Thursday, February 04, 2016

My Bucket List Now

(I pray that God is listening and finds me worthy of granting these wishes ...)

I don’t know many people who don’t love the movie “The Bucket List”. Even my husband, who finds it depressing, loves it. How can you not?! If we can’t make fun of our mortality, how else can we muddle through to the end, right?!

These days, I think a lot about my “bucket list”. And I am thinking that with every day, it keeps changing. As I think it should. Every day is different. Like the proverbial onion, every day peels off another mystery which triggers more opportunities to explore, learn, get involved, and grow ... There are big things on here and small things and just rightly sized things. They are my things and I treasure them as my heart children.

Here is my “bucket list” today - not in a specific order. 
Tomorrow ... well, that’s another story ...

  1. To see my nephews graduate and have families
  2. To show my nephews the world, the way I saw it, and sought it
  3. To see Australia
  4. To camp in our new camper till it falls apart and all it's good for is firewood
  5. To ride across  America in our camper
  6. To see Alaska and shoot the glaciers there and the bald eagles
  7. To move to my retirement place, wherever that is: Florida? North Carolina? Oregon? Somewhere with green lush trees,  mild temps, and clean air
  8. To see Ireland
  9. To write a book (at least one)
  10. To scan all my negatives into digital format, to leave them to my nephews
  11. To retire
  12. To go to Hawaii at least one more time
  13. To go on a cruise
  14. To see Los Angeles and walk on Venice Beach
  15. To visit Graceland (Elvis's home)
  16. To be really, really good at yoga, again
  17. To shoot Yosemite, the redwoods in California and the Grand Canyon
  18. To eat lobster in Maine while looking at whales in the Atlantic, and hike in Vermont
  19. To eat sushi in Japan
  20. To order bayou shrimp again at Village Tavern in Greensboro, NC
  21. To see The Vatican and Jesus's tomb in Israel
  22. To paint really well
  23. To celebrate at least my 25th wedding anniversary and maybe my 50th, too, with my husband right next to me
  24. To take my sister on some trips, just the two of us
  25. To win more trophies for making a difference
  26. To go to Colorado Springs, CO and hike at least a little bit of Pike's Peak
  27. To hike The Wave in Utah
  28. I want to camp in the desert, sandwiched between the starry skies and the red rocks
  29. To spend a week on the North Carolina beaches with my girlfriends one more time. And bring my sister along this time
  30. To spend many Holidays with our families, together, somewhere
  31. To take my husband to New Orleans and get lost in the French Quarter, lead only by the smell of food and the sound of zydeco music
  32. To live in a cabin in the woods
  33. To live small
  34. To speak about cholesterol and heart disease to whomever will listen
  35. And more than anything: to survive my open heart surgery with a functional life ahead to allow for all these
  36. To write a lot more lists like this, after this one is accomplished.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

My Heart

"For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning as is refreshed." (Khalil Gibran)

I am sitting here, writing. I can almost hear my heart, almost as loud as the fridge in the kitchen. Beating. Very clearly spaced out, beat after beat, after beat.

I think this is what gave away for sure that I existed in my mom's womb - the heartbeat. My heart has since then been the rascal of my being: mom tells me all throughout her pregnancy with me, the doctor (who did not have access to an ultrasound machine back then) always heard two heartbeats in her stomach. So, he always thought she was carrying twins. She didn't. It was just my show off, loud heart.

As I grew up, I have learned I have a condition that will eventually damage my heart, as well as my brain, as well as many other vital parts of my body. But the heart was always the number one concern for all doctors - the heart goes first.

Almost all of my life, since I was 6, I have known that one day my heart would give me trouble. Well, that day has come. I am scheduled for open heart surgery in just a bit over a week.

Ever since I can remember, I have looked up to open heart surgery patients! The concept of it is no less than Frankensteinian! To crack your chest open. To stop your heart. To cut your heart. And replace parts in it ... who does this?!?! What kind of stomach does a doctor need to muster?! And then, the surviving, the moving on. The acceptance of a life on the watchout. Forever. For as long as you are lucky to breathe after that. The scare of maybe repeating the surgery, again. Oh, Lord!

Although I have known this for what seems ever to me, I am still in semi-shock. I have been lucky to have known about this for months now, and it's still hard to swallow! For 40 years, there was always "something else" they needed to try and surgery was not mandatory. There was a pill. A lifestyle change. Another test to be done. Now, there is no going around it anymore. No more delays. No avenues. No path not taken. Just a wall. A big, huge wall. A mountain to climb, and on the other side, hopefully ... life.

I pray. I beg. I cry "why me". I cry "forgive me, Lord". And I take one day at a time. And I hope. I am a big hoper these days.

I am not even in the least bit afraid of the recovery time - of all the pain, the forever meds I'll be on, the trauma, the light head, the nausea, the gore ... I am afraid of those 6 hours where my whole life, my rebel, crazy, stubborn, loud heartbeat, that first "me" of this world, will be silenced, and will only be placed solely in the hands of God and the medical staff I have only recently met. I am mortified.

I hope and pray that life will continue even better and louder than before. I hope I will meet my family, my friends, my future, on the other side. I have so much to look forward to. I miss my nephews. I miss my dad. I miss reading books I have not bought yet. I miss writing books I have not dreamed about yet. I will come back. I need to. I must.

Sick as it's been, and struggling, my heart has beaten fully, eagerly and passionately, for so many - my sister, to begin with, early on. My mom, with her blue eyes, always watching over me, beating for me, trying to make her proud of me, always. My grandma, maia, who raised me. My dad who made me tough. My aunt and all other grandparents who welcomed me, spoiled rotten, as their first born ... and not the least my husband - who keeps me together and re-stitches my broken self, daily. My cats. All the space in my heart is filled with them, overflowing.  I know all their love must keep me together because what else is there to?! So many others that never knew I cared for and about ...

I am afraid of not being the same at the end of this, the most. I am afraid that my mind will lapse and slip away, that my memory won't be all there, that my feelings will change and my outlook on life will be compromised. I am afraid of the post-op me, I guess, the most... I guess we're always afraid of what we don't know, what we don't see, and what we can't control ... but this is the ultimate in that. My dad jokingly said: "Honey, they'll pick up your heart, pull it out of your chest, wash it with some disinfectant, wipe it clean, and put it right back in". They might as well do that, or do that to my brain, and I feel just the same.

I have done some crazy stuff in my sick life. One should really not be allowed this much happiness, and gusto as I have known in my 40 years. Especially with a sick body like mine. To say that I have been blessed is to insult the word.  I have lived on impulse, spoken the truth, and never feared to look fear itself in the eye. But this time is somewhat different. Every time before, I was (although sometimes just seemingly) in control. This time, it's God and the doctors. I am just a guest at my own sorcery business.

I hope one day,  folks will remember me for one thing. And I hope that being scared out of my wits for almost the first time in my life won't be it!

I'll continue to listen to that beat. Every moment of every day. Every second. Every glimpse. For as long as God will allow. Love it and cherish it like my own first born. It needs to know it's loved and cherished. This beat needs to continue its march and stay the showoff rascal it's accustomed this world (and me) to be. I need to tell it, it's perfect just the way it is now, so it will come back promptly and carry me through many, many more winters ...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Random Thoughts During Quiet Times

A cold winter. A long rest ...

"I am home.
I am an imperfect citizen of an imperfect, odd beautiful, dysfunctional, delicious place. 
But at least we ain't dull." (Rick Bragg - My Southern Journey. True Stories from the Heart of the South)

Rick Bragg was writing this about The South. But it could be said about Romanians, too. And this is the very reason why I felt at home in The South. 

We haven't been doing much lately. It's not for lack of options, but you know, sometimes, you just need a break. Granted, our break has been pretty much lasting since October or so, but, hey, when you're happy, who's counting days, right?! 

It's been a colder winter (and longer, it feels, of course, because of it) than we're used to, and because of colds and getting old, we simply don't have the drive we used to to go out and explore. There shall be happenin' times to come. We hope. 

Reading and watching the birds and the piling snow, one weather event after another, along with comfort food cooking and eating is pretty much the day-to-day around here, outside work. 

I have also been dreaming a lot about the South. I am reading the book I quoted from above and dreaming of why I feel, why I always have felt, like a Southerner. For some reason, now more than before, I feel worse than ever that I need to be there. 

I just get lost in this book, as I slip into slumber, every night. It makes me think and dream and giggle and ponder on either how can I one day return there, or how can I recreate that heaven, right here in the mountains. But you need people like that, for this, and food like that, too.

And it's more beautiful, simple writing than I have come across in a long while. Lately, I have been missing good stories. With a wealth of ordinary but cleverly sewn together words, that flow easily like a good meal down the hatch. Words and phrases that make you go: "Why didn't I think of that?!", Bragg gives me that. 

I'll quote some more:

"I loved a Cajun woman once. It was her eyes, I believe. 
When I was a little boy, just because it is the kind of things boys do, I would look at the hot sun through a green, sweating bottle of 7UP. The sunlight seemed to freeze in the middle of the bottle, and glow.
She had eyes like that." 

I've been taking more pictures of the winter and of the frosty purple finches outside my window, because I can't venture far in these temps! The reading, the warmth of the home, the closeness of my small family is all that I plan for for a while. Nothing more, or less. 

The weight of the snow. The tallness of it. It's why I miss "just a dusting" from my previous Southern days. 

These guys are so cute, but not sure why they call them "purple".  

I am not even missing airports, like I used to when not traveling. Or the tropics. I am just content to be and grateful to have eyes to see and read, and ears to hear good music once in a while. Touchy fingers to feel Gypsy's silky fur.

There will be times for travel. And times for partying and playing. But for now, it's time to stay put and marvel in the quiet beauty of the world. Outside and in-between the pages of a a good book. 

I hope everyone finds that, when they crave it. 

This is the opening chapter in the book. And it's why I know I will make it to the end - because you want to experience this journey, promised:

"It suits me here. 
My people tell their stories of vast red fields and bitter turnip greens and harsh white whiskey like they are rocking in some invisible chair, smooth and easy even in the terrible parts, because the past has already done its worst. The joys of this Southern life, we polish like old silver. We are good at stories.
We buff our beloved ancestors till they are smooth of sin, and give our scoundrels a hard shake, though sometimes we cannot remember exactly which is who.
I wonder if, north of here, they might even run out of stories someday. It might seem silly, but it is cold up there, too cold to mosey, to piddle, to loafer, and summer only lasts a week and a half. The people spit the words out so fast when they talk, like they are trying to discard them somehow, banish them, rather than relish the sound and the story. We will not run out of them here. We talk like we are tasting something. 
I do it for a living, which is stealing, really."

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy Old Year!

“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.” -  T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

For as long as I can remember now, at the end of every year, my wish for all is "may the new year be happier/ better/ healthier/ more plentiful/ etc-er". But this year, for the first time, I feel like it would be hard to match, let alone surpass, the joy, happiness and peace that 2015 has brought us, personally. When the world has twisted and turned into more turmoil than ever, in unrest, violence, hunger and war, our lives seem to have thrived and given us plenty more than we probably deserve.

For that, I am grateful, and I can only hope we were kind enough to Karma so that she can continue her kindness to us. 

I hope we all make the New Year right, and we enjoy the ride while we're at it. 

No idea what the next 366 days will bring, but right now, in this moment, looking in the rearview mirror of the year passed, this is kinda how I feel. I thank my husband most of all, for being by my side in this journey, and my family and my friends for making it all special. It's all of you that keep me going, searching, smiling, giving ... Thank you!

Happy New Year, all, and to all a better tomorrow! 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

"Some days I hardly know what to pray for. Peace? Well, whatever." (Anne Lamott)

Life can truly be so discouraging!
I've been writing a blog post for a while. It was about hardships, human suffering and how oblivious we have all become to all that. But I stopped. It was way too negative even for me. This world is too much most days.

This Christmas, I am a conundrum of emotions - all good and bad. Grateful for my family, and my friends - few but honest. Grateful for my husband, my home, my cat, my material things. Grateful that I lived another day and wrote another blog.

I am also sad, for so much that we're missing in the world - peace, especially, love and understanding. Most of all, for respect to one another. After the Holocaust, we swore that "never again" will we allow it to happen. Yet, it's happening every day. It's happening everywhere. It's happening right now. This second.

I hope as we unwrap Christmas this year, with every happy thought, we can make room in our hearts to one less that happy one, with healing intentions. I hope we find our compassion and understanding of one another. Less criticism and more acceptance. I hope we learn how to pray to whomever we hold dear and they listen to us.

Just think about it: kindness is the only thing that doesn't cost a dime. It's all free. The intention of giving it is all that matters. Let's plan that for the new year - just to have the intention of being more kind. 

Someone was saying a couple of days ago on one of the social sites: "If you find out that you have too much money, buy  a bigger table, rather than a taller fence." I hope we all find an extra chair at ours this Christmas, literally or otherwise.

The world is big and ugly, and it will squash our dreams every chance it gets. But it all starts with a small positive light to make sense of its darkness.

As the song reminds us:

"Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me."

I hope you listen to the silence of Christmas tonight and you find your hearts.
Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Through My Window

"Spend the afternoon, you can't take it with you.” (Annie Dillard)

I have to be in the right mood to find "Walden" and "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" good reads. I sometimes, as I read them, wonder how much can one person really feel and observe and absorb of the very small and immediate nature they are surrounded by, without traveling as long as past their front door, to really make a book out of it.

But some weekends, or sick days, or just times when I am trapped in the house for no reason at all, it comes to me! There is a whole world out there - so real, so busy, so full, pulsating with life, and beauty that the spring should never run dry with inspiration.

Every bird has a story to tell, a different thought in the fearful glance; every dying rose or leaf, a shrinking memory to display, telling of the beauty past; every cloud has just a place in the immensity of the sky, every mountain a stream of melting snow to nurture.

These are just glimpses of what my camera peeked at this weekend through my kitchen window. You can hear and smell and touch the softness of feathers, the crisp of the drying leaves, the cold of the snow ... For a moment you can quiet down your breath, your thoughts, even the persistent noise of traffic and enjoy the symphony of nature ... 

The mountain just looked glorious this week! 

To my husband, these are "just sparrows". I still think they are precious in their own, sparrow-y way! 

This guy looked like he ruled the roost in my cedar tree ...

Autumn roses ... 

Through the blinds: When the feeders were flooded with hungry eaters ... 

And a purple finch, to make Aa. happy!

Now, if this were a painting ... 

Utah lake, and the "lighthouse" looking tower, along with the filthy air hovering over the valley this evening ... 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Many Reasons to Live or not to Live in Utah Valley

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about 10 reasons why I should move to Denver, CO. It was just a spur of the moment "hey, I went to Denver for a weekend and loved it" kinda thing, but it turned out to be one of the most popular blogs I have written, over time.

So, I thought, lately, to write a similar post, about the area that I live in right now, since I saw, with the first one, that people find these tips helpful and since I have a little bit more insight on actually living here longer than a weekend.

I started this as a list of "pros and cons" but I have dropped that organization, because that kind of classification invites labeling and judging. These are just my own observations as a Utah Valley resident, and I choose to not put any kind of judgement into them. If they are on this list, they are things that seemed to me, and me only, worthy of mentioning, and nothing more to it. "Good" or "bad" are subjective matters, and as such, they belong to each of our own individuality.

If you don’t follow this blog regularly, we moved to Utah from The East Coast about 5 and a half years ago, for my husband’s job. It’s been a discovery process ever since and we try, to this day, to make this our home.

Some things that I have found to be different and unique from everywhere I have lived before, and some things have required me to adjust in the past 5 and a half years:

If you want to live in a diverse area, this is not the place to be. The population here is pretty mono-chromatic. I think last time I checked, gay people can marry and we do have the first black Mormon congresswoman in history in the government, but … for the most part, we are pretty single toned when it comes to diversity. Utah is still 86% white, in case you’re wondering. When we travel, the first thing we notice after landing in Denver, Atlanta, or even Dallas is "wow! people DO come in all sorts of colors". We miss that, here.

The air is absolute crap in The Valley. The rest of the state is pretty pristine and wild, and less trafficked, but in the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys (anywhere from Ogden to Payson, if you look on the map – where the jobs are), the air is an absolute nightmare! Cold days in the winter, and desert fires in the summer render the air un-breathable most of the year. This was my biggest (less than pleasant) surprise when I moved here. Most days, I feel like we are dying away like rats from breathing this filthy air. You can literally taste it, and  it tastes like rubber and melted metal, almost year-round. Willie Nelson was not thinking of Utah when he was singing about "Clear mountain mornings ...".

And another thing that is crappy - it's traffic! For a state with a population of less than 3 million people and a density of 34 bodies per square mile, we surely do feel like trying to kill each other in traffic! Traffic is the absolute worse I have seen in this country and one of the worst I have seen in the world. Romania still takes the cake on that, but Utah is another brand of it altogether. I used to complain that people don't know how to yield - they just stop and can't merge. Well, in Utah, there is no Stop signs! There are only thoroughfares with no markings! They will run you over and then cry for a few months that it was a tragedy! I have never seen more people run over by trains than in Utah, either, simply because people pay no attention! 

The only upside to traffic is how breezy and uncluttered it is on a Sunday! Highways and stores are empty, because the majority of people are in church! The downside is, though - some of your favorite stores and restaurants (sometimes entire malls) are closed on Sundays. Really - the mall closed on Sunday. Imagine that!

Although the job market has been great, even during the recession,   women make considerably less than men in this area. I usually stay away from generalizations (at least on public forums), but when you live here, as a woman, you feel like no one really expects you to work. I have been promoted in my job, right here, in Utah, but when at the meeting table surrounded by 20 men, I had no voice. I was rudely and blatantly shut up with "we need an opinion that matters" right in my facec. I hope that is not the case in all the companies around here, and maybe things are different in Salt Lake City, which is a bigger and more cosmopolitan town. However, Utah county is very much stuck in patriarchy, as far as I can tell. 

If you like a free ticket to buy alcohol anywhere, including your grocery store, you have some adjusting to do when moving to Utah. Although the law has loosened up since 2001 when I first visited the state (no more membership to be paid to the restaurant when you order liquor), you still cannot buy wine at the grocery store, nor beer that is stronger than 3.2% alcohol. You will need to find your closest ABC store for that – and even then, the selection is not great.

Along the same lines: you cannot go anywhere “for just a drink”. Unless you buy food, you can never order just a drink, anywhere, bar, or restaurant alike.  You can also not order another drink unless the drink in front of you is completely gone. These are the rules. Trust me. They will enforce them. And get used to ordering a Riesling and the pimply kid who's taking your order telling you there is no such food on their menu. When you explain that is a "wine", they blush and say "they cannot fulfill your order because they are underage. You have to wait for the owner or bar tender to come and take your order and actually deliver the drink. Even when they do have an alcohol license. It's a process. Also, expect to be the only patron in a 200+ occupancy joint that consumes alcohol. And yes, some people will stare.

This is yet another different way of life, I guess: expect most of your neighbors to be consumed by their involvement in their (LDS) Church. The Church here is not just a means to a social life, or a means to eternal salvation. It's a way of life - The Church decides what organizations you should support as charity work, where you should get your savings, who makes your financial plan, what (physical) church (building) you go to, they organize yard sales, chili cook-offs and kids' activities, even are involved in your kids' scouting camps and all. And as a member, you are expected to pitch in. This leaves little time for people to make friends outside the church. We have managed to make a couple of friends, from within and outside The Church during our time here, but it has not been the easiest thing.

You cannot grow much of anything here. Let’s face it: you’re in the desert! I chuckle (and yes, you can say I judge!) at the large number of people who are stubborn to grow a lawn and even more stubborn to keep it lush year-round. I cannot even begin to imagine what their water bill is! We, on the other hand, embraced the environment, and we put a rock garden in our front yard. Nothing but boulders and pebbles, and it looks great, I think. I do have a garden, and it does need almost daily watering for the few tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and herbs I harvest every year, but I would not make it bigger than 2 beds.
Speaking of water: I have never had a water softening system anywhere else in my life - but you must invest in one here, because the water is incredibly harsh. I have never been through so many bottles of body moisturizer in one year, as I have been since I moved to Utah. Both the air and the water are harsh sandpaper into your entire body's skin!

This is  a "con" for me, personally, but I know lots of people who might embrace this: people around here love their superheros and their make-believe, " I am the maker and the king of the galaxy" movies and books! I guess when you can't have alcohol, or coffee, or anything to "excite you" in your life, you need some adrenaline rush from somewhere - they love sci-fi and XXX games! Probably 75% of all the 30 year olds I know have had a knee or a hip injury they got trying to fly through the air, or flip over hills while skiing. No joke! In their mind, they are superheroes!

Along the same line, and because today is Halloween - I have never seen anyone ever making a bigger deal over Halloween as these folks. You know the rule of "if my front porch light is off, we're not opening for trick-or-treaters"?! Well, yeah, no, not in Utah County! It can be dark as a moonless night out there and the house wrapped up in darkness, you will get trick-or-treaters for 4 hours straight at your door, and they won't budge even when you make no motion of intention from the inside that you will ever open the door. Parents and kids dress up here, and they have an office party, and neighborhood parties, organized by the church, usually (several, for the different age groups), not to mention parties that individual houses decide to have. It's a ghoulish culture, I tell ya!

No pun intended, but ... prepare to have the "are you prepared for emergencies" conversations (yes, as in multiples, and constantly) when you move to Utah. This state makes a very lucrative business from selling "preparedness items" and ideas all year round. No, not when we are supposed to be hit by ... oh, wait, we don't have tornadoes, earthquakes or hurricanes here at all! They "prepare" all the time. The radio tells you that you must, the billboards, the co-worker does too ... They have conferences, too, and classes on how to do it right ( Most of my native Utah acquaintances have bomb shelters in their home and huge storage rooms, with food and water supplies (and not only) to last them for months, I hear. And yes, the church is very much driving this, as well. We even have emergency drills in our neighborhood organized by "the bishop" of the church in this area, to which we silently and civilly non-participate. It is, I have found, quite another piece of reality you must get accustomed to, if you come from a  world that is happily oblivious to any such threats, like me. I come from a  world that leaves everything up to God - and lives blissfully ignorant that there is absolutely anything we could do the prepare should anyone stir up God's wrath.

One of the bigger challenges for me, personally, has been the exposure to guns around here. Most people carry guns, even to work, and when they go out shopping at the mall with the family, on a Saturday. For what, I do not know! I have met stay at home mommies of 3 or more that organize all women gun safety parties in the evenings. In North Carolina, I had a crafting group of friends and a book club. Here, I know women who teach one another how to "safely" handle guns! It's not unusual to hear on the radio that cops get shot just at a routine car stop, or even security guards getting shot at some store in a strip mall. You definitely have the feeling that the Wild West is not completely gone and people have not gotten the memo that we have laws now, that don't require us taking them in our hands to make justice! This bit is a little unnerving for me, who am not comfortable around guns at all.
Job market is amazing in this state, and particularly around Utah Valley. The amount of entrepreneurship in this area is flabbergasting to me! There is a strong software presence, but also call centers, marketing centers and multi-marketing companies that pay well, not to mention the hospitality industry of ski resorts, film festivals and such. See the “con” about what women get paid here, though. It’s not a fair game!

The cost of living is not extremely high and there are lots of grocery stores and discount food stores that accommodate large families with only one income. However, the cost of houses is higher than what I was exposed to in North Carolina, for instance. Houses here are huge (again: big families), and I have not seen any condo community for less than $120K/ unit. Utahans are incredibly crafty and natural born DIY-ers, too! I know folks who raise their chickens, smoke their own meats, make their kids' clothing, raise their own bees, and can-can-can everything they buy at the Farmers Market every summer! It's contagious, too, so after living here for a while, you, too, will dabble into one or more of the DIY "crafts". Salt Lake City even has an annual DYI fair

The cost of a high-end meal is pretty steep, but then, that is the case anywhere else. The family restaurants and chain ones are reasonable, but the high-end ones are very expensive and also clustered around Salt Lake City or any of the ski resorts. Not many "elegant" options around the suburb cities, I would say.

We talked about the liquor restrictions above. But the one good thing about the alcohol laws of Utah is that there are no dry counties in the state, nor are there any “dry” times of the week in purchasing alcohol anywhere. So, if you want to buy beer before 12 PM on July 4 on a Sunday, you can do so at any grocery store that is open. ABC stores are closed on Sundays, but that is because of a Government restriction (nation-wide). Other than that, you can buy your real liquor till 10 PM every day of the week, including Saturdays.

To continue with the alcohol theme, Park City has a whiskey distillery with a restaurant to die for, and the state has several breweries and beer pubs that showcase hundreds of different beers from all over the world. There are wineries in the Southern part of the state, as well, with whole resorts built around them. Once you’re here, you’ll know where to go and the selection of local beers and imports is not that bad, for an alcohol unfriendly state. It’s not Oregon, but … it’s better than South Carolina, I would say!

I am sure there are still so many other facets to life in The Rockies: the ranches, the rodeos, the super-conservative politics. But none of these directly fully aware-ing-ly affected out lives here. I never set out to make a documentary of the life in the West, just a small note collection of my own experiences. That's all.

Despite what you hear outside of Utah, and although 62% of the population of the state (more like 98% of Utah County where we live and work) is Mormon, no one will try very hard or very openly to convert you to Mormonism. They welcome visitors in church, but not in their teaching classes, to my knowledge. And no one comes pounding at your door for "conversion" conversations, either. Your LDS neighbors will be mostly very dedicated to their beliefs and lifestyle, but they will not try to convince you otherwise.

Although the soil is hard, and not much grass grows here (thistles are not grass), Utah grows the sweetest tomatoes in the whole wide world! I am not sure whether it’s the harsh, acidic soil, or the dry air, or the pelting sun, but the tomatoes here are healthy, large, juicy and sweet. On the occasional wet summer (not many of those!), they won’t produce as much, but they are still tasty.

“But it’s a dry heat”. Ok, to me, heat is heat! I lived in The Carolinas for 12 years, and wet heat is punishing. After 5 years in the desert, I can tell you, it’s just as bad when there is no promise of shade (there are no trees here!), and when the red rock gets so hot you can fry an egg on it, and starts reflecting the heat from 360 degree angles everywhere, cooking you alive! However, I live for the cool nights! The minute that sun settles down behind the mountains, the air is crisp and cool, and there is such a thing as “leave the window open all night to cool off the room”. In North Carolina, even at night, the air would be musty and thick with humidity! Here, you can sit by the fire, in August, under the starlit sky and just cozy up in a light blanket and feel the wind of the desert caressing your cheek. It’s pure health, as my grandma would say.

If you look really hard, there is culture around here. There are theater companies, in both Salt Lake and Provo area, there are great concerts that come to town and museums and traveling exhibits, too! They are not as frequent, I am sure, as New York City or LA, but they can compare with bigger cities like Atlanta or Charlotte for instance.

If you do have a family, then you might find this place to be close to heaven on earth for families - the restaurants send coupons to your house every other week with discounted meals for kids, or discounts when you buy "4 or more". So you can definitely have a family on a low budget here. Also, every family with kids has some sort of a pasttime vehicle (RV, boat, ATV) and they spend most of the year outside, just staying active and enjoying the beautiful outdoors around us. You can definitely make friends much quicker through kids - I think - not something I can say I have had experience with, though. 

If you have a family of two, like mine, get used to the question "how many kids do you have?". In the rest of the world is "do you have any children?". Here, if you are as old as my husband and I the question is "how many do you have" and "how old are your kids". My husband just got offered a coupon book to kids' activities around the county a couple of weeks ago with the smiling nod: "you know, for when your grand-kids visit". And this, from our next door neighbor!

The obvious needs to be stated here, as well: this state and the states around it are just gorgeous! Just within themselves - the vastness and the beauty of the landscape are mind blowing! You really feel God and His presence in every sunset, in every rocky spine of the hills, in every babbling stream, in every fawn frisky-ing around the raw green of spring.

There is a peace and a tranquility about it all that I have not found anywhere else in The States! There is nothing of the over-crowdedness of the East Coast around here. You have plenty of elbow room, and if you don't like your neighbors or can't stand their screaming kids for 5 more minutes, you can just jump in the car and you're only 5 to 10 minutes away from wilderness! Go and be quiet for a spell!