Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sweet beach wedding

Michelle and Justin's wedding was just beautiful. For one thing, it was conducted in Spanish! There was an interpreter, but it sure was neat to hear in a different language first. For the exchange of rings they each wrote an extended tribute to the other person - just simple and beautiful and funny. They got married in a gazebo- type thing out over the water - a bit windy and splashy, but all the more beautiful for that. The ceremony was not long, and then we were in celebration mode. A mariachi band serenaded us before dinner, and then we went to Oceana, one of the resort's restaurants, for dinner and dancing. People stayed and celebrated for quite a while before calling it a day. A very, very fabulous day.

Random beachy bits

Beach vacations are fun. Especially when you can have them with good friends. We made friends with a couple, Keith and Laurel, throughout the week, and on Wed night Aaron and Laura flew in so we had the remainder of the week with them. They're also fun if you can enjoy lovely food of all sorts!
We saw crabs and gulls and pelicans and iguanas, and - my personal favorite - lots of frigate birds. If you haven't heard of them, look 'me up! They're super cool!


Justin and Michelle treated all of their guests to a sunset catamaran ride on Thursday. The waves were strong (which made it rather exciting at times) but it was a beautiful, beautiful ride and a great way to have all the guests together for some ore-wedding celebration. So fun!


Wednesday was Tulum day! Tulum is the biggest Mayan ruin site in Mexico (I think) A bunch of us from "the wedding crowed" including Justin and Michelle went on a guided tour of the ruins. I think everyone really liked it but it did end up feeling pretty "touristy" - there were TONS of buses and tour groups when we got there. I guess it's a good thing that that many folks are interested in history, but I couldn't help wondering if there are some days that are less busy. It was hot and sunshiny and a bit hard to concentrate with all the crowd about.
It really is an interesting site - Tulum was clearly built for primarily religious reasons; almost all of the standings structures are devoted to some aspect of religious practice - baths to 'purify' the human sacrifice victims, altars to various gods, a tower to drop the victims down to their deaths, and a "palace" a really big building designed for worship. Some of the structures don't even have doors - they're just meant for the gods to come and go. Humans lived there - but only the upper class ones and only in homes made of perishable materials. All that remains of them are the platforms where they were built. All of the buildings are built in line with phases of the moon, stars and sun - and the Mayans knew exactly where they were in terms of latitude - 21 degrees, I think it was. Amazingly advanced knowledge, so I think it's just interesting that the focused so much on keeping the gods appeased and happy.
After wandering about the ruins, we were all ready for the next part of the morning's tour - time on the beautiful beach at Tulum. White sands, huge rolling waves, and clear beautiful water - what's not to love?? We played there for quite a while before it was time to pack it in and head back to the bus.
Wednesday afternoon and evening were more beach and being mellow time. Ahh, the life!
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Thursday, February 21, 2013


On Wednesday a group of us went off site - to see the Mayan ruins at Tulum. It was neat to see and our tour guide was very friendly and helpful - if he did wander a bit in his presentation. The size of the ruins is just amazing

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Scuba and other nice things about Mexico

Monday was a blur. A blur of staring at the wind coming off the ocean, reading, exploring different restaurants, and catching up with folks. It's amazing to be forced to slow down like this. The food has been great but (and??) the service is SLOW. In the US the main goal is to get you in and out and your table cleared for the next group. Just not a priority here. We wait 1 1/2 hours after being told the wait will be 45 minutes. We wait ten minutes for the waiter to appear once we're at our table. The food is lovely, the waiters are really pleasant - but we're FORCED to slow down. To talk to people. To savor the food. You know, human sorts of things that we forget when activity and obligations (self inflicted or otherwise) boss us around continually. I'm enjoying this new approach. I find that I'm actually EARLY to stuff! Ha.
Justin and a bunch of his family has really been looking forward to SCUBA diving as part of this trip. I was open water certified in 2006 (we got to go when we were in New Zealand) but I hadn't been on a dive since. So while I really liked the idea of going diving with them, I was really hesitant. I'd forgotten so much, and knew they would all be much more experienced than I - I really didn't want to slow them down.
In the end, they were so friendly and welcoming about it that I decided to go. And gosh was it fun. I really did forget some pretty important stuff about it, but our instructor was patient and got me back on track - and it really wasn't too difficult after all.
On the first dive we saw a huge lobster waving his long spiny arm-things at us, and then we found a sea turtle! He was smallish but we followed him around for a while. Later we found a bigger dude - even more fun! The sun wasn't shining, so there wasn't quite the color there might otherwise be, but even so the variety and color of what we saw was just amazing.
Hand signals are really important when you're diving, since you don't really have another way to communicate with each other down there. So when the swim instructor came near me to check in and I gave him a "thumbs up" he gave me additional weight for my weight belt. I didn't know how to tell him that I didn't think I needed it since I felt fairly comfortable with where my buoyancy was at. Once we surfaced I asked him about it. Turns out "thumbs up" means "surface" - so he thought I was letting him know that I couldn't stay down and was going to need to go up - hence the additional weight! We laughed (me sheepishly), I gave him the weight back, and I was sure to use the "OK" sign on the second dive.
In between dives we took a safety rest in a hidden cove that was pristine and beautiful - and featured a Mayan ruin! We explored around, found iguanas and hermit crabs to poke at, and generally amused ourselves until it was time to return to the open water.
On the second dive we saw another sea turtle and this time I was brave enough to swim up next to it and reach out my hand just as it was swimming with its flipper and "high five" it. I think they caught it on film - if so, I will share it later!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Estoy en Mexico

For the last two-ish months I have been trying to brush up a bit on my Spanish. I took it in 8th grade, and then took bunches of Russian after that. Oddly enough, I remember more Spanish than I do Russian - and that really isn't saying much. However, my public library offers a program called Mango Languages that has been a really neat way to brush up a bit. I can't say I can speak well AT ALL now, but it has been fun to figure out a lot more of what folks are saying than I did before starting the course.
And why Spanish? Why, because my friends Justin and Michelle are getting married in Mexico this Friday! It turns out that over 50 folks (including Patrick, Jamie, Aaron, Laura, and myself) will be flying down and joining them for the fun. And so here we are! Aaron and Laura are joining us Wednesday, so in the meantime, Patrick, Jamie and I have been relaxing in a whole new way (I've never done an "all inclusive" beach-style vacation before - wowsa!). Es muy divertido!

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sweet times in Iron River

I think the title pretty much sums it up! I got up here without too much difficulty Friday night. Saturday morning Amy and Tim and I went out to the Delta Diner. They make just the best food there. I usually go for their blueberry-and-mascarpone-stuffed French toast, but I branched out this time and tried the red-eye biscuits and gravy: espresso flavored gravy with prime rib and bacon smothering two of the most delectable biscuits you ever tried. Rich, but YUM!

Next up was making cookies! It had been forever since I'd had a chance to bake and Tim's upcoming birthday provided the perfect opportunity. My friend Mary sent me a picture of the recipe since I didn't have my favorite cookbook with me, and the outcome was a hit.

Then it was off to a break-your-own-trail, lovely sort of skiing. Tim did most of the trail breaking and we made our way through the woods and out onto a nearby lake for a good-sized loop before heading back.

The evening was filled with messing about with Amy and Tim's laptop - it needed some cleanup - and then a few games of Up-and-Down the River. Then it was time to celebrate Amy and Tims' upcoming birthdays! The four kids went together and got them kindle cases with lights, and they were a definite hit. Amy had been talking randomly all weekend about how she was thinking about getting one, so it was fun finding something that she already was thinking about.

Mix into all of that good conversation and catch-up, fabulous food, and everybody going off at times to do their own thing, and you pretty much have the perfect weekend.

Until I realized that the weather was just too nasty for me to want to brave around 300 miles of rainy-icy-snowy roads. The entire north side of the state was swathed in too-warm-for-safety weather for pretty much the entire day Sunday. After all sorts of internal debate, I opted to stay for another day. And that has been a luxury in and of itself. How often do you just let yourself take an unplanned day to do... nothing?? I read, took a tiny nap, and then Grant and I headed to the After Hours trail for a nearly-5 mile ski. Wow is that trail gorgeous - particularly when the entire sky has turned to snow and is falling off your head. More bumming around, a 1 1/2 hour Young Life meeting over the iPhone, and then tucking in to blog a bit... stuff I never get (take?) time to do. Here's hoping the roads will be good tomorrow (but - don't tell - with as nice as it's been, I wouldn't mind if I were forced to stay another day!).

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

doctor's note

From: "Erica"
Date: Feb 6, 2013 2:34 PM
Subject: Strange request
To: "Alan"

Hi Alan,

I have an odd request of you. At the end of last year and for over a month, I was ill, but I did not call the doctor. By the time I had finally resolved to do so, I was starting to feel better. To encourage me to call the doctor, Angela withheld my Christmas present. Though I am fully healthy again, she is still withholding until I bring proof that I have spoken with a doctor. In the spirit of literalism, I'm wondering if you, Dr. Parks, would write a note saying that I conversed with you. :) Knowing Angela, I'm sure she would honor that. If you're game, an email would be great.


From: "Alan"
Date: Feb 6, 2013 2:52 PM
Subject: Re: Strange request
To: "Erica"

Dear Ms. (or, perhaps, Miss) H,

It is always a pleasure to consult with you on matters of interest to your health and welfare. I refer to our conversation on the sixth of this present month concerning the disposition of certain material goods. While the giving and receiving of Christmas presents is uniformly regarded as optional, especially between those socially related, such exchange must be strongly urged when the putative recipient has been "very good," not to mention "nice," and not the least bit "naughty."

Of course, the evaluation of one's conduct by others is a matter of individual opinion and private judgment — to them. But one may hope that friends would seek unity in such judgments. In suggesting that your conduct would bear well under the keenest scrutiny that an elf could muster, I remain

Yours very truly,
Dr. Alan E. P.