Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: 100 Years of National Parks

Today (as I’m writing) is Thursday, August 25, 2016. It marks the National Park Service’s 100th birthday! Which parks have you visited? The Grand Canyon? Bryce Canyon? Zion National Park? Which parks are on your list of To See? Sequoia National Park? Arches National Park? Joshua Tree? Did y’all catch the CBS Sunday Morning Segment on Joshua Tree last Sunday? As soon as it appeared, I had to text my dad. We have a little insider about Joshua Trees. And that all started from our dad/daughter trip out West.

My mom is a Beach Mom. She wants her weeklong vacation at the beach and she’d love two of those per year, thank you very much. When my daughter was about two years old and we arrived at the beach after my mom was already there, she said, “Nana must be in her chair.” I mean, the toddler summed it up well. If it is daylight, my mom’s toes are in the sand, book in hand with the emerald horizon stretching to the skies before her. My dad is more of a Wanderlust type. He likes new scenery, new roads, unexpected sights, new restaurants to try…adventure! And so do I.

How does such a polarizing family vacation together? Thank goodness for Spring Break! We’d take a weeklong beach vacation either at Spring Break or during the summer. That gave us time to check out things like Washington D.C., the Grand Canyon, Disney World, and even a trip to chilly San Francisco during the alternating trip. We’ve seen some cool stuff.

Then one year as my sister started 10th grade her French teacher asked who was interested in a trip to Europe. Well I was only in 8th grade so I was not eligible to go. My mom was the one who jumped on board and told my sister, “go for it, and I’m gonna chaperone!” (She must have somehow already soaked up her fourteen days of Florida sun when she said that. And she is a fan of quiche…) So they started planning for their 10 day European vacation and meanwhile my dad said, “well, huh. What should we do then?” Of course the two Wanderlusters of the family were not going to sit home and twiddle our thumbs. Then came the inundation of maps and long-winded conversations of routes we could take driving through Texas. The squiggly red and blue lines blurred before my eyes as I painstakingly listened to different route options and the pros and cons of each. After a few weeks of all of this Texas talk, suddenly he mentioned, “flights are cheap. We could go Out West again!” As an eighth grader I had already been to L.A. on one of our family trips Out West. I was quite fond of all the funkiness at Venice Beach, most especially  the roller skating entertainers. And the chain saw juggler. And the funky clothes. I was on board!

After all that planning and booking and reserving we arrived in Los Angeles and the “new” Ford Focus was not available. “For $19 more per day we can set you up with a nice Lincoln Continental, sir.” “I’ll pay $19 a day NOT to drive a Lincoln Continental,” my dad replied, heartbroken and exasperated. We drove away in the Lincoln.

First stop was Sequoia National Park. We bought a cheap piece of pink plastic and I slid down a snowy hill for the better part of an hour or so. My dad took one turn sledding. He was forty something at the time, not that old at all in hindsight, but it looked funny enough! His facial expression screamed, “Boy, I haven’t done this in a long time!”

We went on a snowshoe walk and later hiked up Moro Rock, a desolate hike passing maybe one or two other hikers the entire time. And due to a lot of fog couldn’t see the promised view. But my dad had recently gotten into photography and leaned over the fence to try for an artistic shot. “You’re gonna fall and die!” I screamed. Eventually he pulled himself back to the safe side of the railing.

But that’s not all. We ate blueberry bagels and apples in Death Valley, admired the salty crustiness of the “Devil’s Golf Course,” were awed by the frozen look of salty lakes, left our initials in stones off of Route 66, and climbed giant rocks at Joshua Tree National Park where we had our first campout ever. More blueberry bagels, this time for dinner, paired with canned corn straight from the can (I wonder what European delicacy my mom and sister were eating for dinner that night?) and rootbeer. Our borrowed pup tent smelled musty but we managed to sleep nonetheless, and after having conquered such a grand experience, especially knowing my mom and sister would NOT have wanted to be on this leg of a trip, we both held the Joshua Tree in high regard. So much so that every time we saw Joshua trees after that we always had to say “ahem” as in “ahem, there’s another!” Even at the mention of Joshua Tree via songs off of U2’s album when they played Atlanta in 1999. And the most recent “ahem” was sent by text last Sunday while watching the National Park segment on CBS Sunday Morning. Yup, National Parks have a way of making memories.

At our stop in Palm Canyon, two separate sets of senior citizens saddled over to admire our big boat that had been smoothly gliding us all over the West. My dad politely critiqued the Continental, gently mentioning his failed efforts at securing a Ford Focus as a rental, and received handshakes, head nods, and accolades for such a great ride!

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: Analysis Paralysis

I have a problem. I suffer from “analysis paralysis.” And all it does is hold me back in life. Take today for instance. I am SO excited to be starting my blog! I could hardly sleep last night due to all the ideas rolling around in my head. Even after walking at the park as I drove home, I was writing up stories in my head; at least 5 or 6 vignettes. Then I sit down at the  computer and: blank! Blank screen. Blank brain! Luckily I did one smart thing the other day as the idea of beginning my blog percolated into more of an action plan than a “someday” idea—I jotted down a list of topics I knew I wanted to write about. Thank God! Took a glance at my iPhone Notes and read analysis paralysis. Well, ironically, that’s a start!

You know those people who are constantly getting things done? Like they say they are going to convert their dining room into a playroom and in two days it is transformed?! I don’t understand these people! How do they not get stymied by problems such as buying a rug in the wrong size? I encounter one small bump in the road and I just can’t seem to visualize how to get to my end result. Hopping in the car to head back to the Home Depot or Target to exchange a rug would wear me out. In fact, the mere thought of running one more errand wears me out! But, luckily, I have one of these “doers” as a friend!

Here’s how I, a non-doer, start a project. Step One: consider converting a room of the basement into a classroom. Step Two: consider needing to go through all the boxes to de-clutter the space. Step Three: spend six hours in the basement looking through old things in the boxes and reading old German Class tests and chuckling. Find “lost treasures!” My German-speaking alarm clock is definitely a treasure. Man, when it cock-a-doodle-dooed in my college dorm, I don’t know how my roommate didn’t throw it at my face! But doing all that piddling around in the basement also means get really dusty. Feel paralyzed by the dust and think of nothing other than taking a shower ASAP. But it is 2:33 and the bus comes at 2:45. Stare at the clock for a solid four minutes while trying to decide if it is possible to shower and put on clothes before the bus arrives. The Kindergartener and Second Grader would really freak out if I wasn’t on the driveway and the bus had to keep making its rounds with them still on board. Damn. I’m still on Step Three. Several days later I make it to Step Four: peruse home improvement stores for plyboard, beadboard, and pegboard.

Remember I said I have a doer for a friend? Y’all, this makes ALL the difference in the world (to a person like me! God, I hope there is one person in the universe who understands this analysis paralysis. Surely I’m not the only one!) I said to my friend, “can you meet me at the surplus store to pick up some plyboard?” She’s got a Honda Odyssey and that bad boy can carry massive loads of freight! The very next day (see, I told you she is a doer!) we are loading up what will be my new “walls” in the basement. I’m telling her thanks and “can I borrow your nail gun?” “Sure,” she replies, “how about I run home and get it and we can just go ahead and put these up today?”  I told her I wasn’t sure I was ready. After all, Step Six is to stare at your space and your supplies for an hour while you ponder which board you want to put up first – and from the left side or the right side? But wait, it’s too hard to make decisions while hungry so skip ahead to Step Six B and make a sandwich then resume Step Six for another half hour. “I think I need to figure out how I want to set it up,” I spit out. She looks at me with a look that says “JoPo, really?? It’s boards. You use nails. Why wait?” I conceded to her look and all of its antagonizing encouragement, “Ok!”

And before it was anywhere near time to wait for the bus, I had walls in my basement! And that is why, if you are a “figure-it-outer” like me, you best find one of these doers and put them on speed dial. They will save you weeks or months of “figuring it out time!”