Posted in history, nature, personal thoughts

Living Vicariously …

When I was young — no this isn’t the beginning to the SuperTramp song! ūüėõ

Okay, perhaps I should start this way: ¬†I was born in New York, but raised in the Midwest. ¬†We moved when I was 4 1/2 years old, so I really have very few memories of our time there. ¬†Dad was a professor at the local Univeristy, so each summer for vacation we would do one of two things depending on what year it was. ¬†We’d either travel back East to visit family (always fun), or we’d go camping out West (at the time, not so much fun but no one asked my opinion).

So, this post is focusing on the years we’d go out West.

When we first started, my Dad (being from upstate New York) and Mom (being from just outside NYC) would take us to Rocky Mountain National Park to camp. ¬†I remember tents, horrible ’70s clothing (ah, the joys of being a child of the late ’60s …), and photos of me, my brother, and Mom standing in a field of wildflowers with the mountains behind us. ¬†(I think that was at Maroon Bells, but I could be mistaken). ¬†I remember trips up Pike’s Peak and traveling by an old (read: touristy) train at Silverton. ¬†I remember getting motion-sick (stupid, twisty roads!) and looking out of the car windows to see marmots on the side of the road/mountain.

At some point, I can’t remember exactly when but I think it was around the time little brother #2 arrived, we shifted our camping visits from Colorado to Wyoming. ¬†Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, to be specific. ¬†And, of course, driving through South Dakota to get there. ¬†Hello Corn Palace and Badlands, hello Mt. Rushmore. ¬†Also, hello Devil’s Tower and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, WY. ¬†Hello geysers and mudpots, hot springs and thermal baths (Thermopolis further south). ¬†Hello fishing, camping in a pop-up trailer, and snow in Yellowstone in the middle of August. ¬†Hello Mt. Moran and Skillet Glacier.

Now, in complete honesty, I mostly hated these trips. ¬†While we didn’t go hiking a lot, there was a lot of walking around in Yellowstone to see the geysers, mudpots, hot springs, etc., all of which were pretty boring to me when I was 6-12 years old. ¬†Old Faithful was kind of neat, and a few of the other geysers, but at that age, you see one you’ve seen them all, so the interest waned pretty quickly. ¬†There were Visitor’s Centers we went to that had kids’ activities in them, and most campgrounds had ampitheaters that had different programs at night which were really neat. ¬†And even at that age, I had to admit, looking down on Jackson Lake at night and seeing the stars and moon reflected in the water with the mountains in the background was kind of cool. ¬†I also remember waking up one morning in Yellowstone (I can’t recall the name of the campground) and looking outside to see my Mom and baby brother sitting at the table and all around us walking, happy as they pleased through the campground, were three wild/natural animals, one of which was a moose and another a buffalo. ¬†(I can’t remember the other one, but all three were different as I recall) ¬†Helluva wake up call, let me tell you!

By around the time I was fifteen or so, life got ‘busy’ and we stopped going camping out West. ¬†It didn’t really bother me at the time, but as the years have passed, I realized I started to miss those trips. ¬†Grand Teton will always be my favorite place. ¬†There is nothing like looking out at Mt. Moran or over Jackson Lake. ¬†There was a pretty little church up atop one of the peaks near the campground, too. ¬†Always thought I’d like to get married there. ¬†Didn’t happen, but I suppose there’s always a chance it could. ¬†Someday.

In 1990, however, a sort of second chance arrived. ¬†We’d moved to the South right after I graduated high school, and by the time I graduated college four years later, Mom and Dad were moving again — to WYOMING! ¬†Granted, it was the opposite corner from Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but hey, it was Wyoming!!! ¬†I couldn’t find a job (as a high school history teacher) when I graduated, so I followed Mom and Dad out there.

Now, it’s completely different living out there than it is camping, as you might imagine. ¬†Also, never had time to get back to the NorthWest Corner of the state while I was there, but I did get my graduate degree from the University of Wyoming. ¬†Yup, that’s right, I have an MA in Medieval History from the University of Wyoming. ¬†No, seriously, I do! ¬†LOL ¬†They had it at the time and I still couldn’t find a teaching job, so I ended up doing that. ¬†Fat lot of good it did me, but hey, I’ve got it. ūüôā

The summer I completed my degree, I finally got my first real teaching job. ¬†In Montana. ¬†That lasted for three years, but the best memory I have of it was going to the RMMRA — Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association — meeting in Jackson, Wyoming with my Mom. ¬†I hated giving my paper (public speaker, I am not!), but I chose to drive down via Yellowstone. ¬†I stopped to see Old Faithful along the way because it was quick and easy to get to, and I waved at the mountains as I drove through Grand Teton National Park, even stopping at the Church to get a few gorgeous pictures, before arriving in Jackson. ¬†All in all, probably one of my two most favorite memories of living out there. ¬†(the other was meeting the Medieval Mystery author, Ellis Peters, down in Denver, but that’ll be a different post)

After three years of teaching out in Montana, however, I decided to part ways. ¬†My parents were coming back to the Midwest for two years and, as I didn’t have a job lined up and needed a new situation, I came with them. ¬†When they returned to Wyoming, I stayed, and have been here ever since. ¬†(side note: I’ve now lived here longer than I’ve lived any of the other places I’ve been – a total of 22.5 years! ¬†yikes!) ¬†I met the Ex, married, had Kiddo, and often we’d talk about the mountains, Wyoming (having visited the parents there a couple of times) and Montana, but we never really went back to ‘visit’ or camp. ¬†To this day, I’ve yet to get back out there.

In 2015, I got divorced. ¬†As you can imagine, I was pretty down and discouraged, and I considered leaving but I didn’t want to take Kiddo from his Dad. ¬†(and despite all that happened and how it did, I’m still friends with the Ex. ¬†I have too many friends/family angry at him over what happened. ¬†That left me free to focus on being more agreeable, which then helped Kiddo (or so I hoped)) ¬†I did, however, have an idea for a series of stories I wanted to write. ¬†My best sounding board for story ideas was the Ex. ¬†I will say, in the sixteen years we were married, he encouraged me to write. ¬†So, we met for dinner a few times, I told him my idea, and the ideas, as they say, EXPLODED! ¬†Over time, I decided to set the series in Wyoming because I loved living and camping there so much. ¬†(at least by this point I could appreciate what I didn’t fully when I was a kid!) ¬†And in one of these stories, it will take place at Old Faithful.

During the winter of 2017-2018, I was doing some reasearch on the old yet somewhat familiar geyser. ¬†I discovered, purely by accident, that there is a live camera feed on it! ¬†Imagine my surprise when I opened the link to see Old Faithful surrounded by snow! ¬†(I think it was February of 2018 I found it) ¬†This was the PERFECT scene for my story! ¬†So each day, when I’d sit down to write, I’d pull up the livecam and have it on in the background. ¬†Every time I was spurred on by a muse, I’d jot it down. ¬†Slowly but surely, I’m making progress on that story. ¬†(Sad thing is, it’s the fourth out of four and I’m still working on the first.)

Over last summer and fall, I was too busy with other things to remember to watch it, which was fine because I honestly really prefer it when there’s snow on the ground. ¬†It was fun to watch at times, too. ¬†I’ve seen coyotes and buffalo wandering through. ¬†I’ve seen people skiing or snowshoing along the path. ¬†This year, they replaced the camera with a newer, HD one, and they can now access some of the further out geysers when they go off, too. ¬†All in all, it’s great fun to watch, and a perfect background for researching for my story as well as something nice and simple to have in the background when I’m knitting. ¬†If you’ve ever been interested in seeing Old Faithful and can’t get there in person, I highly recommend it! ¬†You can also track it’s (and other geysers) eruption times and patterns here.

Whoops! ¬†It should be erupting soon, so I’m off to watch! ūüôā ¬†Enjoy!


Posted in Entertainment, history

It’s That Time of Year Again

(originally posted mid-December, 2018)

Ages ago, when I was in my teens and my parents were going out to dinner or something tied in with Dad’s work, Mom often rented a video (yes, I am dating myself here :P) for my two younger brothers and I to watch. ¬†One time, it must have just been me at home because Mom rented the movie,¬†The Lion in Winter. ¬†I vaguely remember watching it but honestly not caring all that much about it at the time. ¬†(I think I was about 15?) ¬†LOL, no appreciation for the arts, according to Mom!

Fast forward a decade or so, and I’m in Laramie, Wyoming, graduating with an MA in Medieval History (we were a rare breed there — they no longer offer the degree!). ¬†You see, after getting my BA in History and being certified to teach high school in most states, I couldn’t find a job. ¬†Dad was out there at the University (he was dean/law professor), and so I followed. ¬†For a time I worked, but then I sort of fell back into school, deciding to get an MA since they had it available. ¬†I’ll be frank — I’ve always loved history. ¬†So after 2.5 years (because this were the infant days of the internet and we didn’t have anything but inter-library loan!), I wrote my thesis on Amesbury Abbey (England), defended it, and received my MA. ¬†That same summer, I landed my first teaching job in Montana.

After a few years teaching, I realized that location wasn’t quite right for me. ¬†Mom and Dad were coming back to the Midwest for a couple of years, so I followed. ¬†Long story short, I stayed after two years when they left. ¬†I got married. ¬†I had a son. ¬†The man I married was a history buff. ¬†Many of our discussions often ended with us tossing quotes or referencing historical figures and the like, and we always had discussions about almost any period of history that interested us. ¬†Trust me, there were a LOT of them! ¬†It was a lot of fun.

And then one year, we watched¬†The Lion in Winter together. ¬†On Christmas Eve, no less. ¬†I can’t recall exactly which year that was, but it was about halfway through our marriage. ¬†And oh my, we had a new Christmas movie to watch together! ¬†It was funny, too, because he had interests in Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine just as I did, and invariably, every time we watched it we would both pull together a long list of questions regarding them, their sons, etc. to go hunt up answers afterwards!


[[There were also some similarities between Henry’s and Eleanor’s relationship and our own, which ironically still shows its head every once in a while. ¬†Still, we can laugh about it now, so I guess that’s an improvement.]]

One of the things I discovered when writing my MA Thesis was that Henry and Eleanor were tied to the history of the abbey I was doing my thesis on. ¬†When I defended my thesis, the professor of English on my panel suggested I write some medieval mysteries about it (trust me, the history just oozes potential!). ¬†This year, for NaNoWriMo, I finally got around to drafting out the first story in a series of them based on the abbey. ¬†(there’s still a long way to go, but it’s definitely moving forward now!) ¬†As if I wasn’t familiar enough with Henry, Eleanor and their family, it appears I will be getting much more so. ¬†Oh joy!

So here we are now, on December 18, 2018, and I realized I haven’t yet watched¬†The Lion in Winter yet this holiday season. ¬†I need to remedy that this weekend, I think! ¬†I have two versions of it — the classic, Peter O’Toole/Kate Hepburn (1968) one (my favorite) as well as the Patrick Stewart/Glen Close (2003 TV movie) version that came out during my marriage and which we both agreed is nearly as good as the other. ¬†I’ll likely stick with the first one this year, it is the one I remember best, and honestly no one can really COMPARE to Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor, right? ¬†[This will inevitably be followed by a re-reading of the book, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, by Alison Weir (a truly excellent history of her! ¬†Seriously, I’ve gone through three paperback versions of the book and one ebook version because I can’t ever find them when I want to read them!).]

Anyway, Happy Holidays to those who celebrate! ¬†Happy December to those who don’t. ¬†And if you want a fun (and loosely Christmassy) movie to watch or are just in a mood to observe the finer (if somewhat fictionalized) relationship machinations between Henry II and Eleanor, I highly recommend the movie!

Side note: ¬†It doesn’t take much more than a movie being set during the Christmas season for it to become a ‘Christmas movie’ in our house. ¬†Recently, kiddo and I decided that¬†RED is a ‘Christmas movie’ and we’ll be watching that on Christmas Eve together. ¬†ūüėõ

(Note: ¬†we ended up watching The Lion in Winter on Christmas Day when the Ex joined us (he brought the blu-ray edition) and kiddo and I watched the first half of RED the day after. ¬†One of these days I’ll reel him back in to finish watching the rest of it! lol)