Monthly Archives: September 2013

Greatly grateful

This appears to beinspiration_John_Wanamaker_quote_about_gratitude a week in which I’m incredibly struck by my good fortune — in health, in family, in experience, in friendship. Once again I find a quote and an image that expresses that thought better than I can at the moment.

John Wanamaker happens to be one of the most interesting Philadelphians that lived in days gone by. The moving force behind Wanamaker’s Department Store (one of the first in the United States) and considered the frontrunner of modern marketing, he served as US Postmaster General and a religious leader as well as merchant. He was also widely known for his disdain of the automobile. John_Wanamaker_Phil

A controversial character in life, after his death in 1922, “John Wanamaker, Citizen” was memorialized with this statue located by Philadelphia’s City Hall, a block from the store that bore his name.

I’m not in the notion of commemorating those I personally want to thank with bronze, but I like its visibility; obviously the citizenry of Philly wanted John Wanamaker to be noted for his contributions.

How will YOU recognize those you appreciate today?


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Filed under Matters of the heart, On Being Human, other finds

Road Trip Redux

A couple weekends ago, we put the top down on the two-seater and headed north on a return odyssey to Virginia City, Montana. More than three years ago, we had driven through this historic spot – once the capital of the Territory of Montana and site of one of the richest gold strikes in America – while driving home from a winter-weekend escape to in Bozeman.

I wrote about that road trip on the Life In The Tetons blog soon thereafter (it was my first post there), noting that I wanted to check out Virginia City again, maybe even as soon as that summer.

Well, time flies, and we hadn’t been back yet. On that cold winter’s day in 2010, we were the only ones strolling along the boardwalked streets, and it had a definite lonesome feel…. I wondered what it would be like in hot weather, with the sun blazing ovcornererhead. How different would it be with tourists, the eateries and souvenir shops open?

This short video captures the feel of our visit. It was still a little on the melancholy side in spite of the picturesque setting, green grass and flower boxes adorning front yards rather than snow.

The historic vibe remains terrifically interesting. More of the little buildings had open areas to check out, full of long-goview from the hillne products like original Edison records, with old scales and cash registers standing testimony to previous customers’ purchases. We wandered off the main street and up to Boot Hill, where plain white markers show the burial spots of five men who met their maker at the end of a rope. The back roads, especially one along a now-dry creek, were also lined with sweet tiny cabins and more elegant Victorian-style homes.

We saw mgas_stationore leftover vehicles this time, including a horse-drawn stagecoach (now offering tours), an ancient Tin Lizzie (fuel supplied by two equally aged gas pumps), a vintage bicycle, and various styles of buggies in cobwebbed storage sheds. Transportation in this remote site was just as important then as it is now.

Whoever wrote the many National Historic site plaques created exemplary copy; it was both informative and engaging – great stories hide behind these storefronts!  A goodly number of characters once called this place home, including an African-American woman (born a slave) who once owned the city waterworks. The “Driggs outbuildings,” which we’d missed last time, were once an L-shaped brothel; the connection to local folks named Driggs would be a stretch, I’m sure.

I took a lot of photos of doors, no surprise, and especially liked the stone building that was once the location of the Montana Post, with its tables of type-face boxes that once contained letters ready to be set with the latest news.

Like most days-of-yore destinations, contemporary life intruded. We shared the walkways with others, folks checking their phones and correcting their children. At least three other convertibles were among the cars parked along the boardwalk, and a band at the saloon belted out amplified tunes.

But because Virginia City hasn’t yet been discovered (or is far enough off the beaten path that its traffic is much lighter), tJA_vigilante gift shophe outdoor seating area at the Bale of Hay bar was nearly empty. Few passengers had purchased tickets for the little narrow-gauge sightseeing train (we didn’t see it operate at all), and depressingly for shop-owners I’m sure, little commerce seemed to be taking place at the retail businesses. In fact, the entire Vigilante Gift Shop was for sale, a steal for under $200,000.

After a picnic on the Main Street (and I’ll admit we brought the makings in our very own cooler rather than contributing to the local economy), we headed up the highway to Nevada City – and found it even emptier. Without many automobiles, the photos we took look like we’d stepped into a time machine.

I’m glad we went to these ghost towns again; my impression that they are worth saving was reinforced, as was my interest in learning more about them.

The visit served as a poignant reminder of just how short (and precious!) our history is here in the Rocky Mountain West. Virginia City was a progressive and modern place in its peak, the early 1870s, but with most of its buildings made of wood, they are subject to ruin through weather and time.  Many have been preserved or recreated, but one doesn’t sense much community yet rebuilt there.

In the 1940s, one Montana couple, Charlie and Sue Bovey (he was the owner of the old Model T), first began the work to keep these places alive, and my hat is off to them.

Going back to Virginia City pushes me to rethink my own position about saving history right here where I live.

In our travels we’ve seen historical sites that have lasted 1,500 years (or twice that), places that continue to thrive and are much more than tourist attractions only. If Virginia City is destined to last another 150 years, it will need an influx of both residents and visitors.

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Filed under Journeys..., other finds, Scrapbook, Sorting things out

Joining a board?

I was recently asked for some impressions about a particular nonprofit because a friend had been queried about joining its board.
While it’s not my right to criticize or assess any group, debating whether or not to join an organization’s leadership team is a big decision. 
To help my friend, I put together a list of general topics that I have taken into consideration (and the questions I have asked myself) when considering taking on a new commitment.  
I thought others in the nonprofit world might find them helpful, too, so here they are, in no particular order:
  • Mission of organization (do I care enough about its goals to commit)
  • Reputation within the community (is this group best known for what it DOES — or for what it DOES NOT do)
  • Board meeting requirements and schedule (what if I can’t be there)
  • Communication practices within the board itself (how much happens outside regular meetings)
  • Committee organization and minimum responsibilities (is there some role I can fill that’s a good fit for my passion and expertise)
  • Financial obligation (am I expected to donate a certain amount of money, and if so — how often, when, and can I afford it)
  • Leadership structure (who are the officers and do I respect them
  • Leadership reality (how are tough issues handled)
  • Other board members (do I like the people I’d be serving with and/or do I want to get to know them better)
  • Staffing (if there is at least one paid employee, what is that person’s skill set and is it sufficient to meet the needs of the organization)
  • Expectations of service (if all volunteer, what’s the demand on each board member to meet the group’s mission, and can I do my part well and in good spirit)
  • Personal ramifications (does this service mean I won’t have time for something else I value in my life)
  • Constituencies (what’s my relationship with those we serve and others involved in the organization in a broader sense)
  • Timing and desire (do I *want* to get involved in this organization and is this WHEN I should)
  • Gaining cultural familiarity (how will I learn enough about this organization to even make this decision)

Volunteering is one of the most important aspects of my life, but I’m careful about doing due diligence to researching what’s a good fit. Sometimes, serving in a non-board-member capacity is the best route to take; I have spent literally hundreds of hours of service volunteering for a score of local nonprofits.

CFTV_Logo_RGBica_logo_colorAt the moment, I start my second term on the CFTV board in January.

At the end of June, I finished serving three four-year terms on the ICA board, a statewide obligation that also required traveling to meetings, usually the five-hour-plus trip to and from Boise (and when we operated Dark Horse, scheduling employees to take care of business so I could be gone.)  That gubernatorial appointment was largely the result of my four years on the Teton Arts Council board around the turn of the century — and connections made through the store and as editor of the Teton Valley News.

Through just these commitments, I have made so many friends and created so many valued memories.  The most important lesson learned (and relearned, over and over): Giving earns you so much.

Just about every good cause needs involvement and leadership!  Here’s hoping that when you are asked, you will consider serving.

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Filed under Around the Valley, Cool causes, Sorting things out

Rainy days and Mondays….

It’s a wet Labor Day here in Teton Valley, folks; gray skies are constant, although the rain comes and goes. But I don’t mind a bit. It means I’m not regretting doing my in-house things.

One of my favorite downpours ever was at Machu Pichu. We caught the first bus, at 5:30 am, from Aquas Calientes; given my propensity for a wiggly stomach, especially when excited, I was glad we were going up all those switchbacks in the near dark.

Faint gray illuminated the rocky hillside as we started exploring; it was a mystical magical morning among the ruins.

Then the skies cleared and we had some great vistas across the excavations and the landscape.  (I’ve posted some favorite photos on my Facebook page, culled from something like 350 images from that day alone.)

At about noon, the clouds returned and we wererain_five in a full-on Andean jungle monsoon. The faint-of-heart had already purchased ponchos at the gift store and started gathering to depart the site.

Hungry, having munched only on M&Ms during our two full round trips across the historic mountainside, we snagged some pizza and camped out under a leaky umbrella at one of the concession stands to watch the show.

rain_oneSome people were like us, just hanging around, hoping it would let up enough to venture back onto the site. Who could possibly have explored it sufficiently in just a few hours?

The bravest were drenched, shouting about how slick the rocks were and wondering just exactly how did the Incas deal with this kind of storm, knowing that the weather is the one thing that had been constant on the place for centuries…..?!

The rain_twoguides looked to see if their groups had assembled for afternoon tours. This fellow hadn’t been our leader in our morning session, but I recognized him from among them.

No more tips for these diligent workers on that rainy day.

rain_fourI liked this couple. They looked like they didn’t care what the weather was, as long as they were together.

That was pretty much how we felt, too.

We were in this amazing place, with all its amazing history, and an amazing storm coming down upon us — a memory so strong I only need a bit of Teton Valley rain to take me back to that Peruvian mountain top.

We finally decided to leave about 3:30 that afternoon, still marveling at the day. (Did I mention it was AMAZING?)

And it was still raining.

When we travel, we joke about the fact that we always have blue skies. Not necessarily so (I’ve written about weather before) but if “blue skies” means great memories and no regrets, well, that wet day at Machu Piccu certainly qualifies.

One of my favorite weather-related quotes, by poet Langston Hughes, comes to mind:  Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.  Let the rain sing you a lullaby.  

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Filed under Journeys...

Grammar 101

Can you believe it’s Labor Day weekend already? I hope you are enjoying a well-deserved respite from whatever occupies your work world.

As for me, I’m plunging into a goodly number of writing projects this month.  Several are already well in motion — finishing the final report and sending out thank you notes for Tin Cup — while others require fresh attention, like updating my resume, pursuing some promising job opportunities, and continuing to work on the novel I started last November.

Competing for time and energy are new literary undertakings, like researching several additional book ideas. I’d also like to create some photo books of our travels; turn other various collections into something marketable (I’m thinking of a calendar of door images for Christmas gifts this year); and tackle cataloging books from our library that we’d like to sell online. Throw in a couple dozen blog posts I want to pull together (some as a freelancer, others for here), a full volunteer schedule, and well — you get the idea — plenty to accomplish.

Coming to everything, as I do, with an editor’s viewpoint, it never hurts to be reminded of the basics: stay focused, communicate clearly, self-correct when necessary.

I ran across this image sometime back (yes, probably on Facebook, although there’s no site mentioned) and liked its fairly easy-to-digest English lesson. In only a few lines, it zeroes in on what it means to “write clean copy.” And that’s my REAL goal for this month (and always!)

Isn’t it just the perfect thing to start off a busy and productive September?!


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Filed under On writing, other finds, Scrapbook