Sunday, January 20, 2019

Butterflies rise!

A while ago, I sat with paper envelope in my hand waiting for Barbara Barrington Jones to announce that Thanksgiving Point would be building a $31 million Butterfly habitat where the Emporium currently stood.
This gracious and generous lady said she drew in a breath when she was told how much the biosphere would cost but in a blink she composed herself and said, "Of course! That's a splendid idea!"
We opened our envelopes and released our little, beautiful creatures, thinking how crazy an idea it seemed for tropical Utah.
Friday, the 40,000 sq. foot Butterfly Biosphere opened.
Complete with colorful butterflies and exotic flowers and things to play on and climb outside the habitat, the new biosphere is a wonder.
Little kids can romp and run, jump, slide and play with abandon.
Meanwhile the butterflies are inside a sort of rainforest enclosure that protects and houses them while the temperature is 30 degrees outside with snow on the ground.
There are blue ones and black ones and some with translucent wings, some with stripes and owl-like eyes.
Guests are encouraged to stand still and look all around to find them, hanging on branches, tucked in among the leaves,  
(Outside the habitat, in glass cages and display cases that thankfully are escape-proof, there are 20 kinds of tarantulas, walking sticks, cockroaches (truly lovely), horned beetles and all kinds of creepy crawlies that you want to think about as you try to fall asleep.)
It's quite an ingenious place with plenty to look at.
It was crowded on Saturday but even then, the crowds are coming for various times so it's not overwhelming.
A lot of the butterflies are hiding out up high and sometimes you fear for the ones little kids can reach.
However, there's a new release of 100 butterflies a day and the nursery is full of cocoons with butterflies coming along.
The people in charge have thought about the hazards and worked it out so there are rewards throughout.
It's a nice blend of nature and humanity.
To get there, travel to Thanksgiving Point toward the Water Tower Plaza. The biosphere is open from 10 a.m. to 7  p.m. for a entry appointments and costs $20 for adults, $15 for children and seniors.
The website is:

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

You can't lie to the MRI...

I just flunked my latest MRI test.
I didn't intend to.
I, in fact, expected to ace it.
I've had these diagnostic tests before and it's never bothered me to be slid in under a big white kind of saucer thing for 4-5 minutes at a stretch.
I would just close my eyes and go somewhere else in my head while the machine clattered and knocked.
But this time I was supposed to have two done at the same time, one for my right shoulder and one for the left. I went in all full of confidence expecting to be done in a couple of hours and on my way to understanding why my arms burn and hurt without me doing anything to aggravate them.
So I laid down to have my arms sandbagged and shut my eyes.
Three hours later, I was sobbing in the parking lot, trying to understand what happened.
I failed to hold still, apparently, though I tried and could have sworn I held rock still.
 Trouble became obvious when the technician kept coming to talk to me under the saucer mechanism.
"You are squirmy," he said. "It's blurring the image."
I was surprised.
I really thought I was holding completely still.
I breathed in and out but no too deeply. I clenched my fists.
I held my breath.
Nothing worked.
No matter how hard I tried, I kept messing up the test.
"Are you nervous?" asked the tech guy. "No, I'm trying," I said, feeling like a 4-year-old who won't eat her vegetables. "I held still. Honest."
"You can't lie to the MRI," he informed me rather brusquely.
We tried again, over and over.
This time, he impatiently pushed back the machine and said, "I don't know what to do. It's getting worse. I can't send these images to the doctor."
I shook my numb fingers thinking I was done for the night.
"Don't do that! he cried. "Now you've ruined it!
Oops. I thought it was over.
He sighed in exasperation, probably needing to be someplace else at 7 p.m. at night.
He told me to give it up and go get dressed.
On the way out, he suggested I get some Valium from my doctor and come back drugged.
"Maybe that will help," he said.
OK. I can do that. But I don't have a lot of expectations for the next try. I will take the Valium and relax and just keep breathing.
But I KNOW I was already holding as still as I can.
I can't hold any stiller.
Maybe if I die?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Watch the magic disappear...

My 11-year-old grandson is into magic.
He watches it.
He loves it.
And lately he always has a deck of cards on hand so he can invite watchers to pick a card and find it again — magically — at the end of the trick.
So when he asked for magic tricks for his 12th birthday, I wanted to support him.
I scoured the Internet to find a couple of tricks that would be impressive and good additions to his growing collection.
I found two, each in England so I figured I could save some shipping money and spend a touch more on the actual trick.
It was early October so I knew I had time on my side.
I fired up my computer and pushed send.
Both gifts were on their way.
I sat back and waited for a response.
After a couple of weeks I checked.
My son said nothing had arrived.
I checked my bank account and the money for both tricks had been withdrawn.
I started looking for phone numbers and emails.
The one trick (a Rigid Rope) was supplied by a local magician in Yorkshire who told me he'd promptly sent the trick. He said he'd send another one.
When it didn't show, I checked my address information. Seems the address I'd been using for years to get Christmas and birthday gifts to Hednesford was not correct anymore. (Maybe it never was...but they made it there.)
The magician said he'd send a third but that would be it. He was now losing money on the deal.
On his birthday, Jack had his magic rope.
Now to find the other trick.
I started emailing after which I got a couple of long-distance calls from Florida. I didn't pick them up in time and there was no room in the mailbox for messages.
We kept waiting.
Yesterday, the company spokesman told me it had been sent but refused. He said he had tried to contact me via an ancient email address I haven't used for years. He told me he'd arranged a refund. I hadn't seen one.
I checked my PayPal records.
Yup. I had a refund but I still wanted the magic trick.
Long story short: the trick is supposedly on its way again.
It's going to the right address, the right kid, the correct country and money will be paid once more.
Let's just hope it magically appears before Dec. 25.
This magic stuff is hard!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Launching into a driveway...

Grandpa's bad rocket
Cael's good rocket
Marc's newest thing with the grandkids is rocket launching. He likes watching their reactions when the rockets take off, fly high into the sky and then float down again with the parachute fully deployed.
The only problem is the rockets — depending on the weather, the wind, the craftsmanship and the battery power — are unpredictable.
You never know for sure if, at the end of an enthusiastic countdown, the rocket will sputter and shoot off or if it'll just sit there, disappointing the crowd and the builder.
My brothers launched rockets when they were younger and my oldest son today puts on little shows for elementary school classes.
I remember my dad trying to help insure a successful blast-off by wiring the rocket to the car battery.
We had rockets that took off into outer space never to be seen again.
We also had a box full of pieces left after the rocket blew up or simply came apart for no apparent reason.
So when we took 5-year-old Cael to the park for a rocket launching we knew it was a gamble.
We had just spent part of a day in northern Utah where we had two brilliant launches and two complete duds for unimpressed grandchildren.
This was a chance to figure out what went wrong.
We headed to the park by a nearby elementary school. The sun was out. The winds were calm.
We handed Cael a green and yellow rocket and showed him how to press the ignition button on grandpa's command.
We taught him the countdown procedure. 10-9-8... and we were a "Go!"
The rocket took to the sky and looped over a little to the west. The parachute deployed and Cael and Marc ran over to catch it.
Success. Easy Peasy.
But the next try didn't go as well. The pretty little red and yellow rocket refused to lift off.
Marc tried new igniters. He adjusted the launchpad and wiring. He cussed.
Cael got restless and started looking over at the playground equipment nearby.
Then Marc decided to try a fresh battery and that worked!
The rocket flared and flew way up high, so high it couldn't be seen for a few minutes. Then it came down, fast and straight with no parachute out and no way to stop it.
It appeared to head into the nearby yard so we trooped over to find it.
We peered through the holes in the fence and into the trees.
We couldn't see it.
We walked around to the street and the house's front yard. I wrote a note explaining our plight and Marc stuck it in the door.
Then I saw a few pieces of red rocket on the side driveway.
It had a broken nosecone and part of the body blown out. (Apparently the engine was too big or Marc had forgotten to pack in the wadding. He swears he remembered.)
Back at the launch site we discovered a hole burnt into the metal launch plate. Wow.
Marc and I discovered a new appreciation for science and its rules.
Cael decided it's important to back the "good" rocket!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A fit bit fit...

British Airways has earned back my respect, though it took a while.
We were on our way back from Spain when we ran into trouble.
We were in a long, long line waiting to check in on Iberian Airlines (one of their partners).
A harried-looking man was working the line and didn't seem to be having a good day.
By the time we got to him, his patience was gone.
He looked at us, at our tickets and waved us away.
"You need to go to British Airways," he said and shut down his desk.
We trudged about 10 feet over and go into another long line.
It was getting late for us as our connection flight was going to board in about 15 minutes.
We got to the front of the line again.
There was the same unhappy man.
He glanced at the same tickets we'd shown him earlier.
He looked at me and my luggage.
I had a cute little red suitcase I had bought just because it was small and guaranteed to fit in the overhead bins.
"You'll have to check that!" he said curtly.
I started to protest.
"Go see if it fits," he said, indicating a baggage cage a few feet further over.
I picked up my case and started to fit it in.
"No! The other way," he said.
I turned it around. Pushed it. Looked at him for mercy.
He put his hand out for my credit card and charged me 75 euro which translates to about $85 in US dollars.
I didn't have time to argue further so I let him take my little case (which had thus far made it from the United States to England and from England to Spain and back without incident).
I fumed though, especially as I watched passengers board with really big carry-ons.
I'm known for being a problem customer so when I got home, I took care to keep track of my receipt and contacted British Airways.
I explained that I felt I was treated unfairly and needed some redress if I was ever to travel on their airplanes again.
I got the boiler plate replies: "This is our policy." "We have to treat everyone the same." "We can't make an exception."
I seethed.
I wrote again and pointed out that my little bag is within the required dimensions and we were flying internationally so we had one free bag allowed.
Again, the polite "We're sorry" replies.
Finally there came one that said basically, "Fine. Send us your routing number and the name of your bank and we'll see what we can do."
Then radio silence.
I figured I had taxed the PR person's patience beyond the limit.
I kept up my campaign however, advising them that I would not travel on their airline ever again.
I could see a $25 or even a $50 fee but $85?
I didn't see why I should pay for the guy having a bad day.
Today I received an email that said they would be returning and depositing my $86.16.
Only three months and 15 emails later.
I win.
I think.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Marry in the park...

The three raccoons that tripped along the road toward us were right at home in the park where the wedding reception was.
The rest of us were somewhat uneasy being in the middle of nowhere after dark.
Marc had accepted the invitation to attend the wedding for a co-worker.
It sounded like fun at first. The ceremony was in one canyon and the reception was in another.
We like an adventure so off we went, gift in hand on a sunny afternoon.
We found the place next to a pretty little pond and took a seat.
The sun started to set as we waited for the groom to arrive.
Apparently the traffic on I-15 had slowed him down and he was a hour late by the time he showed.
(Good thing it was his wedding day and his bride-to-be didn't get upset.)
The ceremony started and it was sweet with tiny flower girls and ring bearer boys and plenty of romantic touches.
But it was nearly dark when it ended and we hadn't had dinner.
We hurried back over to a restaurant and then started to try and find the reception.
The invitation was clear: head to Exit 134 and turn left to a park in the woods.
We tried to do that but the road we took was dark and lonely.
Marc figured we had missed something so we headed back into Salt Lake.
He wondered if we had taken the wrong exit and felt bad for missing the chance to wish his friend well.
We turned around.
This time we carefully counted exits and made sure we were taking off on Exit 134.
We again found ourselves on the dark and lonely road into the forest.
We turned off into a entry point to consult our GPS.
A tiny sign bore the name of the park we wanted.
We started off down the road and turned and twisted for a while. We found a pavilion but it was not the right pavilion.
We got back in the car but not before some elderly people in the same parking area asked for our help in finding the wedding.
We wished them well and agreed to let them follow us if they wanted though we didn't know where we were going.
At the end of more unpaved, windy road, we saw lights and heard music.
We'd found it.
All was well though the trio of raccoons thought we were nuts.
I'm pretty sure I agree with them.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Evermore surprises...

Three years ago I interviewed Ken Bretschneider who had a crazy, ultra-expensive idea.
He wanted to invest millions of dollars and put tons of long hours into putting a fantasy/theatrical/reality amusement park together.
He had the land.
He had $91 million and plenty of interested investors.
He wanted to share his dreams.
Being a skeptical reporter who had heard lots of big ideas including one for a Six Flags/Disneyland-like Park in the same area, I wished him well but doubted whether he could pull it off.
I looked at the model and listened to the ideas he had, from a pirate treasure ship moored in a man-made lake to the   spooky woods full of magical, dark creatures.
It would be kind of like a Jumanji game come to life.
I came close to seeing the vision but it was so revolutionary and would take so much talent and money to make it real I couldn't totally buy into it. (This is even after I tried the virtual reality helmet and took a journey into The Void which was breathtaking.)
Nevertheless, I persuaded my editors at The Deseret News to run a story and a rendering.
And waited to see.
The months and years passed and I read a few stories about the success of The Void which was making money, news and waves.
I saw the ground broken at the site and construction start.
Bretschneider had a Halloween party on the grounds. It was lively and brought in a crowd.
I crossed my fingers for him.
Then my husband saw a notice about Evermore auditioning for people to be part of the scene.
He got a part.
We heard about an opening date.
We learned they were having a party to announce themselves and teaming up with Fan-X to create some buzz.
This weekend we bought a ticket to a soft opening on a night when my husband was not in the show so I could see for myself what it is.
And it is...different, quirky, magical, a little spooky and very adventurous.
There are lots of visual treats, plenty of creatures with stories to tell and agendas that require a little investigation.
It's a unique kind of venue.
We met vampires, witches, a dragon, an owl, zombies, gypsies and a great big king with a weird voice.
I bargained with a vampire to get information I needed to help a sick lad. I visited with a fortune teller, traded with a potion maker, successfully avoided a scary acolyte. (Didn't know what it was until my husband told me.)
It's like nothing I've seen before.
It's breathtaking.
I don't understand all of it. I think there's more going on than I know and I think I'd like to go again.