Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Western Hurricanes and Eastern Typhoon Bully the Land

As you know, hurricanes and typhoons are the same storm but are given different names based on the location. While I had about three different ideas for today's post, my mind refused to walk away from these storms. 

I've never lived or happened to visit an area during either of these storms, but I've lived through four tornadoes. Maybe you haven't experienced either of these but you've endured something else. It seems that every place on the earth has a unique issue either from earth, fire, or water. Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, Fire, Such a list.

Typhoon over the Philippines
Photo Courtesy: NASA
user rights: labeled for reuse

Hurricane Florence
Photo Courtesy: Department of Defense
user rights: labeled for reuse

At times such as these, we feel our dreams may not come true. Ever. Much is lost. Much feels like it can never be regained.

Doors slam in our face or collapse, seemingly impossible to go through again. And the windows, well they just seem too small.

Thankfully, we're truly never alone. Heroes come to the rescue. You know the ones. Those who not only provide for our basic needs, medical, food, water, housing, but the ones who do more than listen. They encourage us to keep trying. They stand by us. Walk with us. Cry with us. Hold our hand. They set goals above what we feel we can reach then help us meet them. They distract us from the sorrow and the I can'ts and watch us unknowingly reach the bar.

So let's talk about the heroes.

I'll start the list, then you add.

Food Banks
Blood Banks
Schools converted to temporary housing
Good Samaritan
Nationwide volunteers
Truckers who transport needed supplies
Loved ones who stayed back with those unable to evacuate. 
In the Philippines, I'll add the diggers who painstakingly work to uncover those trapped.
The food preparers for workers
Those who donate food, money, medical, and other supplies
Those who organization distributions
Businesses like Waffle House who fly in workers and provide food. 

Okay your turn. Help me talk about the unsung heroes who help us move past the bullies. 

This post has been brought to you by the one-word: UnsungHeroes

Daring to Live
Never Give Up Stories

Dedicated to the people from the Carolinas and the Philippines

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Third Castle Ghost Story Heard on the Rhine

Today we share a third castle ghost story heard on the River Rhine. To read the first two, scroll down to the previous posts. 

Ehrenfels Castle, Rhine River
Photo by Mary Vee

There is a legend told about the archbishop who owned two buildings. A castle, the Ehrenfels Castle 

Mauseturn built on an island
in Rhine River
Photo by Mary Vee

and the Mauseturm (Mouse Tower). The castle stood high on a hill across the river from the tower.

There once was a very evil archbishop who had a castle built on a high hill on the eastern banks overlooking the Rhine River. The castle was called Ehrenfels. He forced ever ship sailing the river to pay tolls before being allowed to sail past his castle. To deal with the crew who refused to pay, the archbishop had a tower built on a small island across the river. There he stationed archers and commanded them to fire upon the crew of any ship refusing to pay.

Ehrenfels castle ruins, Rhine River,
photo by Mary Vee
Long about the end of the first century, a terrible famine rage through the area. By this time, the archbishop had accumulated and stored a vast amount of grain in his barns. The citizens begged the archbishop for food. He raised the price of grain so that only the rich could afford to buy any. 

The workers of the castle and the poor from the village around begged again. When he refused to feed them, they gathered together and planned a revolt.

The archbishop heard about the citizen's plan and devised a cruel idea. "My people, go to the empty barn and wait there. I will bring you food so that you may fill your stomachs."

The people rejoiced and cheered for the archbishop. The healthy helped the sick up the hill to the barn where they entered and sat waiting for the food. Their stomachs growled. Parents told their children of the coming food and to patiently wait.

The archbishop and his servants walked up the hill to the barn. He heard the people laughing and singing on the inside, joyfully awaiting their food. "Barricade the doors," he ordered. The servants did as ordered.

"Light the barn," the archbishop ordered.

Again, the servants obeyed.

The peasants inside rushed for the doors. They banged and cried to be released while the archbishop stood and watched. He said to his servants standing nearby, "Listen to the mice squeak."

The archbishop returned to his castle (Ehrenfeld) and walked through the gate. Due to the hour, the gate was closed for the evening. The archbishop walked the corridor toward his chamber. As he did, a horde of mice crawled out from the walls. Thousands poured into the corridor. They surrounded the archbishop biting him until he ran. "Quick, ready my boat!"

The island where the Mauseturn is located in
the Rhine River, Mary Vee across the river
to the right, out of view of this photo, is the
Ehrenfeld Castle.

His servants prepared his boat and pushed off as his last foot leaped inside. The archbishop prayed the mice could not swim. Many could not and drowned. Still, thousands poured into the river following the boat. The servants oared using all their strength under the bellows of the archbishop. They crossed the river to the island tower where he'd stationed archers. "Leave at once," he ordered them.

The tower was sealed and sleeping quarters set up for archbishop on the top floor. 

The mice remained determined in their goal even though many drowned in the continued pursuit. They chewed on the tower doors, eating a hole through the wood. In mass, they crawled up the tower stairs to the top floor where they found the archbishop's bed suspended in the air. They crawled up the walls across to the ropes and down to the archbishop's bed where they enveloped him and ate him alive.

Although this is a Rhine River legend, this sort of story reminds me of Grimms Fairy Tales. Stories that drive home a point in a very sharp way. Have you read any of the Grimms Brother's tales?

This post has been brought to you by the one word, GhostStoryOnThe RiverRhine

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Day The Troll Kissed The Yooper

 Suspension Tower, Mackinac Bridge
photo by Mary Vee

Labor Day is the one day each year the Mackinac Bridge is closed to all motor vehicle traffic from 6am to 12 noon. This annual event began back in 1958

The Mackinac Bridge is a suspension bridge connecting the lower peninsula of Michigan with the upper peninsula. To the east, Lake Huron flows, to the west, Lake Michigan

The people who live on the north and south sides have a fun rivalry.

Photo by Mary Starting the walk

If one lives in the lower peninsula that person is called a troll because he/she lives "under" the bridge.

If one lives in the upper peninsula, that person is called a Yooper, a distortion of the word upper.

On Labor Day the Yoopers and Trolls along with a host of visitors walk the 5 mile Mackinac Bridge. The ceremony always starts with the governor of Michigan leading the walk. One year President Bush walked with the then governor!

An announcer called out to people, asking where they were from. Walkers from Georgia and all around the country came to walk the bridge. 


Well, to say we did it.

To meet many new people.

Bridge Light
Photo By Mary Vee

To take photos that could never be taken otherwise 

Photo By Mary Vee, Lake Huron
eastern view from the bridge

And this year, to witness a young man propose to his girl. I cheered with the crowd around them when she said yes and hugged her man.

Another new component of the bridge walk this year seemed to be a genius cost-cutting idea.

Previously all participants walked the northbound side from north to south. Busses ran all morning ferrying people to St. Ignace. Car/truck traffic also continued to move across the bridge on the southbound side.

sheriff 4 man horse patrol
Photo by Mary Vee

This year, organizers closed the entire bridge for the safety of the walkers. Participates starting on the troll side walked to the halfway point on the southbound side of the bridge the turned and walked back on the northbound side. Likewise, participants starting on the yooper side walked to the halfway point, turned and walked back. Safety was paramount. Sherrif boats in the water, helicopters overhead, sniper police on top of the towers, armed police stationed every twenty feet, ambulances, patrol cars. One walker asked the armed police what was in his bag. The officer said, "Medical equipment." Looked more like a weapon to us.

police sniper on the ground with rifle pack
Photo by Mary Vee

police sniper on top of the tower
Photo by Mary Vee

In the middle, the trolls and yoopers met. We waved and cheered each other on to finish the walk. If one truly wanted, they could sneak past the heavily armed police and steal a kiss. 

Sunrise on 127, Photo by Mary Vee

Photo by Mary Vee
Leaving at sunrise got us there in time to take over a parking spot abandoned by an early walker, and comfortably walk the bridge. 80,000 are estimated to have attended this year's event. Many, like us, came home with four slices of Mackinac Fudge and a certificate.

To me, the most enjoyable components were: 

Watching the monarch butterflies flutter over and around the walkers

Photo by Mary Vee

Standing on the grates and looking down at the water 554 feet below.

Neither could be done from a car.

Want to join me next year? 

Labor Day Monday. 6-12noon. Either start at Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula or St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula. You'll have a blast. Not to mention an opportunity to buy Mackinaw Fudge. Yum.

This post has been brought to you by the one word: TrollsAndYoopers


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Second Castle Ghost Story Heard on the Rhine

This is the ghost story of the Enemy brother castles.

The white castle to the left is the Liebenstein Castle.

The brown castle to the right is the Sterrenberg Castle.

Because of important accomplishments, the owners received Imperial Knight Status.

Like many families, the children didn't get along. Two sons in particular.

Although the younger was considered the braver, he was expected to stay home and care for the land.

The older brother, a shy fellow, went to war.

The older brother's war journey took him to Greece where he met a beautiful woman with whom he fell in love and married.

The older brother brought his bride home.

By this time the two brothers had separate castles. Due to their warring, a wall was built between the two, which can be seen in this photo.

When the younger brother met the older brother's wife he immediately fell in love with her and she with him.

But because she was married to the older brother, and because couples did not divorce in those days, she chose to live in an Abby. Unhappy.

The younger brother so desperately loved the beauty that he died early of a broken heart.

When the beauty heard the news, she too died shortly afterward of a broken heart.

The older brother was unable to handle the distressing news and committed suicide. Their ghosts live on, forever brokenhearted over a lost love.

Sounds like a story Shakespear would write about, eh?

This story has been brought to you by the one word: GhostsOnTheRiverRhine

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Castle Ghost Stories Heard on the Rhine

Have you ever wondered where the countries like the Netherlands get the earth to build up areas of their country which is regularly flooded? 

Well, wonder no longer.

Photo by Mary Vee, Rhine River

The large brown area in this photo is a quarry. The land belongs to the Netherlands.

It's true. This tiny portion of land along the Rhine in Germany belongs to the Netherlands. 

Workers quarry out this land and transport it to the Netherlands using the material to build dikes and surge for storms. 

Castle on the Rhine-by Mary Vee

On the far right side of the photo above is the castle in this photo to the left. 

The story about this castle is vague, but what we know is that in years to come this castle will sit alone in this area. All the hill surrounding it will be gone.

It will teeter on a mere stub of a rock.

Castle on the Rhine by Mary Vee

The Netherlands has a great need though. The original soil in their country is peat. It soaks water like a sponge and is sinking.

The German nation has helped. 

This post has been brought to you by the one-word: GhostStoriesOnTheRhine

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What We Learned on Our Cruise: Heritage is Priceless

Basel, Switzerland, Photo by Mary Vee
Last week, hubby and I cruised the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam. I have a plethora of photos, new information, and SO much to tell...for another time. Today, I want to share what my new friends from the ship discovered.

Guests came from all over the world to experience a cruise. Traveling port to port. The convenience of leaving your suitcase in one stateroom the entire time and having the option to eat on the ship or to purchase a meal at a restaurant near the dock is so lovely. 

For every walking tour and excursion, only local guides were allowed to present information. So, a guide hired by the ship may take us to a palace built in the 1600's, but the same guide may not present information about the actual grounds. Only an individual living locally and is an expert in the topic may present. Seriously, I couldn't take notes fast enough. These individuals were a wealth of knowledge!

Remember, these guides are local individuals. They, of course, spoke English, which was the common language of all on the tour.

So, while dining one night, those at my table brought up an interesting observation. The guides communicated so well, we all felt they could reside in our respective country. There wasn't an accent to be detected. The only telltale variance in language happened when the guide turned to a fellow countryman and spoke the native language. 

The jokes. The mannerisms. So much resembled what we felt familiar with. There was one German guide who so resembled Ricky Gervais, a British comedian, I was certain he had to be a relative. From the jokes to his mannerisms in communicating the information, this man resembled Gervais. He wasn't the only one who surprised those of us in the tour group.

Those from my table concurred, television, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, news, and all other forms of communication have paved a way in blending languages and cultures. Globalization has been a theme for so long, right? Businesses and Powers to Be find a convenience in conducting business with other countries. 

But. What is lost?

Those of us visiting the Rhine wanted to experience a unique culture. We wanted to see not only traditional aspects of each country but also modern variations. What do the locals eat, do for entertainment, grow, use for transportation, like for architecture, and so much more? 

So when special nights happened on the cruise, like the German theme night we laughed and had such a wonderful time, even if we couldn't speak German. We ate delicious cultural foods and joined in typical German music, clapping and singing and never wanted it to fade.

Individual countries and their history have a wealth to offer. Those from my table hope cultures from around the world hold on to their heritage and teach their children. It is priceless.

This post has been brought to you by the one word: Heritage

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Call For Response

This is my opinion, based on hearing the program Wait. Wait. Don't Tell Me aired on NPR in July 2018

I am often out driving on Saturday mornings when Wait. Wait Don't Tell Me airs. I flip through the channels searching for music or an interesting program and have caught this program several times. Often portions are funny. Often portions are informative. Sometimes the program is disrespectful and inappropriate, and I understand many listeners appreciate the comedic factor that is intended in the disrespect. I usually turn it off, or down, waiting for the next segment.

BUT, the last show and the show that aired after the Thai boys were rescued from the cave in early July had comedic dialogue that went too far, in my opinion. Here is why I think so.

The teen boys and their twenty-something coach faced a horrific period of time in the underground cave. Alone in absolute darkness. Unsure they would survive. Days without food they managed to find limited water, which they scavenged from the cave. The world watched as experts worked the problem, hoping and praying for the rescue. We were amazed at the results, heralding the rescuers and volunteers. Proud of these young men for daring to dive through murky water, which was their only means to survive before the monsoons came. You know the story. It was epic.

A comedian, and also the host on Wait. Wait. Don't Tell me chose to joke about the situation. Paula Poundstone jokingly said she had made math problems for her children about the rescue like if there were twelve boys and one swam out of the cave how many were left. I thought, okay. That was application. But then she added this: we were sad the boys had been rescued. I mean, couldn't they stretch the whole situation out more? She amplified her comment to say the drama had been so exciting she didn't want it to end. The audience laughed. I did not. 

The host, Peter Sagal, chimed in: to the boy who was last in the cave, I know what it's like to be picked last. The audience laughed again. I did not. The boys had voted among themselves, choosing those who were sick, had the greatest need, and other issues to go first. The boy who offered to leave the cave last was every bit a hero. He let his whole team go before him. Only the coach and the doctor remained after this young man. This boy should be honored, not mocked.

I had hoped they wouldn't return to this subject again. Yet, my daughter heard Saturday's program, 7/28, in which she felt the Thai boys had been indirectly mocked in a joke about caves on Mars and the water that has been allegedly discovered.

In advocating for this group of boys who survived a terrifying event. I am calling for emails, a time of boycotting of the show, Wait. Wait. Don't Tell Me, to communicate there are certain topics that are not open to mocking, even in a comedic, lightly intended nature. 

Honor these boys, their rescuers, the diver who lost his life trying to save them, the community that provided food, the sleepless nights of volunteers and experts, etc. Think of your most terrifying moment. Would that be comedic material?

Did you know: In 1977, America rose up and boycotted Nestle for their investment in organizations that participated in South Africa's discrimination policies. The boycott became so powerful, Nestle and other companies stopped investing in South African companies resulting in a change for South African.

This post has been brought to you by the one word: SpeakUp

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Pack Your Virtual Bags. This is A Trip You Won't Want To Miss!

Would you like to take another virtual trip?

We've gone to Italy, Israel, Jordan, and a boatload of other places. What a great time we've had!

I will be the tour guide, passing on what I am learning, seeing, hearing, tasting, etc. Tons of photos!!

Okay, I hear you. You want to know where we're going this time? We will be traveling up the Rhine in Germany, visiting castles, and a wealth of other European sites along the way. 

I board the plane July 31st. I have my passport, haven't begun to pack, but I have my journal ready to go! You, reader, won't need a suitcase or documents. 

I'm keeping the travel log on a new FB page created solely for this trip. Each day I will choose a few photos, perhaps a video clip, and explanation. You'll be tempted by the delicious foods, and weary from climbing castle stairs. Feel free to interact in the comment section on the page.

Here is the link. You are all invited to join us.

Of course, we won't find any ghosts, but we will see intriguing history come to life.

Hope to see you there!

This post has been brought to you by the one word: RhineAdventure

Daring To Live, A Suspense Novel, is available on Amazon and makes for a great read this summer season. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How A Tiny Plant Brought Prosperity To A War-Torn Country

Saffron crocus. Its stigmas and styles Photo Credit

Saffron is a spice. Its vibrant red is also used to color foods.

During a time when I made ultra fancy dishes for my family, I remember needing saffron. The tiny jar costs a lot of money. I only bought it that once. When adding saffron to my dish, I noticed the food took on a beautiful golden color.

Can I tempt you with this delicious recipe for Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce from the Food Network? Looks yummy, right?

Today's topic, though, is not about saffron recipes. We're telling a story: The Soldier and The Farmer.

One of the two places quality saffron grows well is in Afghanistan.

In this war-torn country, farmers cultivate the ground and grown rows of saffron crocus plants, but they had a problem. There was little demand in their country for their crop.

Last Saturday, the Weekend Edition of NPR aired a story of three US soldiers, Kimberly Jung, Keith Alaniz, and Emily Miller, who had been stationed in Afghanistan. One was a translator, one was on the cultural support team for night raids, the third was in a platoon that checked for roadside bombs. One day the translator happened by a saffron crocus farmer's field. 

The farmer talked with the soldier about his saffron crop. He shared how his family had grown the spice for generations. During the conversation, the farmer said he could easily grow more saffron, but there was little demand in his country.

The American translator told his two friends who also served in Afghanistan at the time. The two had business backgrounds. Between the three, they contacted the proper authorities and started the process for this and other Afghanistan farmers to sell their high-quality saffron to American consumers. The farmers were then able to expand their fields to sell to a new market.

Who would have known? A foreign soldier happens by a farmer's field and shares one conversation resulting in prosperity for the farmer and product for the soldier's country. 

What I also liked about this particular report was the three American soldier's description of the country. They raved about the beautiful Afghanistan countryside. As they said this, I wondered, how could a country so plagued with war be beautiful and still have fields of lovely saffron flowers? I listened more.

Afghanistan Sunset Photo Credit

Based on what they said, I would love to visit Afghanistan and see this amazing countryside.

If you'd like to read more about this, here is the link to the NPR article: Afghan Saffron Coming to US

This post has been brought to you by the one word: BeautifulAfghanistan

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Some Say It Takes A Village-This Time It Took A World

 Photo Credit
Have you had a chance to watch the rescue story of 12 Thai soccer players and their coach?

I realized, after writing a few posts on my Facebook page that not everyone has had a chance to follow this story. I wanted to dedicate this post to those boys and their coach. Also the volunteers and the many experts who sacrificed time, money, comfort, and for some, their vacation to come to the team's aid.

I waited to publish this post to hear the last piece of news. So some of you will be reading this post on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. This evening BBC news announced: the doctor who examined, treated, and stayed with the team during the rescue process and the last of the Thai divers have left the cave. The mission is complete, at least this portion. Talk about exciting.

My post today is not going to rehash all the details. Here is a link to the article that will give you all the details including links to more information. 

Instead, I'd like to talk with you about the global effort in the rescue.

1. The Thai people are to be commended for requesting help from other nations. This is difficult to do, even in a time of tragedy. While they had many of their own experts, the problem proved exponential, requiring the best from around the world. Thai men and women warmly welcomed the experts who dropped everything and hopped on the first available plane to Thailand, even to the point of cooking special food for those eating certain diets. 

2. Australian doctor, Richard Harris, was also experienced with cave diving and rescue missions. After the long flight, he made the underwater dive to be with the boys. He stayed in the cave and provided medical treatment, conversation, and other aid over the days required to rescue the entire team.

3. Three Thai Navy Seal divers and the doctor were the last to leave the cave.

4. Technical divers came from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Canada. 

These are only the ones featured in BBC articles. However, other countries have been credited for their assistance. Prayers, watchful eyes, concerned hearts from all around the world have joined in the effort. Donated funds have helped defray costs. 

5. Of course, we cannot forget the one Thai Navy Seal diver who lost his life transporting oxygen tanks in and out. Retired Petty Officer, Saman Gunan, 38, was a Navy Seal Diver. His tank ran out of oxygen while on his way out of the cave. What a sacrifice. May he rest in peace.

The videos available on the link above and related BBC pages are heartwarming. I also liked seeing the illustrations designed to help us understand the complexity of the dive. 

I wondered, how did those British divers find the boys? The soccer team was 2 miles back in the cave on a small ledge. The boys had climbed down a steep area, crawled through narrow passages while outrunning the rising flood waters. 

I wondered how did the Thai people know to look in that cave? 

I wondered how the boys survived nine days without food or water. The water in the cave was muddy and not drinkable.

I wondered what the boys did to occupy themselves and encourage one another to hope for a rescue sitting in pitch dark.

What I do know is not one person who went to help thought twice about the commitment and hardship.

It's moments like this one in Thailand, and the mine collapse in Chile, and other tragedies that prove we need each other and God. This time it took a world to rescue twelve boys and their coach to bring peace and a Never Give Up Story. 

This post has been brought to you by the one word: Rescue

Daring To Live, A Suspense Novel, is available on Amazon and makes for a great read this summer season.