#AtoZChallenge: Memory

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I know, I know, giraffe doesn’t start with M. Can’t resist today, though. Like many of you, I suspect, I was watching a giraffe with her brand-new baby (I missed the birth, but so it goes) when suddenly I remembered: I’m supposed to write a blog post today. Right. Yes.

Which got me thinking about that elusive thing called “memory.”

(Ponder that for a second, I’ll be right back, just need to look at that baby giraffe again. And see if s/he is standing yet. Baby giraffes are precocious.)

Almost. Not quite. OK, back to memory. It loses things we need; it clutches things we really don’t, like that one time that thing happened, and it was so embarrassing and you’d like to forget it but it loves to pop back into the old thinker right when you’re trying to go to sleep.

My own memory has always been a bit of a murky mess in some ways; relentlessly detailed in others. I don’t always remember people I’ve known; I have a friend who reminds me of things I’ve long forgotten, marked and inventoried. We joke she’s my historian.

(Why yes, I did just pop over to see the new giraffe again. Admit it. You did too.)

It’s strange that something lasting can be so ephemeral; so real yet unreal at the same time. It forms our basis as we learn from our mistakes and successes. It haunts us. It bathes us in remembered warmth.

(Nearly made it that time! April is standing between us and the camera. A couple inches to the right, April. We’re making memories here.)

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Issues in Bloggery

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Freed up enough space for one picture!

With the gorgeous weather this weekend in Chicago, I got out with my camera, and I was going to post pictures, but just remembered that I am out of storage space. Old problem, forgotten with all the bigger problems of the world, still unsolved. So I’ll work on that, and maybe get some photos up this week.

Getting my mind back to this blog has been tough. When the entire world starts dissolving around you, fun irreverence isn’t the mood that immediately surfaces. Life is currently fraught with a kind of fear most of us here in the United States have never had to face; it’s the kind of fear people travel thousands of miles and leave loved ones behind to escape.

Usually by escaping to the U.S. So…

I’m still working on that balance I wrote about, and maybe, while things are as they are, breezy blog posts about TV shows and writer’s block will be far less frequent than they used to be. But even so, I’m still working on finding pockets of normalcy, on days where I can head out, trusty camera in hand, and see the world in a new way and an old way, all at once.

 

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Oh, Monday. And NaNoWriMo. And Other Assorted Bits.

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It’s taking up storage room here, so I figured, hey, why not use it. Last year’s fall colors.

So I thought I had the most genius solution to my storage problem: Instagram. Oh yes, thought I in my too-old-for-the-app naivety, Instagram will solve my problems and give me another social media outlet!

Only.

Well. Turns out the only pictures you can upload on Instagram are from your phone.

There are some work-arounds, but I think I may be heading back to flicker. Or follow my Inner Laziness Guru:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/144440142@N04/30655029766/in/dateposted-public/

And just give WordPress more money. I mean they’re totally counting on it, right?!

Ironically, though, I had to use Flickr to embed that photo, because I couldn’t do it directly from Canva for some reason, which is where I made it. And by “made it” I mean typed those words.

Proof of my Monday: I literally hit “publish” when I meant to save a draft. SAVE A DRAFT.

Arrghh.

Still working on this post, I’ll update it when it’s finished.

And here we go!

ANYWHO, (hmm, was that a little channeling of Aunty Ida?) The balloon drops on NaNoWriMo tomorrow, and I think I’m jumping in. Last year, for the first time since I started doing NaNoWriMo, I didn’t hit 50,000. So I don’t know if I’m starting with a chip on my shoulder or a monkey on my back.

I can’t decide if a monkey on my back might be fun. We could become best friends and solve crimes together!

On a completely unrelated note, I think I know what I’m writing about for NaNoWriMo.

This photo comes from NectarConsulting.Com. I have absolutely no idea why, or if they made it. But I'm pretty sure that's no a monkey, but a baboon.

This photo comes from NectarConsulting.Com. I have absolutely no idea why, or if they made it. But I’m pretty sure that’s no a monkey, but a baboon.

I’m hoping to have the next Galapagos post up, uhh, someday. Meanwhile, if you don’t hear from me, the technology has gotten me. Please send help and chocolate cupcakes. Heavy on the chocolate cupcakes.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

Ecuador & Galapagos Day 2: Santa Cruz Highlands or Check out Those Giant Tortoises!

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img_5727(Previous Ecuador posts) We squeezed into the back of the white pickup truck, me in the middle, my enormous camera backpack between my knees, my huge purse lodged under, our suitcases in the bed of the truck. Everything we saw was new: The trees that looked like dead sticks; the others that resembled very tall birches, only they weren’t.

The higher we went, the greener it got.

We passed a small town with small stores open to the street, wooden railings, low, single-story buildings. Santiago told us that on the weekends, there’s a market there, and people come up from Puerto Ayora, the big city on Santa Cruz.

The driver pulled over, seemingly to nowhere, but we saw some other tourists emerge from the greenery. An application of sunscreen and a donning of my hat later, and we were taking in our first Galapagos sight (and site): Los Gemelos, The Twin Craters, formed when the tops of the mountains collapsed inward due to erosion.

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And then it was back into the truck to see the giant tortoises. Suddenly they were everywhere, dotting the hillside, stalwart, like living rocks in the road. The very-slow-moving rabbits of the Highland, the giant tortoises were everywhere. They’re also allowed go anywhere they want and eat anything they want, undisturbed, chewing away at crops.

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This is what it’s like to get side-eye from a tortoise. The meanie. Obviously.

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We went to a farm where you can get close to them, though you are supposed to stay a bit of a distance away, as they, like all the species of the Galapagos, are protected. Most didn’t seem to mind us at all, aside from one real meanie.

Watching them move was interesting, they put their huge, stubbly legs, each ending in a set of impressive claws, forward and heave themselves, fighting for every inch.

Then we looked at the lava tunnels, hollow tubes running under the island. We had to descend some steep stairs, but luckily, the ones we saw didn’t involve any crawling.img_5870 img_5868

Unfortunately, though, my future storage problem has become my current storage problem, and one I must solve before I can post the rest of the pictures. We had a lovely meal on the farm, though, in a gorgeous outdoor dining room I’ll have to show you another day, made from a local wood which is actually invasive. Because it’s invasive, it’s used as a building material, unlike the native or endemic species (we’ll get to that), which cannot be cut.

And then it was off to our eco-hotel, Isla Azul, a lovely, quiet spot where they welcomed us with fresh juice and slight concern: Apparently Pacific Holidays hadn’t informed them either of our plans for an afternoon tour. Isla Azul is known for the gracious hospitality of its owner, Raquel, who, sadly was on vacation during our stay, though her sons pitched in and did a great job. The younger son even hoisted our heavy bags high a trooped them up the stairs to second floor.

I’d show a picture of the view from there but…as you know. No more space. Oh well.

The path to the rooms was completely open, the view below of a street, and neighborhood, eventually giving way to the Highlands in the distance. The clouds took on a pearly sheen as the day wound down, and I breathed in the crisp air, finches appearing every now and then to peer at me curiously.

Soon there would be blue-footed boobies and frigate birds, but you, like me, will just have to wait for that.

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

Ecuador & Galapagos Day 2: Hello Galapagos

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img_5495(Part 1, Part 2) I was going to attempt Flickr, but I’m having trouble with uploading. I’m right at the top of my limit here, so it’s a problem I’m going to have to solve, but we’ll see if that’s today.

Now where were we? Yes, we hadn’t yet heard from Mario, and excitement reigned: We were heading to the Galapagos Islands.

After a lovely breakfast at the Grand Hotel — my plate teeming with fried plantains — we were off to the airport. Mario e-mailed, he’d been released from the hospital late, but had tried to find us to resume the tour. We were probably at dinner at the time, as he’d called the rooms and we weren’t there. He left us chocolate at the desk.

Ecuador grows a lot of cacao, but we’ll get to it.

At breakfast, my20161004_085158_1477410905909 mom met a bright, chatty woman from Atlanta named Debbie, who, with her husband Tom, was on our tour, and, we discovered, would also be staying at the Isla Azul. Together we all trooped out of the van to the airport, where we learned that we needed to get in a line before we got in a line.

Due to careful environmental restrictions, everyone going to the Galapagos must swear to not having anything that could upset the ecosystem. No foods, no animals, no contact with farm animals. We paid our travel fee, and our luggage was separately inspected before we slogged over to the check-in line for the airline, lugging our approved luggage.

We boarded, and about two hours later, we were descending over glossy waters. After a quick announcement, the flight attendants, their faces stern, walked through the cabin fumigating each overhead luggage compartment, filling the plane with a surprisingly pleasant-smelling insecticide.

And then it was off and into the open airfield of Baltra, also known as South Seymour Island. We were in the Galapagos Islands.

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The actual Galapagos Islands.

There was a feeling of isolation, of being at a place near nothing else in the world. We were the only people here, intrepid explorers, buffeted by the strong winds, air so fresh my city lungs could barely manage.

And then, before we even made into the airport building, the next plane was coming in.

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To customs, one line for the Ecuadorian visitors; another for everyone else. I heard a sound above me, and looked up.

My first finch.

The Galapagos Islands are famous for many animals, but perhaps none so much as Charles Darwin’s finches. Though they weren’t his only subject — or even his most studied subject — they have endured as a symbol of what these islands mean to the study of evolution. In fact, the work continues on the island below, Daphne Major, where Peter and Rosemary Grant have spent 40 years watching finches evolve in real time. Their work is chronicled in the book The Beak of the Finch.

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After the customs officer collected the $100 Galapagos park fee, and a quick trip to the restroom where I had to remind myself you don’t flush the toilet paper in the islands, it was time to collect our bags. The luggage was piled on a short belt, the scariest K-9-sniffing German Shepard I’d ever seen leaping over the cases, taking his job very seriously. When he finished, his handler opened a metal grate in the wall, and the dog hopped through. Two bags sat at the bullet-proof vested officer’s feet.

Hmm.

Another officer asked us what we’d brought, again making sure we weren’t going to interfere with the ecology of the islands, and then I was free to meet our handler from Guiding Galapagos Expeditions, Santiago, who had a sign with our name.

Santiago and I chatted away, and then I realized my dad was standing next to someone else. Who also had a sign with our name.

He was from our other tour company Pacific Holidays. Even though my dad had explained to them, very carefully, with a chart and everything, that we wouldn’t need the transfer from Baltra to our hotel. Apparently no one bothered to tell our transfer.

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Frigate bird in flight. Huge and amazing to watch.

An explosion of Spanish later, Santiago and the other driver had it all worked out, and we were heading for our very first tour: the Island of Santa Cruz and its Highlands. (To be continued. Of course. Tomorrow: Giant Tortoises!)

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A little visitor on the bus to the ferry. It was as though he saying “I know you came to see me. Here I am!”

 

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The Baltra side of the ferry crossing to Santa Cruz.

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These boxes were all packed with chicks chirping away. Why? Literally no idea.

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In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

Ecuador & Galapagos Day 1: Guayaquil, pt. 1

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One of the iguanas at the Iguana Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

After a night in a Fort Lauderdale airport hotel — where I’m pretty sure I saw a “working woman” on her way in, and ate a restaurant attached to a Bass Pro Shop, whoo-hoo! Florida — we boarded a plane to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We flew TAME, an Ecuadorian airline, and already found ourselves in the language minority.

Exciting.

We landed four hours later, over wide farmland, coming in close above winding beige rivers, large houses and their turquoise swimming pools glinting back up at us. With the gentlest of touches, the pilot landed the plane.

We were in Ecuador. Atwitter with nerves and anticipation, I grabbed my ginormous camera backpack from the overhead bin (that thing paid for itself many times over), the other passengers politely giving me berth. As a complete toady to habit, I was already far out of my element. I wasn’t yet sure how it felt.

We breezed through the airport, with everyone switching to English to accommodate as as easily as they smiled, and were met with our transport from the tour company, Pacific Tours. He was a young, tall, floppy kid who brought us outside to feed the koi in the beautifully-landscaped airport grounds as we waited for our van. For $0.10, you can get a handful of pellets, and I aimed for the small fish on the fringes, cheering when the one I threw it to actually devoured it.

The fish. Took this with my cell phone. That's right. In essence I had 3 cameras on me.

The fish. Took this with my cell phone. That’s right. In essence I had 3 cameras on me.

Ecuador is on the U.S. dollar, which made the trip incredibly simple. No conversion math, things just cost what they cost. And then we were off to our hotel, the bus lurching through tight traffic on what felt like a main thoroughfare. With the trill of trumpets, we arrived at our temporary headquaters, The Grand Hotel Guayaquil, a police officer (I think) guarding us from the streaming traffic as we exited the van.

We were greeted by bellmen in uniform, by softly smiling receptionists with perfect English, and by a beautiful tropical scent that filled the gleaming lobby. Our bags were no longer ours to handle, our rooms dispatched with cheerful efficiency, and when I reached mine, I discovered they’d given me a lovely view of the street. I was officially Somewhere Else.

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We didn’t have long before we were to meet our guide, Mario Fuentes of “My Trip to Ecuador,” for our afternoon and evening tour of Guayaquil. We’d found Mario through a site called “Tours by Locals,” and he came highly recommended. He was very responsive during the planning stages, is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and we were looking forward to learning about his city from him.

Guayaquil is the city with the largest population in Ecuador, and an easy launch point for a trip to the Galapagos. I think we’d thought we’d breeze through, with the Galapagos Islands our main event.

But it was far lovelier than we expected. Mario arrived, punctual and grinning, revealing dimples in each of his cheeks. And we were off. We walked around the corner to the obligatory church, a huge one with gorgeous stained windows that suffered very little damage in the April earthquake. Like Chicago, Guayaquil also had a major fire, so the church was rebuilt in the early 20th century.

Can I tell you the name of the church? I cannot. Churches are not my thing. But, here, have some pictures anyway.

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And on the outside:img_5151

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Yikes, am I right?!

Then it was off to El Parque de Las Iguanas, or, literally, the Iguana Park. Iguanas were everywhere, along with turtles and pigeons. And very excited children. A woman sold ice cream carved off of a block, and a man tried to sell us selfie sticks on our way in and our way out.

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This kid manhandled this huge iguana, and the iguana did. Not. Care.

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Is that a bird? A Plane? Nope. IGUANAS.

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And then we were off to Las Penas. And that’s where our tour took an unexpected turn.

(To be continued…)

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

My Super Secret Vacation Location!

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Earlier this week, I mentioned my upcoming trip, and I’m so excited about it, I can’t hold it in anymore. So here’s a fun little game. It’s what these three things have in common (and Jon, Lorinda and Kristin, if you guys are reading this post, no fair guessing, you already know…though I’m going to tell everyone in a second anyway, so I guess they won’t hear you if you call it out).

So this guy:

and this one:

and this author:

What could it be? WHAT COULD IT BE???

Are you ready for the answer?

Yes?

OK, here it comes!

If you keep scrolling you will find out that I am heading to…

The home of Diego the Tortoise, host of the most famous finches in history and setting for one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novels! With me? I’m going to the:

I KNOW!!! Believe me, I KNOW!! I’m still in shock that it’s happening, though it’s been set for a while. Can you imagine the photos?

You won’t have to. Because I will share them with you. I am not a religious person, but I imagine the feeling a religious person gets when journeying to her/his holy site is similar to the feeling of a scientific person having the opportunity to visit what could be considered the birthplace of the theory of evolution.

It’s far more adventure than I’m used to, but I think it’s just the kind of adventure I need. And I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

n or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!