Monthly Archives: October 2013

LEVIA: my travel agent and navigation system

Here’s another guest post from Lee. I swear I didn’t pay him to write this!

For most trips that we take as a couple, I contribute a good amount of time in planning, picking kosher hotels and booking the flights. If it’s a sports trip then I’m also in charge of picking the venues and getting those tickets. This last trip the only thing I did was get the plane tickets based on the dates provided from MeLinda. I knew where we were going but the details beyond that were pretty unknown to me. MeLinda did put together an impressive agenda but I only took a quick look.

So I have a pretty good idea where the Grand Canyon is and figure if you drive around enough in Arizona you would find it, but since we flew into Las Vegas I was going to need my navigation system – LEVIA.

As soon as I got off the plane, my nav system knew I was hungry and that, of course, pizza would be my first option. It only took the system 15 minutes to find one of the most talked about pizza places in Vegas. Though LEVIA did give me attitude when I initially asked which way to go, its system rebooted and we found my pizza quickly.

LEVIA is a great program. It knows I enjoy hiking and immediately plotted out a course for Red Rock Canyon, just west of Las Vegas, and had several other hiking excursions mapped out in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park and some cool rock areas in Arizona. LEVIA even booked a personal guide that made for a great day trip to a remote area of the Paria Canyon area, which would have been a disaster without the extra guidance.

Though, sometimes when I left LEVIA behind it thought I was lost and would initiate a special program called FMH (Find My Husband). Yes, it is true I was a little confused but was able to scramble around enough that I eventually made it back to where I was supposed to be.

Lee_Best_Friends_dogThe navigation system even knew to adjust the program to give me a day off from hiking and planned a day for me at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, and another day on a scenic boat trip on the quiet part of the Colorado River just below the Glen Canyon Dam.

LEVIA continued to impress me, especially when it pulled up a great BBQ restaurant in Flagstaff, Ariz., on the way from the Grand Canyon’s south rim to Sedona. Sometimes LEVIA would make a restaurant mistake but it was rare, and I have the unrated version of LEVIA so the f-word was used liberally especially toward a restaurant called Houston’s.

Now I had to download an upgrade but it was worth it when LEVIA found me a strip club on the Grand Canyon’s north rim. (You can find out more about this part of the trip by reading this post.)

As the trip continued, LEVIA continued to do a great job of packing as much stuff as possible into a 10-day trip in and around the Grand Canyon. LEVIA found a great place to have an outside late lunch after a long day of hiking, and also knew it would fit my budget a lot better to eat lunch at this swanky Sedona resort rather than dinner. It’s amazing the type of things you can program into a navigation system.

LEVIA even found me a good place to watch football for a few hours in the Las Vegas airport when my Sunday afternoon flight was delayed.

I signed up for trial version of LEVIA when I was working at The Wichita Eagle back in the early 1990s and first found this navigation system, and now that I have the full version I continue to be happy I made a lifetime commitment.

Here are a few photos of me with my navigation system LEVIA (MeLinda’s maiden name is Via):

hiking at the Red Rock Canyon National Wildlife area just a few miles west of Las Vegas

hiking at the Red Rock Canyon National Wildlife area just a few miles west of Las Vegas

Here we are at the Fire Wave in Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park.

hiking to the Fire Wave in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park.

Lake Powell are, just above the Glen Canyon Dam

Lake Powell area, just above the Glen Canyon Dam

on our White Pockets guided trip inside the Paria Canyon area of northern Arizona

on our White Pockets guided trip inside the Paria Canyon area of northern Arizona


north rim of the Grand Canyon

if I seem nervous, it's because MeLinda kept telling me to back up closer to the edge as we took this a selfie at the south rim of the Grand Canyon

if I seem nervous, it’s because MeLinda kept telling me to back up closer to the edge as we took this selfie at the south rim of the Grand Canyon


south rim of the Grand Canyon 


Posted in Lee, travel

On the anniversary of my mom’s death

Recently, I started reading Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things, which is a collection of questions and answers on love and life from the advice column called Dear Sugar.

The very first question and answer in the book made me cry. Hard. It still gets to me when I think of it.

The actual question is irrelevant here, what is important is Dear Sugar’s answer in which she talks about the last word her mother ever said to her and her pain over not being present when her mother died from cancer.

The last word my mother ever said to me was “love” … The last thing that happened between us would always be the last thing. There would be the way I bent to kiss her and the way she said, “Please, no,” when I got close because she couldn’t any longer bear the physical pain of people touching her. There would be the way that I explained I’d return in the morning and the way she just barely nodded in response. There would be the way I got my coat and said, “I love you,” and the way she was silent until I was almost out the door and she called, “love.” And there would be the way that she was still lying in that bed when I returned the next morning, but dead.

My mother’s last word to me clanks inside me like an iron bell that someone beats at dinnertime: love, love, love, love, love.

~ Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things

I was present when my mom died on Oct. 7, 2006, in a room in the intensive care unit where she’d been for about 18 days. She’d gone to the hospital because of pain (which they never found a cause of) and developed double pneumonia on her second day there. She had advanced emphysema and her body just couldn’t overcome the infection.

So while I don’t have to agonize over not being there when she passed, I have the pain of watching someone take her last breath. I hope I never witness that again.

Still, even rawer is the fact that I don’t remember the last words my mom said to me, or my last words to her.

I asked my stepdad if he remembers the last words she said to him. “Yes,” he said after thinking for about 10 seconds. “She said, ‘Help me.’ ”

Well, dammit, I hated to realize that “help me” very well could have been the last thing she said to me too. Not really want I wanted the last words to be, especially knowing how sad those words made me. She’d had a terrible day because the tube helping her breathe was making her so uncomfortable and so thirsty, she kept calling out for us to help her. It was heartbreaking and was one of the reasons I didn’t spend the night at the hospital that night.

While I was sleeping at my parents’ house, we got a call in the middle of the night that she was asking for my stepdad. By the time he got to the hospital, though, the nurses had sedated her. She never talked to us again.

For years I thought that this bothered me so much because I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. I eventually realized that it had more to do with the fact that she didn’t say goodbye to me.

A note my mom had included in a package to me one year. So glad I kept it!

A note my mom had included in a package to me one year. So glad I kept it!


If you want to read more about my mom, here’s a post I wrote about things I wish I’d talked to her about before she died.

Posted in Family

I found a time capsule in my basement

birthday_card_30I opened a time capsule today. It wasn’t an intended one, but it sure took me back in time about 12 years.

The capsule was in the form of a cheap, white plastic bag that was buried inside a cardboard box that once crated a microwave.

I was looking for a camera lens box that had important warranty information on the lens. I opened the large microwave box, sitting atop a wardrobe that my grandparents once owned, thinking maybe it contained a bunch of smaller boxes. Instead, I found a hodge-podge of decorative tins and other reusable containers, and the plastic bag.

For some unknown reason, I’d stashed the cards from my 30th birthday in this plastic bag and then it ended up in this box in our basement.

The most interesting part of this find is the story that it painted of my life then – on Aug. 6, 2001 – and how that moment in time highlights what has happened in the world and my life since. That’s the point of time capsules, right?

Finding and reading the cards made my mind go back to 2001 and all night I was thinking, “If I only knew then what I know now…”

I thought it would be interesting to share the inventory of the bag along with commentary.

Then: A birthday card signed by about six of my immediate coworkers at Raytheon Aircraft, my first job in aviation and my first corporate public relations position.
Now: Well, I quit that job about two weeks after getting that card! I wasn’t happy with what I was doing at work and turning 30 made me realize life is too short to waste it doing something you dread every day. My last day was Sept. 7 … I was celebrating my new freedom the next week by visiting friends and family in Columbia, Mo., when 9/11 happened.

Then: A birthday card from my mom and stepdad, Charles, signed “We love you!”
Now: My mom passed away in 2006. I still get a card most years from Charles, and he usually puts a sticker or six on the envelope and that makes me smile.

Then: A birthday card from my dad and stepmom, Pat.
Now: One of the few actual cards I get in the mail today comes from my dad. I love getting that kind of mail.

Then: A birthday card from my oldest brother, Roy signed “Have a good one.”
Now: Roy died in 2003.

Then: A birthday card signed by my nephews Cory (11) and Zach (15). It cracks me up that they felt the need to sign their last names too :)
Now: Cory graduates from Mizzou next spring. Zach is married, just bought his first house and is graduating in just a couple of months from Columbia College.

Then: A birthday card from my in-laws, Toba and Fred.
Now: I still get a paper card from them and they always make dinner for me on or around my birthday.

Then: A birthday card from my Aunt Linda and Uncle Skip.
Now: My aunt passed away in 2009 and my uncle in 2011 – both from cancer. How is it that I still remember their phone number but I can’t remember my current bank login and password?!?

Then: A birthday card from my long-time, close friend Dave, who I went to grade school with but didn’t really become friends with until the college years.
Now: We went from texting every day to no texting or talking at all. Remember that rule about not loaning money to friends. Yeah, I thought our friendship was strong enough to prove that wrong but it wasn’t. It’s a good rule.

Then: A birthday card from my college friend Jodi that included an invite to come visit her in Springfield, Mo.
Now: Jodi still lives in Springfield, and I went to visit her several times there last year. I’m meeting her and our friend Kim in Kansas City this month.

Then: A birthday card from Morgan, one of my longest Wichita friends.
Now: Morgan still gives the funniest, craziest birthday cards and gifts. And she mails me really funny postcards throughout the year.

Then: A greeting card to my dog from my mom’s cat with a written inscription of “Astro: love ya!” and signed “Sampson.” I think we both know who really signed the card.
Now: Both pets have passed away.


There you have it – the contents of the time capsule 2001: The Year MeLinda Turned 30. Oh, and there was a Mizzou garter in there too. That might be another blog post …

Posted in Family, Friends, Randomness, Weird shit that happens