom-made viewing and a stable, safe ride.
Nothing like fresh air and occasional waves on the deck -- all right up our alley. But the protection of covering in the cabin is also an option.
FOR FAMILIES looking for a sail that both educates and provides fun, or couples seeking a romantic evening out, Adventure Cat is a perfect choice. It was a highlight of this recent San Francisco visit. Our captain made sure we saw the most popular attractions, including the seal lions gathered by the wharf -- complete with sound effects and a distinctive aroma. We didn't see whales -- although friends did the week before -- but we spotted many pelicans, dolphins and the aromatic sea lions.
Our sail took us around the infamous prison on Alcatraz Island, before we zipped underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and headed back, all the time admiring the city’s famed skyline as the crew pointed out famous San Francisco landmarks

Seals and sea lions at Pier 39, part of the much photographed
pastiche of sights greeting sailors who board Adventure Cat.


SAFETY is always a concern on boats and the crew makes sure there's no jumping or climbing. Strong netting allows the more daring to experience the feeling of having the waves rushing right under the feet while relaxing in the sun.  We were comfortable just luxuriating on our private bench, using our rain coats when the wind whipped up.
We did come once inside the protected cabin, which is an option if it's windy.  Large viewing windows allow sights of land, sky and water to float by equally visible. Soda, beer and wine are available at the cabin bar. 
WHAT WE loved most about this sailing catamaran was the quiet ride.  No sound of engines once the sails are hoisted -- yet we were impressed with the speed. We didn't need the audio tour, but it is available in seven languages for international guests. 
  As we zipped away from one of the world's most dramatic skylines, we felt the thrill of viewing this exciting city from a unique vantage point. We felt pampered on our almost private sail.
A first-rate sail begins with an enthusiastic crew
and knowledgeable captain on Adventure Cat.
WE CHOSE the 90-minute "Bay Sail," one of several sails offered by this ambitious enterprise which shows off this iconic bay from a prime vantage point. We had our run of the boat for a generous 105 minutes.
We didn't dare to gild the lily, but the jovial crew urged adventuresome sailors to test the expansive deck netting as a trampoline. No takers.  But a couple who joined our small, pleasant group spent the entire sail relaxing there and cuddling.  
"Cookie and Keller" with 
Alcatraz behind them.
A couple times, it was fun to hear them squeal in delight when they got a spray from the bay's brisk waters.
BECAUSE WE tour often and have been on many a sail, we're very aware of service, value and knowledge. We like commentary, and the crew had answers to all our questions. They were both articulate and personable, and know and love their boat and the world of sailing.  A catamaran sail on the bay. Good for the spirit. 

For more info or to book: www.adventurecat.com 

This meal was an impromptu discovery in northern Spain --
 an appealing array of parador snacks -- pizza (born in Italy),
asparagus, sweet potato fries with aioli, N/A beer for Keller
and a Spanish white wine for Cookie, all served with flair.
UP NEXT:  Food, glorious food.... All travel, whether near or far, is enhanced by a good meal, tasty snack, hearty breakfast or appealing appetizer.  We take you around the world with us to bars and bistros, modest cafes and five-star restaurants.  We're not snobs by any means, and some of our most delightful taste treats have been in small, unexpected "finds." Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, dining, cruising, nature, family and the arts:  www.whereiscookie.com
Please share links with like-minded friends and family.  We appreciate it.




Thursday, September 15, 2022

A general's dream: 'When and If' sails smoothly into immortality

 


When and If is a beautiful sailing vessel combining the best characteristics of a racing boat
with the comforts of a sturdy yacht built for pleasure and big enough for a family's comfort.
Below, with wind in their hair, Christene "Cookie" Meyers" and Bruce Keller enjoy a sail.


MAJESTIC SAILING YACHT IS A WAR HERO'S  BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED DREAM  


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WHEN WORLD War II was in its full brutal fury, a much decorated general dreamed about a peaceful time when he could sail the world's waters.

Hoisting the sails for a gorgeous sunset ride.

Then Colonel George S. Patton shared his idea for a sleek yet comfortable yacht with famous boat builder John Alden. His clever and artistic friend, known for his beautiful designs, was up to the challenge. Thus the yacht When and If was commissioned by the internationally known American war hero.
His luxurious private yacht was built that same year -- 1939 -- by boatbuilder F.F. Pendleton in Wiscasset,
Maine. Its name comes from Patton's hope to sail the world "when" the war ended and "if" he survived.
Sitting comfortably under When and If's sails, a couple from Portugal
enjoys a leisurely sail and a beautiful sunset off Key West.
WE RECENTLY set sail on her, relaxing on comfy seat cushions on the vessel's handsome and sturdy, double planked mahogany. Black locust frames and an oak keel enhance the comfort on this smooth-sailing vessel enjoyed for its thoughtful detail by lucky passengers, including my lifelong sailing partner, Bruce Keller.
His enthusiastic take: "When and If is unique -- a thoughtfully adventuresome notion." Photographer Keller knows his way around a sail boat and has sailed many of the world's seas, as Patton hoped to. "The general had a dream and knew the best builder to help make it come true. Now it lives on long after him."
True enough.  Patton, who died in 1945, sailed the east coast of the United States in his treasured boat, but never did take his beloved When And If on the world cruise he imagined.  But he and his wife did sail her up and down the East Coast and on Chesapeake Bay.
The general had high praise for designer Alden. When and If is his  show piece in a long list of creations made by this renowned builder of elite racing schooners. Patton said Alden's crafts "retained both beauty and style while winning premier ocean races of the time."

George and Beatrice Patton
aboard When and If on
Chesapeake Bay.
AT THE TIME of its conception, in 1939, When and If  was remarkable for its racing capabilities and for its comfortable and safe features.  Our captain said she sometimes hosts nearly three dozen people for gatherings of friends and family. One such event happened the day after our sunset cruise (more on that later.)
Although our voyage was just hours long, When and If  is equipped for the long voyage which Patton hoped to take.

PATTON DIED in a military hospital in Germany, of a blood clot following a horrific auto accident which left him partially paralyzed.  But despite the general's untimely death in 1945, the boat he imagined took on a new life. His dream boat attained the immortality that escaped him.
While Patton is considered one of the most brilliant military strategists of all time, his When and If is considered a brilliantly constructed vessel.

 When and If 's galley is more spacious than most sailing
vessels, with a large sink, stoves, storage and prep space.
It boasts six comfy cabins for up to six adult guests.



As a military leader, Patton produced more results in less time, with fewer casualties than any other general during his WWII Army years. Similarly, When and If has won accolades from sailors and celebrities, including longtime CBS anchor and famed broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, a devoted sailor who praised its combination of sleekness and comfort.

TODAY, THE POPULAR yacht is used for parties and celebrations. During our visit it was booked for a memorial service and burial at sea for a much loved resident of Key West.
The word yacht comes from the Dutch, and originally meant
light and smooth sailing. Here is When and If at sunset.
 
  
The yacht has a colorful "post Patton" history.  She remained in the family until 1972 when the general’s nephew, Neal Ayer, made a gift of the vessel to the Landmark School in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts. She was the center piece of a sail training program for dyslexic children until November of 1990 when a storm broke her mooring line broke and drove her onto the rocks.
When and If is kept in immaculate condition in Key West,
and can be booked for a sail or celebration.
 
Although the damage was extensive, the structural integrity of the ship was unaffected. Soon, she attracted a sailing buff who purchased her.  She remained in private ownership, and over the next three years was painstakingly  restored. She was was re-launched to great fanfare in 1994 when keynote speaker for the celebration was sailor-journalist Cronkite. He praised both her strength as well as the superior work of Shipwrights Gannon and Benjamin in Vineyard Haven, Mass., the yard that brought her back to life.
Fast forward. In 2013,When and If was purchased and restored anew by Doug Hazlitt, who eyed the boat for her “strength and elegance.”
A sleek, modern catamaran is ideal for enjoying
San Francisco with its wonderful sights.
  Here, we pass under the Golden Gate bridge.
 
She was then purchased by Captain Seth Salzmann in 2015, and was part of Tall Ships Festivals in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The colorful travel that eluded Patton included When and If's journeys with Sail Training International. She made it to Bermuda, Boston and on to all corners of the Canadian Maritimes. 
Perhaps Patton is smiling down from his crow's nest in the sky.

To book or inquire about Key West or this unique yacht:
 https://fla-keys.com/key-west/ 
 www.sailwhenandif.com 

 UP NEXT:  While we're in a sailing mood, come aboard Adventure Cat, and see San Francisco as you never have before. She's a sleek, modern catamaran ideal for a bird's eye view of San Francisco Bay. Remember to explore, learn and live and   catch us weekly for a fresh spin on sailing, travel, family, nature, art and more: www.whereiscookie.com

 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Ten Commandments of Travel: Savvy tips to help you savor, remember

 

A hike above Malta's Blue Grotto offered an opportunity for a picnic and lovely afternoon
 for Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers. They travel with joy in each new surrounding.

PLAN BUT BE FLEXIBLE, EMBRACE OPPORTUNITY, ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES, LEARN, MAKE NEW FRIENDS   


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Plan, but be open to surprise and a spontaneous event. In Tokyo
we borrowed umbrellas at a shrine to stroll the gardens in light rain.


“I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list."

I'M NOT CERTAIN who first uttered this delightful observation, but it applies to me and millions of others who find joy in travel.
We want to see everything there is to see in this wide, wonderful world.
The blue cave of Kastellorizo is one of the
stunning deep caves of the Greek Isles, a famous
attraction. Don't miss the opportunity to tour.


 
So in hopes of helping fellow travelers, we devised "Travel's Ten Commandments."  We hope it will enhance your travels, give you ideas and inspire you to create your own travel code You can adapt it to fit your own lifestyle and desires.
So here goes:
1. TRAVEL LIGHTLY. Remember, the best souvenir is a good memory, or two or three. Make it your goal to have stories to tell, not junk to show. This doesn't mean you can't pick up a beautiful painting, antique or something on the road that moves you and has meaning. Through the years, we've purchased tile in Venice, a chandelier in Rome, silk in Kyoto, scarves in Portofino and St. Petersburg and an onyx table in Mexico City.  That took seven weeks to reach us -- long after the credit card charge went through.  But it arrived as promised in perfect condition, a fabulous memory of a long-ago trip to a city we love with its world class archeological museum and so much more. Be selective in your purchases. Send things back if they're heavy. Don't weigh down your suitcase.

Cookie delights in an espresso
machine in her hotel room in Lisbon
.
2. TRAVEL EXPECTANTLY. We believe each adventure is a learning experience. Things will go south.  Roll with it. Adapt.
We've been in hotel rooms where we struggled to turn the lights on.  Sometimes, room lights work only when prompted by the room key which must remain in the wall. We've had coffee machines that call for contemplation and there isn't always a directional guide. Usually with a little patience (not my strong suit) and Keller's engineering expertise, we figure it out.  The espresso machine in Lisbon was a favorite gadget. Tiny espresso balls go into a press -- better than Starbuck's!
 

Gratitude is important on the road. We tipped
this lovely waitress at La Boella in Tarragona,
Spain. She surprised Keller with birthday cake.

 

3. TRAVEL HOPEFULLY, 
with joy and a sense of fun. Try new foods, take a hike to woods you've never seen.  Awaken each day with anticipation.  What a happy sensation to open your eyes in a new room, new town, with a new language, birds, cafes, parks, museums, churches to explore. We like to take a walk after we check in our hotel -- though the temptation is to take a nap. Get with the new time zone. If your bags don't make it with you, fill out the forms and be patient.
Remember that happiness is a way of travel, a lifestyle.  The destination is second banana. 
4. TRAVEL HUMBLY. Be understated (a challenge for me). Cultivate your listening skills. Don't compare your new surroundings to what you're accustomed to. Don't expect the same ways of doing things -- you're traveling to learn.    
Cookie and Keller await a train change in Italy.
5. TRAVEL COURTEOUSLY. As you listen and learn, you'll find new ways of doing things.  Be thankful for the store clerk who recommends a tiny neighborhood restaurant down the alley. Thank your hotel maid for the extra coffee.  Tip when it seems right -- a few Euros for the bellman who delivers your bags.  A small tip is thoughtful, good insurance for the porter who brings you ice. He'll do it each day if you start out right.  
6. TRAVEL GRATEFULLY and with a generous heart. Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer so travel with appreciation for everyone who helps you -- and you'll find your good will is unfailingly returned. 
Sample local fruits from the stand -- wash first.
Here, we bought lunch fixings for a picnic
on the Amalfi coast near Naples.
 
This cheerful lady in Vietnam became a friend as
 we spent time with her at her family's farm.


7. TRAVEL WITH AN OPEN MIND. Experiment. An elderly fellow traveler -- 85 and still on the road -- says, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." If a server suggests a dish you have never tried, give it a go. Once in a village in South Africa, we asked the waiter to surprise us. He served the house specialty: charred goat's head. We've sampled roasted grasshoppers in Thailand, fried tarantulas in Cambodia, calf's brains in Peru, haggis in Scotland (yes, it's spiced heart, liver and lungs served in stomach lining) and witchetty grubs under the shadow of Ayers Rock in central Australia. The meat from this wood-eating larvae is rich in protein. My Aussie mates assured me it is a nutritious snack when tramping through the bush. I recommend grub snacks only after a couple pints of Foster's ale.  Swallow whole.
In the Canary Islands, the chef, behind Keller
and Cookie, offered a holiday meal and "Wise
Men" hats on Christmas Day in Gran Canaria.
Cookie and our brilliant Rome
guide, Lucilla, who has become
a dear friend through the year
s.
8. TRAVEL WITH CURIOSITY. Be flexible and curious about your new place. Soak it all up. Your job fills your pocket, but travel fills your soul.  We love tours that include a stop in a family farm or village where we actually can meet the people. In Vietnam, we spent a day with a family and still correspond with the three-generation household.  
9. TRAVEL WITH IMAGINATION.  Enthusiasm and optimism are essential elements in any  successful trip. My grandmother Olive encouraged me to live the life I've dreamed of, to find the good in all people and places. The Dalai Lama advised, "Once a year, go some place you've never been before."
Cookie and Keller swam with the manta rays in Bonaire.
10. TRAVEL FEARLESSLY. Now's the time to banish worry. Leave your shy side and timidity at home.  Don't flash big wads of cash around and watch where you keep your Euros (use a money belt or your shoe for large bills and try to limit carry cash and use credit cards.) I've been mugged three times in 57 years abroad. Only the first was successful when the bandits sliced my purse off my arm and I needed stitches. The other two times, I witnessed would-be robbers' hands going for my husband's wallet and yelled for police. The culprits dashed away in both those cases. 
Keller in front of
Notre Dame in Paris.


Yes, we still travel. But we don't open a map on a busy street corner.  We play it savvy, but with worldwide crime on the rise, we try to exercise caution but not fear.
DON'T RETURN home lamenting that you didn't swim with the manta rays or buy the souvenir spoon or shot glass for a friend who collects them.  
Should you take the trip?  Can you afford it? Never be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. Think of the stories and memories you'll bring back.  And remember, when in doubt, Paris is always a good idea. 



Bruce Keller, Christene "Cookie" Meyers on "When and If."

UP NEXT:  We're on the road and headed to Key West, Florida, for a relaxing sailing trip aboard a splendid and artful yacht designed by Gen. George Patton. The World War II hero dreamed of sailing the world after his noble efforts during the war. His exquisite creation, the yacht "When and If," gave him happy hours on the waters and now is berthed in Key West where it takes visitors on a magical sail off the shores of this lovely Florida port town. Meanwhile, remember to explore, earn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, art, nature, family and more: www.whereiscookie.com


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Labor Day tribute: A salute to the legions who work holidays, late shifts

Hospital workers -- doctors, nurses, physician assistants, lab technicians, food service people
and janitors work 365 days a year. Nurses cared for Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
during his recent hospitalization for a ruptured appendix. His surgeon operated at midnight.


A pair of painters spiffs up the Berkeley in San Diego.
The vintage ferry boat is open at the Maritime Museum
most days, including Memorial Day and Labor Day.

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE FOR MEDICAL PERSONNEL, RESTAURANT WORKERS, CLEANING PEOPLE, TOUR GUIDES, BUS DRIVERS AND ALL WHO LABOR ON HOLIDAYS TO ENHANCE OUR LIVES 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
Taxi driver Marcos picked us up on a holiday
in New York City during our most recent visit.

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

IT'S IMPORTANT to be thankful. We are, and we try to show it, expressing gratitude to people who make our lives easier. We think about those who work late hours and days that many of us have off. While we are relaxing, hitting the beach, staging a family party, millions of others are getting up in the dark, heading to work while we're traveling, partying or simply "chillaxing."
 
A Hilton worker sterilizes
the door of a hotel room.



  With Labor Day in the wings, today's story is a salute to people working on this holiday and others.  We honor the pilots and flight attendants, medical personnel, hotel workers, restaurant and café people, drivers, guides and bus drivers, law enforcement workers, janitors and bus boys and girls.

WE EXPRESS our gratitude to those legions of life-enriching workers: health care staff, hotel and restaurant crews, grocery store clerks, truck drivers bring us fresh produce, cruise personnel, UPS delivery people, vegetable and fruit stand sellers, fitness trainers, construction workers, taxi and bus drivers, coffee shop baristas and cafeteria checkers, buskers who brave the streets, parks and subways, and many others.
They play a major role in keeping us relatively sane and healthy, even during the recent, unprecedented months of isolation, anxiety and
A worker at Billings Clinic Hospital
in Montana delivers meals on Sunday.


 depression caused by the appearance of COVID.
  More Labor Day kudos, click here
Sanitizing closets, bathrooms
and hallways is this man's job,
here in a San Diego Doubletree.
A Home Depot clerk helps Bruce Keller with his purchases
for a home repair project, one of many. Keller often works holidays
.


SINCE WE often travel on holidays, we're curious about their origins.  The idea to create and celebrate a day for laborers was the brainchild of New Yorker Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader. He wanted to thank his hard-working employees, celebrate their contributions and treat them to a day off with their families, while honoring their accomplishments.
He lobbied the chain of command to back his idea, believing the entire nation should give thanks to American workers in a formal, public way. 
His desire that working people be recognized on a special day each year blossomed. As it gained support and momentum, McGuire drafted a proposal in early 1882.  He presented it at a meeting of New York's Central Labor Union.
His colleagues thought the idea a good one so plans were put in place.  
THE FIRST LABOR Day was held in his native New York City on Sept. 5 of that same year. It was a joyous affair, inaugurating a day off for workers who joined their families and friends to celebrate with picnics, concerts and speeches.
Cookie enjoys an elegant cheese
dessert, served on a holiday by
a dapper maitre d'hotel
.  


Twelve years later in 1894, the nation followed suit and it became an official federal holiday, always on the first Monday in September. This year it is Monday, Sept. 5, the same day as its debut. It is also celebrated in Canada during this same three-day weekend, signaling the end of summer. Around the world, more than 160 other countries celebrate Labor Day May 1, their day to show appreciation for labor and workers.
May we pause with renewed appreciation and gratitude for all those who help us enjoy the good life.


Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller take to the
water for a whale watching adventure out of Victoria, B.C.



UP NEXT: While we're in a traveling mode, we offer our own "Ten Commandments of Travel," our tips for making your journey the happiest and most fulfilling possible.  Whether you're traveling in your native state -- or to another continent -- we offer pointers on adjusting to the new, to appreciating and finding joy in a new place or country, new language, new food, new time zones. We want you to revel in your new surroundings and make the most of your precious time on the road.  Doing a little homework is a key part of the formula for successful travel. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn an live and  catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, family, the arts and more: www.whereiscookie.com




Thursday, August 25, 2022

It takes a village to raise a Down Syndrome child -- and we have one!

Christena Robbie Cosgriffe and her auntie Christene "Cookie" Cosgriffe Meyers last weekend.
The child has both special needs and special gifts and is surrounded by a "village" of loving support.

CARE OF CHRISTENA INVOLVES DOCTORS, LAWYERS, THERAPISTS, TEACHERS AND SUPPORT FROM HER LOVING FAMILY 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Christena beams recently at a gathering for her
12th birthday, here with her Uncle Keller.



Christena in red tutu poses at dance class.
At left is her now legal mother, Diane daughter
Dani, granddaughter Lila and other family.
 

THE DAY Christena was born, her nurse confirmed what we suspected: she has Down Syndrome. The family asked the birth mother to have the recommended amniocentesis, to confirm possible birth defects  and give us time to prepare. She refused.

So we took the news on the chin, admiring a beautiful baby -- our niece.  We began contacting special education support which we knew would be essential in making the most of her life.
WHEN MY brother Patrick announced the surprise pregnancy and his impending fatherhood to the family, he was nearing 50.  He and his late wife thought he was not capable of fathering a child; Christena's birth mother assured him she could not conceive.  She was 45. Back then, in 2009, we knew little about the mother-to-be or Down Syndrome. We began to do homework, suspecting what we might be dealing with.
RESEARCHERS know that the extra copy of chromosome 21 comes from the mother's egg and can be related to the mother's age. All that is water under the bridge, long past. The "now" part of the equation is that we have a child with special needs. We love her dearly, she is thriving with our abundant help, and we intend to keep her safe, cared for and beloved in our village.
Her chromosomal condition is often associated with intellectual disability, a characteristic facial appearance, and weak muscle tone called hypotonia. All "DS" people experience cognitive delays, but the intellectual disability varies. We were happy to hear that, because our intent was and is to work with Christena on every level possible. 
We were told she might not be able to read or write. 
Christena's father, Patrick, with his beloved Christena.
This was the occasion of her first birthday. 
She does both with ease, thanks to our tutoring.
She has vision issues and wears glasses, needs her ear canals cleaned frequently because hers are very narrow -- part of the birth defect.  She has permanent numbness on the right side of her mouth, which influences her speech.
THE DOWN Syndrome child has an extra chromosome -- 47.  Most of us are born with 46.  Characteristics besides low muscle tone include small stature, and an upward slant to the eyes, both of which Christena has.  She wore special orthopedic shoes for her first few years but no longer needs them, thanks to physical therapy to improve strength and balance. She has a continually curious look,  a mischievous smile and sometimes shaky hands.
She has struggled to overcome her problems. Walking and moving are easier now and she dances daily. I've found a piano teacher who will take on a special needs child. All thanks to our "village" and patient TLC. 

Loss of Christena's father, click here

CHRISTENA'S BIRTH mother kidnapped her when she was less than a year old, took her to rural California and after losing a court battle for guardianship has not been present in Christena's life for 11 years, except for rare visits and occasional gifts of ice cream and other enticements. The child's now legal mother is Diane, my late brother Patrick's longtime partner.  Her role in Christena's life was confirmed by Judge Moses in a recent court decision. Our attorney, Jeff Turner, did a fine research job, expertly confirming the love and complex care surrounding Christena in Montana. 
Auntie Jane and Christena
at a Halloween party. 

Diane was Patrick's fiancée and she has grieved deeply since his Feb. 5 death from COVID and complications.  They had planned to marry this summer, and his absence in their family of three is profoundly felt by all of us in the larger, extended clan. The birth mother's improved, approved involvement is welcome. We shall see.
Auntie Olivia and Christena play.



CHRISTENA IS sometimes sad. "I miss daddy," she 
says. We aren't sure exactly what's going on in her young head.  But she'll continue to be surrounded by love -- from her aunties, uncle, cousins, friends, school mates and "mama Diane," as she calls her.  Although Diane has grown children and grandchildren of her own, she adores Christena and has been her sole mother figure for the past nearly six years.  She considers Christena, "as beloved as if she were my own flesh and blood." She told the court this in a recent guardianship hearing.
 The birth mother's attempt to keep the child in Anza, California, where she kidnapped her for a brief time in 2011, failed. 
AFTER TESTIMONY
Christena with her mama Diane,
auntie Cookie and Yorkie Nick.
 and depositions by myself, Christena's lifelong pediatrician and others, the judge ruled that Christena stays in Montana. Diane wept. All of us were teary-eyed, for we love Diane and greatly appreciate her tending to our niece's needs. She and Patrick raised Christena for the past six years, and now with help from our family and Diane's, the bonds continue. Christena has aunties, uncles, cousins and new sisters and loving grandparents in Diane's family! 
Though her early years were fraught with hospital stays, doctor visits, surgeries for lung and respiratory problems, and constant monitoring of a heart condition, both her physical and mental condition are improved. 
Yet, caring for her is a full-time job.  When Patrick was alive and a single parent -- before his decline from more than 14 surgeries and hospital visits -- he spent much time taking her to doctors. He worked with speech therapists, monitoring Christena's progress, finding people to help improve her walking, speaking and balance. He faithfully lined up her medical and dental appointments, read to her morning and night, cooked, cleaned and kept her immaculate. He was an exemplary father, returning to school and graduating college with a double major and high honors.
Christena with family, from left: auntie Jane,
mama Diane, uncle Rick, auntie Misha.
 WHEN DIANE entered the family six years ago, she quickly assumed maternal duties, working with Patrick to teach Christena to read and write.  They enrolled her in special education classes where she excels now at Castle Rock in Billings. She serves coffee and counts change at weekly faculty gatherings and has become a mentor to other handicapped children.  She seldom falls or trips now -- initially she frequently lost her footing.  She was and is a happy child -- affectionate and grateful for her family.
She loves to dance, sing and dress up.  Our musical family has a lifelong tradition of theater, so this is a natural for us. Her Christmas present from us last year was tickets for her and her mama to Shen Yun at the Alberta Bair Theater.  Said Diane, "I could hardly keep her in her seat.  She wanted
Christena with her mama, aunties and uncles
at a recent dinner celebrating a court ruling
that she remain with "mama Diane" and our family.




to go dance on stage."
At family suppers, Christena says grace, thanking the Lord for her parents, her family.  
Her dedicated "village" includes special ed teachers, physical therapists, occupational and speech therapists, psychologists, vision specialists, nurses and social workers.
She learns from them -- and in turn, we learn from her, for Christena teaches us all. From her we learn the virtues of patience, understanding, perseverance -- and LOVE!

 Interested in the fundraiser for Christena's care and education? 

Even on holidays, faithful food service workers and hospital staffs must be 
open for business. This woman and her co-workers cheerfully serve
meals 365 days a year for patients at Montana's Billings Clinic Hospital.


UP NEXT: As Labor Day approaches, we take the opportunity to express our appreciation for the tireless workers who serve us and tend to our needs 365 days a year, including holidays. We're thankful for our health care workers, restaurant and entertainment workers, gas station attendants, tour guides, bus and taxi drivers, and policemen and women.  From transportation to travel, dining, health and more we offer a special Labor Day salute to the people in our lives who help us through daily rituals, appointments, and life's unexpected events. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on health (mental and physical), the arts, nature, family and more. Please share:
www.whereiscookie.com
 

 




Thursday, August 18, 2022

Zion: A memorable merging of rock, water, sky, light and history

 
Zion National Park is a splendid unfolding of nature's dramatic rock, water, light and more.

GORGEOUS NATIONAL PARK IN UTAH IS PROUD TESTIMONY TO POPULARITY OF OUR TREASURED PARK LAND


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

As soon as visitors disembark the shuttle,
they can shop for drinks or souvenirs
and await the buses that tour the park
.
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE PIONEERS who first drove their wagons into this stunning natural wonder, would probably be amazed at the traffic in Zion National Park today. Long gone are horse and wagon. But hundreds of cars line the nearby roads, at a variety of well-marked shuttle stops.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie"
Meyers hike one of Zion's trails.

So popular has Utah's first national park become that one must take a shuttle into the park and then get around in little touring buses. Still, it's a wonder to behold. We recently joined hundreds of fellow park lovers to retrace the same paths native people and pioneers walked. 

IT WAS  WARM -- a hot and dry day -- 100 degrees -- so we made certain we had water bottles and sun hats. Then we set off on tour buses, winding under the park's massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red. One has the option of exiting the bus at various stops, to soak up the scene under a brilliant blue sky. We were dwarfed by towering cliffs as we hiked through the park's beautiful wilderness in a series of narrow canyons.  

Christene "Cookie" Meyers hits the trail.
 Zion stands as proud testimony to popularity of national parks in the U.S. Millions visit from around the world.  We heard an international mix of language -- Japanese, Italian, French, German and Norwegian -- during our three-day visit. The only disappointment was the inability to drive through the park and take our time in our own vehicle as we can still do in Yellowstone.  But we understand the change from private cars to group transportation. 
THE ZION shuttle program began a few years ago, following suit with programs begun in other national parks since 2,000.
According to a National Park Service spokesman, the parks began operating shuttles because of traffic overload. The attempt to reduce both traffic and the parking problems caused by cars has been successful and millions of tourists now use shuttles in several of our most popular parks.
"The shuttle system has restored tranquility to Zion," a park ranger told us. He explained that the shuttle system has helped restore vegetation and maintain the park's natural landscape.
So which of our national parks are the most popular?
Hikers and nature lovers from around the world drive in
a tour bus to various stops for exploring Zion.
In 2018, Zion ranked fourth among America's most visited national parks, ahead of Yellowstone, which came in fifth and Yosemite which placed sixth. 
Grand Canyon National Park tops the list, with Rocky Mountain National Park and Acadia National Park right behind. Each had over 4 million visitors.
In Montana and Wyoming, Yellowstone's neighboring Grand Teton National Park had 3.88 million visitors.

Outside the park, shuttle stops are
well marked.  One pays for parking
though, and can use a credit card.













The Narrows is worth
the hike and wet shoes.
 IF YOU HAVE limited time -- and can choose only one hike -- we recommend going into The Narrows,  the park's narrowest and most dramatic section, deep in Zion Canyon. The gorge  walls are a thousand feet tall and the river sloshes over on the trail, so your feet may get wet. We carried an extra pair of shoes, based on a ranger's recommendation and were grateful to have the change. It's a challenging hike on a hot day, about 1.5 miles from the bus drop-off. But there are shady places to shelter on the way.
Other popular hikes are Angel's Landing and Canyon Overlook Trail. Another beautiful area of Zion National Park is Zion Canyon, easily accessed along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, a curving road running along the canyon floor, with towering cliff walls on both sides.
DO YOUR homework to prepare for Zion.  There are many trails and various fees depending on if you are walking, on motorcycle, etc. We recommend reserving and paying on line to make the most of your time once you're there. Here's a website to get you started:
www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/fees 
 
Christena Robbie Cosgriffe, named after two of her aunties,
is a happy well adjusted child with her special needs looked
after. Here she poses with Aunties Olivia and Christene,
and uncles Rick and Bruce, at a family gathering.



NEXT UP: "Raising Christena."  Our 12-year old niece and my namesake, Christena, was born with Down Syndrome.  The challenges of raising a child with a birth defect -- "special needs" -- is one shared by the child's entire family and support system.  Christena's "Village," as Hillary Clinton called it, is a sturdy one with family, friends, doctors, nurses, speech therapists, musicians, teachers and more. Read how we're dealing with the challenge and remember to explore, learn and live: www.whereiscookie.com