First we need to talk about piles. Most of us have one, if not our own, it’s our loved ones. My husband’s pile is around his chair. I could probably write a whole blog about men and their chairs, but that’s another story. Over the last 29 years I have tried many things to make the pile less irritating. Our first few years of marriage the pile was literally around his his chair, on the floor. I’m sure there is a grand organizing method, but it was still an annoying pile on the floor. Over the years I tried baskets, bitching, and cleaning. Nowadays he has a tray, that I gave him, with his pile on it so I can hide it when we have company. The tray sits on the ottoman by his chair. On this day the ottoman was covered. The tray on the right full of mail in organized piles, a stack of magazines and catalogs on the left, and in the middle a bunch of loose papers with the remotes sitting on top.
Herbie helping me read the news.
When our son moved out and started paying his own bills we actually had money left at the end of the month. Instead of raiding our savings a couple days before pay day, (if there was something to raid), we had money left over from the last paycheck we could add to savings. This is an “Empty Nester” perk. That and the fact that electronics have become more affordable, we have a very cool smart TV with a nice surround sound system, DVD player, and cable box attached. That is four remotes. We have them programmed down to two that we use on a typical day.
My husband and I had both been sick with the Jackson Hole crud. We were both on the mend but the cough still lingered. I had ordered a new tray for my music stand from Amazon.com. It got great reviews, so I was surprised when it showed up with no instructions and didn’t seem to work as advertised. I brought it over to my husband, who was sitting in his chair, to look at and see if he could figure out how to tighten up the mechanism. Of course Herbie, our big furry Maine Coon mix cat, had to be in the middle of it to help. He jumped onto the ottoman.
This all happened in just a few seconds but may as well been in slow motion. I’m standing next to my husband who is sitting in his chair, both of us looking at the new tray discussing how it’s supposed to work. I noticed the volume of the surround sound system was going up, slowly at first but increasing in speed. I turned and looked at Herbie, who was sitting on the ottoman, and I saw the end of the remote to the surround sound sticking out from underneath his big furry bum. I went to reach for it but the sound started increasing rapidly, and with every decibel Herbie’s eyes got bigger and his ears went back further. Then when the level of sound was so loud I was afraid we would blow the speakers… Herbie took off like a bat out of hell! Except he had been sitting on top of my husbands pile. His legs were moving but he wasn’t going anywhere. POOF! All those papers went flying! The remotes, went flying! Magazines, went flying! When he finally reached the bottom of the pile and could dig his claws into the soft fabric of the ottoman his body caught up with his legs and he vanished in a cloud of papers.
Herbie Helping me with my boot bag.
You know how it is when you’re sick with a lung bug and you start to laugh… then cough because of the laugh? I thought we were both going to die. OMG! I could barely get to the surround sound box to turn the volume down, the remote had flowed somewhere that was not immediately known. Once the volume was back at a normal level, I leaned over to catch my breath, looked over at my husband who was turning red and coughing and laughing at the same time too. I stopped coughing, caught my breath, wiped the tears from my face, and went looking for Herbie. He was fine, probably more upset by the indignity of humans laughing at him.
Herbie was OK, the speakers were OK, we figured out how the music stand tray worked, and the cough is gone. All is well at Herbie house.
When I started working on my family tree one of the favorite documents I was given was in a file my mom had. Apparently (I don’t exactly remember) my brother or myself had a family tree assignment and both sides of the family wrote some information down for the tree. The story of how my Great Grandpa and Grandma Hruby came to America is a very cool one of hardship and sacrifice.
This is a letter written by Anna Tauber, my grandma’s sister, to my dad on Wednesday March 2nd, 1977. I transcribed the letter as written. Even before computers and internet, politics and religion were hot topics of written communication.
Postmark: March 3, 1977
Hi Dear Kids
I get your letter today on Wednesday and you ask me from where you come. First Grampa Hruby, he was born in Bohimia or Chekoslovakia end Grama she was born in Germani end both was about 18 year of age when they came in Croatia now is that Yugoslavia so they are married over there end they have 11 children. I was 5 years of age when we all go in Brazil with 5 kids. I was 5 years Uncle Paul was 2 years so we go over there like slaves. Granpa he was a carpenter they say they need help in Brazil that 5 familie go in Brazil butt when they come over there they was slaves for rich people they lye to them what they will doo with them they took everi think with them and they soled everyting they should have for White Starfood money. Granpa was lucki he was carpenter he work for one farmer they called Fezendo and Gram, she work like a maid. Butt when all things they soled then they push them back from where they come in Croatia with all children so they start again new life so they came again in back and they start again good life so Uncle Peter was born and another son Joseph butt he dye then your mother was born so we was again happy family we was all good kids no black shepp we have very good parents they teach us for church we, we was very very good katholic, to bad you arnt. Born like that now I think that is nuff what you want know. I give such stori for all kids up here, everibody ask me now even to grand children, if your mom came up here then I will talk more about our familys up here we are all same very busy and everithing cost so much 4.50 is 3lb coffe everithing cost no more what I have gas to pay 200 for 2 months what we will doo I don’t know America she never will be again lajk she was look then that Nixon Devil what he doo with people and Ford finished. Poor Carter he sure have bad time like Roosevelt o boy he sure have rough time. All kids are OK and that winter snow O boy that was some thing tis time was 5 born too us and one more will come in June for now we have 21 Great Children. I loved all of them. Eve she got dog and and she is allitime busy. I don’t fill so good well I wait to end aniway so Dear Kids if you wont know something more then <she’s> ask that educated aunty write me soon. You have cute children o boy everithing catch me so long. Doo you work Dick & doo you have some Flower.
So long and God Bless you, Your Aunty Anna. Come and see us Sometime.
My Aunt gave me this original boat ticket that they immigrated to America on for safe keeping.
They traveled steerage on a ship just 5 months after the Titanic sank, arriving at Ellis Island on September 23, 1912.
Built by A. G. Weser Shipbuilders, Bremen, Germany, 1909. 17,323 gross tons; 613 (bp) feet long; 69 feet wide. Steam quadruple expansion engines, twin screw. Service speed 16 knots. 3,212 passengers (266 first class, 246 second class, 2,700 third class).
Built for North German Lloyd, German flag, in 1909 and named Berlin. Bremerhaven-New York and Mediterranean-New York service. Transferred to White Star and Dominion Lines, in 1920 and renamed Arabic. Trans-Atlantic service. Broken up in Italy in 1931.
She also gave me Grandma Krejci’s, (Madge Hruby), original Certificate of Naturalization, it is in cursive with the variable fields typed in. It is illegal to photocopy or scan the document. It reads in part:
Be it know, that at a term of the District Court of The United States held pursuant to law at Chicago on August 11, 1943 the Court having found that then residing at 2442 South 57th Court, Cicero, Illinois intend to reside permanently in the United States when so required by Naturalization Laws of the United States, and was entitled to be admitted to citizenship, thereupon ordered that such person be and s/he was admitted as a citizen of the Untied States.
In testimony whereof the seal of the court is hereunto affixed this 11th day of August in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and forty-three, and of our independence the one hundred and sixty-eight.
I have been asked why my great grandparents came to America. My answer… to give me a better life. My mom’s side of the family goes back to the revolutionary war, but tha’s another story.
When ever chatting with friends and family about outdoor activities, and the subject of spelunking and exploring caves came up, I always said that’s not for me. I’m not all that claustrophobic but the idea of squeezing my body through a tight space in a dark cave gives me the eebie-jeebies. What if I get stuck? And panic? And no one is there to get me out? Flash flood? Cave in? Aliens? Nope, not for me… Forget it!
In 2015 we took a family vacation to South Dakota. While there we visited the Jewel Cave. The cave had an elevator, walkways, railings, and LIGHTS. I was a little nervous but there were not any tight spaces and as long as we kept moving and the guide kept talking I was good. On the outside of the Visitors Center was a block to crawl through demonstrating how tight some of the “off trail” paths were. Nope, not for me.
This January my husband and I visited Belize for the first time. We were told that a “Must-See” was the Actun Tunichil Muknal “ATM” Cave. The ATM Cave is a Mayan archaeological site near San Ignacio, Cayo District, that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. It sounded cool, my husband did the research and we booked the tour when we arrived at the hotel.
On the morning of the ATM Cave tour I woke to this notice that it was a POW day back home.
We were instructed to wear cloths we can hike, climb, and swim in. Including water shoes and a pair of socks. I wore a one piece swim suit and a pair of light weight cotton shorts, (next time I will pack some river shorts). For my shoes I wore my Keens and a pare of smart wool toe sock booties. I wear prescription glasses, and so did most of the others in our group, we needed to wear retainers on them so we would not loose them or drop them on an artifact. We were allowed to bring a day pack with dry cloths, snacks, and a camera but we had to leave it in the van at the trail head. Cameras were not allowed in the cave, damage to the artifacts had happened when someone dropped a camera on a 2000 year old skull and broke it. After 3 separate incidents the government passed a rule forbidding cameras. I wasn’t even allowed to carry my eppi pen, I had to the guide to carry in his dry bag. At the trail head we were given a life jacket, climbing helmet, a head lamp, and a liter of water. It was a mile hike to the cave entrance and we were told to drink half the water before we get to the cave, the other half on the way back..
We hit the trail, the first thing we did was swim across a river that is several feet deep. There was a rope to hold onto to guide us to the trail on the other side. IOn the trail we crossed water 2 more times, and the trail itself had several muddy spots that squished around (and into) the shoes. When we got to the last several yards before the cave entrance we were told to find a place to set our water bottle. There were no facilities, the men were told to use the jungle on the left, women the jungle on the right.
Entrance to the ATM cave from the Belize.com website Click photo to read more about the cave.
It was a privilege to be able to visit the site, they only allow 200 people a day in the cave. All have to be with a guide. The guide instructed us on footing, how to step, and what to touch & not touch. Then back in the water we went and swam into the cave. What was I thinking when I said yes to this? I have NO IDEA what I was thinking! Maybe because the Jewel Cave was so commercialized I didn’t give much of a thought to what I was getting myself into. My darling husband, being the smart man that he is, didn’t tell me it was a non commercialized cave, we would be doing real caving. So, on I trekked, thinking “no prob, I can do this”.
The “Guillotine” – We could not have cameras, this is not my photo, it’s from a stranger’s blog blog. But, I did that!
The water in the cave was over our head at the entrance, throughout the cave the water was anywhere from ankle deep to several feet deep. A little way into the cave we met our first obstacle, a tight spot nick-named the “guillotine“. I was the second to last to go through, my husband was behind me. We had to position ourselves so that our head was above a rock sticking out, and the rest of our body below, so that our neck goes by the rock. Remember, up until this very moment doing exactly this was a “I will never do” activity, and definitely NOT on my bucket list! What was I thinking? HOLY CRAP! I was not going to turn around now, everyone would have to leave too, so OMG I’m going to do this! As the woman in front of me worked her way threw the opening I was having this quiet conversation with myself in my brain that started out “Oh sh–! Oh F—! Oh sh–! Oh F—! Oh sh–! Oh F—!….” Then I rationalized with myself that my husband is bigger than me and if he would not fit they would not let him go, therefor I will fit into that tiny little space and not get stuck. Once it was my turn, I made a couple tries then decided to take off my life jacket (not dangerous), I slipped right through, no freaking out, no panic, no alien abductions. YAY!! I could not believe I did it! I was so pleased with myself. The woman in from of me said she was having the same feeling about it too. After that anything else in our path would be a piece of cake.
A video of people passing through the guillotine.
On the hike to the artifact room the guide made many stops to tell us about the cave, the Mayans, the culture, stalactites, stalagmites, the sink hole, and answer questions. When we got about a mile into the cave we had to climb a bolder and up on a (wide) ledge to get to the artifact room. The guide instructed us on climbing the boulder. It had divots where to put your feet, I would compare it to hoisting myself into a saddle on an 18 hand horse without standing on a log, the first step was a doozie! I had my husband push my bum up that rock. Once we climbed onto the ledge we took off our life jackets and shoes. This is where the socks come in, no shoes were allowed into the artifact room, minimizing damage to the cave. The wool toe booties worked great! They were not saturated with water, the grip was good, and my feet were protected. As I was walking into the artifact room in my socks I thought to myself “this is sooo worth missing a pow day for!’.
In the artifact room was pottery and human sacrificial remains 1500 – 2000 years old, some just inches from the marked trail. For example, an artifact named the “Monkey Pot” was right there, next to our feet, easy to get a good look at in detail. It was SO COOL! In the very back of the cave was a calcified full skeleton nicknamed ‘The Crystal Maiden’, our guide said that was just a name dubbed by a reporter and there is not enough evidence to determine if it is a male for a female. The archaeologists believe she (or he) was sacrificed during a period of drought, to appease the god of rain. The Mayans believing the cave was where all water originated.
Did you read this and say ‘Hell no! Not me!”? I want to stress… don’t let your fear get in the way of this awesome opportunity. If I can overcome my fear and do this, so can you.
On the way out we stopped and the guide had us all turn off our headlamps. Then he had us close our eyes. When we opened our eyes they did not adjust, it was completely black. Up until this moment I had not even given the darkness a second thought. Imagine the Mayans trekking to the back of this cave with only torches.
The next day it started raining and all the caves closed, and it didn’t stop the rest of the week. We chose our day well. Would I do it again? YES! However there are so many other cool things we didn’t get to see in Belize I probably would not do it on our next trip unless we were with someone who had not done it before.