I started this blog at the urging of friends and family in April 2010 when my husband and I were given an opportunity to relocate in Maryland for one year. We have now returned home to Arizona and continue to walk by faith as we watch God orchestrate the adventures in our lives. I invite you to share in our adventures as we watch God at work!

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Monday, October 3

burro blunder

Arizona has an abundance of burros. The animals, that is, not the food... well, maybe the food, too, but that's a blog post for another day.

But it wasn't always that way.

Burros, also called donkeys if you live east of the Mississippi River, are not native to Arizona. They were introduced into North America by Spanish colonists. During the mining boon in the 1860's, prospectors brought them to Arizona. After the mining bust, the donkeys were either abandoned or released into the wild where their populations grew, mostly because they have no natural predators in Arizona.

burro collage
The old mining town of Oatman is home to a herd of wild burros who roam the streets and beg for treats (carrots) from the tourists.

Coincidentally, camels (also not native animals) were introduced into the state at about the same time when Secretary of State Jefferson Davis imported the camels to solve military transportation woes before the railroad came to Arizona. The camels were able to carry heavier loads than mules (which are native and also different from burros/donkeys - they are the offspring from a donkey and a horse) and could survive on the little vegetation in the area. However, the Civil War brought an end to the U.S. government's camel venture and the camels were released into the wild. No one knows exactly how long they survived but there are no wild camels in Arizona today.

But back to the burro problem.

The burro population has grown every year and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) now estimates Arizona has over 5000 wild burros, more than three times what the government can manage. Burros are protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 which says the animals can be gathered or removed from an area but prohibits them from being killed.

For decades, the BLM has arranged "burro adoptions" and turned over thousands of wild burros to owners across the country. But burro adoptions are down and the population is increasing. This means more burros are placed in holding pens run by the BLM which are already over-crowded.

The burros aren't aggressive so what is the problem with letting them roam? They cause motor vehicle accidents posing a public-safety concern and compete for food with native bighorn sheep and livestock, affecting Arizona's agricultural industry.

This summer, federal officials, animal advocacy groups, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and others met in Washington, D.C. met to discuss land management including ways to reduce the burro population. They came up with three means to manage the burro population: temporary fertility vaccines (burro birth control)/permanent sterilization (can you imagine how much that would cost based on human birth control costs?), selling them to anyone, including "kill buyers" who would sell the burros for meat, and more aggressively promoting adoptions. The animal advocacy groups don't like the first two options so that leaves door number three - promoting burro adoptions.

Adoption applications are available through the BLM website and at their holding pens. The minimum adoption fee for each wild burro is $125; jennies (burro mommies) with an unweaned foal are $250. There is considerable paperwork and red tape to "ensure the animals go to good homes that can properly accommodate them" and many people don't want to jump through hoops just to adopt a burro. Economic factors also play into steadily declining burro adoptions.

In the meantime, the burro population is constantly growing.

I wonder what the long-term consequences of my generation's "quick fixes" will be. Creating artificial sweeteners to curb obesity rather than promoting portion control and exercise, for example. Or lowering educational standards because parents and kids are too busy to do homework or read daily.

They seem like such innocuous things at first - or so we think.

Sunday, September 18

printer problem

Printers, like smart phones and laptops, are devices designed to make our lives easier. And when they work the way we want them to to, they are an incredible convenience. But when they don't, it is a HUGE inconvenience. In fact, it's more than an inconvenience - it's maddening to have spent time creating a document or flyer that you can't print at home.

Our home printer has been dying a slow and very painful death over the past year and a half. My sweet hubby has nursed it along cleaning the heads, shaking the ink cartridges, and the like for months. But its days are numbered, I fear, as it makes long, ugly, black streaks on nearly everything that comes out of it.

We are looking for a replacement printer (unfortunately, it's not cost-effective to repair them) but until we decide definitively on one, I am stuck with the old printer. And I hate it.


It was with some amusement I read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (August 26, 2016) that confirmed what I suspected. MANY people truly hate their printers for all kinds of malfunctioning/mechanical reasons. 

But what I didn't suspect was that, motivated by the 1999 movie, "Office Space," they are publicly smashing them to smithereens! Some companies have planned employee retreats around printer pummeling. Or have contests where the winner gets to bash one of the evil company printers with a baseball bat. And "rage rooms" (aka "anger rooms") across the country report that printers are one of the most in-demand items. 

So I wonder... why is there such an over-the-top anger with printers? Why not smart phones or laptops? Maybe it's because our printer is the last in line. We become annoyed when the app on our smartphone doesn't work the way it should or the way we want it to. So we move on to our laptop and then become frustrated when pages are slow to download or we lose internet connectivity. We finally get the document finished or the coupon ready to print and now the printer isn't cooperating. We just want to be finished with whatever it is we're working on. We blow past annoyed and frustrated landing on angry.

It's funny how quickly we forget how it used to be when we had to go to a printing place to make copies. And creating our own documents at home to print  at home was just a dream.  It seems the more "convenient" life gets, the less content we are. 


Friday, September 9

the love/hate affair

I have a confession to make. I have a love/hate relationship with the world wide web.

Way back when, if I had a question about something, I had to find the answer in a book or some other resource. For example, if I wanted to know who the 14th president of the United States was, I could look in an encyclopedia under "Presidents" and find a chart with the answer in a few minutes - Franklin Pierce was the 14th president, born in 1804 and died in 1868. Easy peasy.


But we don't carry reference books around with us all the time, so often I would wonder about something but not have the opportunity to quickly look it up. However, if I looked it up later, I almost always remembered what I'd read. I think the effort involved in getting the information made it worthwhile to remember.

Then personal computers became widely available and "surfing the web" was a thing. It was new and exciting and really fast. Information was available in the blink of an eye. From multiple sources. In living color. Doing a Google search brought up the information before I had finished typing my query.

And with a smart phone I can search for information anywhere, anytime I have cell service. Instant information, 24/7. Sounds like a great thing, right? Super convenient and very easy.

I'm not so sure.

Unlike a reputable reference book like World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Brittanica that is edited and fact-checked by multiple people and sources (and historical information doesn't change like technology or geographical information does), anyone can put absolutely anything on the web. It takes much more effort to find "fact sources" on the internet that are edited by experts and consistently accurate.

But it's more than just the potential for inaccuracy. It's what I call the "laziness factor." Doing a Google search to answer the "question of the moment" requires almost zero effort on our part. We don't even have to spell correctly. Instantly the information is quite literally at our fingertips where we can either read it for ourself or, if we're really lazy, listen to Siri tell us whatever factoid we've requested.

"Ahhh... so that's the answer!" we think to ourself before we quickly discard that piece of information.  We think we remember it until we try to tell someone else what we read 15 minutes later and have to look it up again. There is no need to remember the information because we can just look it up again if we want or need it.

I agree that there are some things I might be curious about but don't need to remember forever. For example, what time the current blockbuster hit is playing at the local theater.

the new reference book

But I wonder if what we are really doing is training ourselves to not think as we read, to not retain information but to merely read the words to quickly find the answer to the question before moving on to the next thing.

And that is the crux of my love/hate relationship with the world wide web. I love the convenience and speed of getting information but hate the mindlessness of it. My solution? Use it when I must but also take time to investigate something - read a book, talk to a craftsman or professional, engage in the process and think critically about the information. I find it far more satisfying than just clicking a button and mindlessly reading whatever answer pops up.

Monday, September 5

labor day

Today is Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Although it is a holiday dating back over a hundred years, today most Americans just know it as "the three-day weekend in September" or "the holiday after which school starts" or simply as "the end of summer."

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. It was planned and implemented by the Central Labor Union (CLU) to honor the working man. Just two years later, the date was changed to the first Monday in September so that worker's could enjoy a three-day weekend. It was the "workingmen's holiday" which makes me wonder if the  business executives and CEO's had their own holiday. I don't think they did - or do now.

Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law following the deaths of workers during the Pullman Strike of 1894. The CLU and Knights of Labor encouraged street parades to show the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and union organizations." This was to be followed by festivals "for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families."

While its origin was to honor the "workingmen," the sad truth is that the first Monday in September has just become another three-day weekend. Yes, there are "events" going on - an Hawaiian Luau in Cave Creek, an arts and crafts fair in Prescott, a BBQ Platter at Twin Arrows Casino Resort and sales at every department sale. But I couldn't find a single parade or "festival for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families."

Perhaps it's time to just call it what it is - September Long Weekend. It's what the Canadians call their Labour Day (also on the first Monday of September).

Wednesday, August 31

so that's how they do it!

The way we shop has changed dramatically in the last decade or so. We are no longer a society that physically goes to a store, finds several models/styles of a product, tries it on or holds it, talks to a sales clerk... and then makes a decision and buys one, taking it home in a bag. Instead, we read endless reviews (a few are helpful but most are ridiculous if you can even read the text-speak they are written in without grammar or punctuation), scour the internet for the best price, click the "buy now" button and wait for the item to be delivered to our home. We can buy everything from apples to zebra-striped leggings and more with the click of a button.

Last year Amazon became the world's largest online retailer. Chances are good that if you have access to either a computer or smart phone, you have ordered something from Amazon. And it is delivered to your doorstep quickly - often within a day or two. Some cities now have same-day delivery.

Amazon Package

Wow! How can they do that?

A friend invited me to go with her on an Amazon Fulfillment Center tour in Phoenix. She made the reservation for the tour over a year in advance and at last the day came!

The Amazon Fulfillment Center building is really big huge gigantic humongous but fortunately the signage for visitors is quite clear. We were greeted by our tour guide as soon as we arrived, given a visitor badge and head set for the tour. After a safety talk (only walk in the designated areas, walk no more than two abreast, ...) and reminder that there is absolutely no photography and all phones must be silenced and put away or they will be confiscated, we were ready to begin.

The Phoenix facility we were at has small and medium-sized items. There are rows and rows and rows of shelving units with the aisles labeled with a number/lettering system. Our tour stopped on one of the aisles as the tour guide explained the process.

The first thing I noticed were lots of smallish (slightly larger than a shoebox) bins on the shelves filled with a seemingly random assortment of goods. One bin had a package of drinking straws, Disney cookie cutters, saline nasal spray, baby wipes, and measuring spoons. Of course, that's just what I could see without taking the bin out - there was lots of other stuff in the back of the bin.

Why were those particular items together in the bin? My mind was spinning trying to figure out what these items had in common.  And I was getting nowhere fast.

And then the answer was given by our tour guide - there is no rhyme or reason to placing items in the bin, only that they fit in the bin. The entire operation is computer-controlled with employees doing the "stowing" and "picking."

When a product comes into the facility, the barcode on the item is scanned into their computer system and put in a cart. When the cart is filled, an employee called a "stower" scans a product with a hand-held scanner and the computer identifies which aisle and bin has room for that item. The stower finds the correct aisle and bin, makes sure the product will fit and then scans the product into that particular bin (all bins are identified with a barcode).

Okay, that explains the hodge-podge collection of items in the small bins. But how in the world do they find the items in a timely fashion when an order comes in? Wouldn't someone be running all over this massive facility just to find three or four items in a single order?

Filling an order is where employees called "pickers" come into play. Pickers are assigned an area and also issued a hand-held scanner. As orders come in, the computer lets pickers know which items to pick from a particular bin. When an item is taken from a bin, it is scanned "out" of the bin letting the computer know that bin now has room for another product. The computer knows how much space each product needs as well as how much space is in each bin, thus allowing the maximum amount of products in the least amount of space. There is no wasted space in the bin.

Once the picker scans an item out of a bin, it is placed in a large yellow bin which when filled, often with parts of multiple orders, are placed on a conveyor belt system and taken to the shipping area.

In the shipping area, all the parts of an order are put together in a box or mailing envelope by a "shipper" who places a label with a barcode on the package before placing it on a conveyor belt.  From there it passes through scanners and machinery that generate a mailing label and adheres it to the package. It passes through yet another scanner to ensure the label is readable and in the right place on the package before being sent off to a truck to be shipped to the customer.

And all this happens very quickly.

As I was watching this amazing process in action, I wondered how someone came up with this process. It seems like a recipe for disaster for someone like me who craves order and logic, not randomness. But it works and I can't argue with that.

We enjoyed the tour and recommend it for anyone who wants to see what goes on behind the scenes. You can make a reservation for a tour of an Amazon Fulfillment Center near you (in six cities across the United States) here. But make it early - many are already completely booked through 2017! The 2018 schedule will be out "soon" or you can be put on a wait list for a cancellation.

And now I feel a "need" to browse through Amazon....

Thursday, August 25

happy 100th birthday!

The National Park Service turns 100 years old today... and we are all invited to the party! From August 25th through August 28th, 2016 all 412 national parks (including national monuments, national seashores, national battlefields, national memorials, etc.) are offering FREE ADMISSION!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all began way back in 1872 when Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the territories of Montana and Wyoming "as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." It was placed under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior. The founding of Yellowstone National Park was the impetus for countries around the world to also establish their own national parks. Today there are about 1200 national parks or similar preserves in over 100 countries.

Congress authorized other parks and memorials which were administered by the Department of the Interior, the War Department, and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture - there was no one single agency unifying the administration of the parks and monuments.

On August 26, 1916,  President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 35 national parks and monuments already administered by the Department of the Interior as well as any new national parks or monuments that might be established in the future. An Executive Order in 1933 transferred 56 national monuments and military sites from the Forest Service and the War Department to the National Park Service. Finally, all the national parks, monuments and military sites were administered by one department.

Today there are 59 National Parks located in 27 states and the territories of American Samoa and the United States Virgin Islands - a 68.5% increase in the last 100 years! And national monuments, military sites, memorials, rivers, seashores, etc. have increased just over 530% in the last 100 years! Wow!

One of my Bucket List items is to visit all 59 National Parks. To date, I have been to 29 and I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite.

national parks collage
(Clockwise from top: Denali National Park (Alaska), Arches National Park (Utah), Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota), Badlands National Park (South Dakota), Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona), Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), Joshua Tree National Park (California), Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)

The National Park Service protects our national treasures. They are areas of magnificent beauty, historical significance and/or wildlife refuges. Make it a priority to visit some of these each year. Perhaps even this weekend when they are FREE! You will be seeing America... the beautiful!

Thursday, August 18

a happy place??

As I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook the other day, a post from one of the many crochet sites I follow had this meme:

I suspect most people who saw that post smiled and scrolled on by but it grabbed my attention and I thought about it for quite some time. I've heard people say things like, "A glass of wine is my happy place" or "Quilting is my happy place." 

Do you have to have something or be doing something or be in a certain place to be happy? If that is the case, then happiness is something we have virtually no control over. Things can be taken away, circumstances change so that you can't engage in an activity or go to a particular place.

I get that the idea behind the meme is that you enjoy that activity. It's not meant to be taken literally, and is in fact, meant to be humorous.  But I wonder if phrases like that have an effect on us like subliminal messages. 

If they are subliminal messages, it might explain why I have more yarn than I have projects. And why some people are never happy - they either don't have the right stuff or the time to do it.

Or maybe I have too much time to ponder such things....