Thursday, March 21, 2019

It's Official (and an Independent Driver)

The two things I mentioned in the last bullet point in my last post (about 2019) already happened. Our son got his driver's license and now the boys go to school by themselves in the morning (but my husband still gets up to feed them breakfast) and, two days ago, he and his "prospective" girlfriend talked to her dad (after talking for several hours about their relationship) and made their relationship "official."

They are very young, just 17, but they are pretty mature and have been talking to each other a lot for over a year. She is 8 months older and will turn 18 in July. She is also a senior who is going to college across the country (Washington State) in the Fall, so I don't know what the future holds for them, but having cell phone and more affordable air travel makes things easier for the new generation of kids.

My boys and I flew to Seattle last week to visit their family (they lived here until last July and we've known them since 2012) and we all had a great time. Her two younger brothers are 2 months older and 15 months younger than my younger son and they played soccer together for years.We all get along well. Her mom is also an immigrant (from Bulgaria) and her dad's parents are from Puerto Rico. I like that.

OK, I have to do some work before teaching tomorrow, but I wanted to put this out there. ;-)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

In 2019...

... we went (already!) on our very first cruise and I realized my lifelong dream of going to the Caribbean (I never wanted to do is in a cruise, though, and it was ok. I need to go back for sure.).

... we finally go back to visit Brasil after 2.5 years.

... we spend another week in Destin, FL with my husband's family

Sigh... I really wish we could afford to go every year. In any case, sometimes it's not an affordability problem as much as it is one of situational factors -- such as my parents coming for the graduation of one of the boys which makes it unnecessary to travel to go see them. They did come in 2016 for Kelvin's 8th grade graduation and we went there, but that was because of my husband's grandma's 90th birthday party/family reunion.

... I get to teach the class I've dreamed about for many years. I'm doing it now and it's been great so far (only two weeks)! 3 preps, two brand new classes, but hopefully more fun than work/stress.

... our oldest son will (finally) get his driver's license  at 17 years old (he could have had it as early as last July) and I think this will make our lives easier. When he leaves for college in 2020 his brother may still not have it, though, and this could be problematic. :-( I have enjoyed having a driver since September 2017. It's also great to be able to talk to him for a change. I won't make this a separate item, but in a month and a half the same son will have an "official" and pretty serious girlfriend. We are visiting her family in March and I think he will talk to her (Latino, old-school) dad in order to make it an official relationship. For now, they're just special "friends." ;-)

I don't know that else will happen, but I hope I will feel better about my work and about myself professionally. It's not easy. It's a constant struggle and a "low grade pain" all the time. It shouldn't be, I just need to let go and stop feeling so despondent. I need  to get a good therapist.

I also need to work more to get my ADHD under better control, so I can be more productive. Sigh... yeah, lots of complicated feelings and things, always. Sigh...

I hope it'll be a good year.

Monday, January 21, 2019

In 2018...

... so many things happened! It was a wonderful year with a few dreadful things thrown in for good measure. Maybe I'll get those out of the way first.

... two literal nightmares of mine came true: 1) being horribly bitten by bedbugs in our Florida vacation with my husband's family (I took tons of photos to document the numerous bites to legs, arms, and, most of all, back of neck, our rental house was free in the end, 6K back to my MIL. My husband thinks my suffering was worth it, oh well...). 2) having a small flood in our house with water pouring and going everywhere right before more guests arrived (we already had my parents, niece and nephew here).

Other than these two unfortunate things (and the fact that my BIL had to lose his leg to cancer, which is not my story to tell, but I wanted to mention here), it was a great, VERY eventful year.

... I went on two trips with my youngest son in the Spring semester, to Florida for his robotics tournament, and to the Outer Banks for his class trip.

... our youngest graduated from 8th grade and my parents were here to celebrate with us (soon after they flew to Indonesia to visit my brother and his family!).

... we went on a splendid cross-country trip to the Canadian Rockies to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. (This was a bucket list destination for me. It was AMAZING! I have photos on Facebook if you want to be FB friends. Hi Karen!

... our youngest son started high school and the oldest is in the sweet stages of beginning his first significant relationship. ;-) 

... my brother and his family came to visit for the very first time! He and his wife had visited us back in June 2006 before moving to China and he had visited quickly back in 2010, but he had promised he'd finally visit me after he had children, and he fulfilled the promise. His kids are 7 and 5.

... we had Christmas at our house with my whole family, plus my sister-in-law's parents and her brother and family. We had a wonderful time, in spite of the house having been messed up by the flood.

2018 was a great year! My 3 year contract was renewed until 2022 and I was awarded a 5K grant to teach my dream class this semester (about music). I don't think 2019 can top any of that, but I'm sure it'll be good too. More about it in another post.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Cruise was (Surprisingly) Nice!

Several people had told me that I'd love the cruise, but I had a hard time believing them.

I really liked it! I mean, it is "hazardous" in the sense that you can eat way too much and way too much junk, but it is a nice vacation. It does cost extra do do sightseeing and to go to the beach, but it's not too much.

The Caribbean is lovely and I want to go back to various places with more time (such as the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico and it's surrounding areas) and the Bahamas. I also want to go to Jamaica, Belize, Cuba, and other islands. And, if my MIL takes us again, I'll go on another Caribbean cruise (Easten  this time, since we had a Western Caribeean tour).

One problem in a cruise is that there is so much to do that you hardly see the people you're there with. You need to plan to do things with them in order to keep track of them. Another problem is that if you want to make the most of your cruise experience and go on multiple shows (they had Broadway's Mamma Mia!, a Beatles revival, a diving show, and smaller events such as stand-up comedy, jazz concerts, etc.) plus go on shore excursions, you won't really relax and rest too much. I mean, it is relaxing to go to dinner and go to a show, but then you need to wake up early to enjoy the place where you're stopping the next day. Not to mention that shore excursions are VERY rushed due to the fact that you need to get back to the ship by 4 or 5:30 pm.

Yeah... a bunch of negative sides, but some positive ones too. I think and overanalyze things too much, so it's hard not to have complicated mixed feelings about everything. Sigh...

Before it's too late, I'd love to write a couple of posts about last year and this year that is starting as I generally do every year. I hope I can pull that off in the next few days.

If only I didn't have to prepare and teach my classes! The first week ends tomorrow and I'm glad we have a holiday on Monday!

Friday, January 04, 2019

Leaving on a Jet Plane to Catch a Huge Boat

Quick note to say that that in spite of the fact that next week is the first full week back at school for our sons and the first week at U#1 for my husband we're leaving for Florida to go on a Caribbean Cruise! I never wanted to go on one, but my mother-in-law insisted that we go, so we're going. My brother & family and my parents are also going, so it'll be a full family reunion for us -- I mean, we'll continue together for another week.

Two of my husband's three brothers are also going with their family, and that will be nice. My mother-in-law is also taking a group of 48 other people from Brazil. I have to finish packing or I'd write more. I'll let you know how it went!

Nothing else has been done regarding the water damage, we'll see about that when we get back.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Unbelievably Crazy Pre-Christmas & Houseguests' Arrival Disaster

It's hard to believe it happened, but it did. In fact, there aren't even adequate labels for this post! :-O

On December 16, Sunday night, when my parents were already here, taking care of my young niece and nephew (5 and 7 years old) and my sister-in-law was returning the next morning from a weekend in NYC and bringing her mom and dad from the airport, our water softener BURST!! Spilling water and flooding the stairwell, hallway, laundry space, bathroom, (carpeted) family room, and almost the guest bedroom on our house's first floor.

It was 10:20 pm and my oldest son, my parents and the kids were already sleeping. Our youngest son went to brush his teeth and there was no water, so he told us, and when my husband opened the stairwell door, water came rushing out. It was the stuff nightmares are made of, except in real life! :-( My husband had to literally shake my poor dad awake -- he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of the family room and his covers and mattress were getting wet. there were a couple of inches of water on the floor when my husband turned off the water main.

I sent a frantic text to a group of 10 friends and in about 20 minutes, the one who lives closest, had brought us a huge shop vac so we could finally begin to remove the water that until then was being "mopped" by all the towels in the house (some of which my husband and dad were trying to wring by hand to try to stop the water which actually seeped through the stairwell wall into the adjacent bathroom).

We were up vacuuming and cleaning up until close to 1 am. My parents' luggage and Christmas gifts were inside the stairwell -- the most damaged gifts were mine and my husband's, which were at the bottom of the bag. The suitcases weren't damaged because my husband was very quick to remove them. We were without water overnight, which wasn't fun. My husband went to a 24h Walmart at 2 am to buy some galons of water.

Next morning we had the plumber come first thing in the morning and as soon as the water was restored, my sister-in-law arrived from the airport with her parents! It was pretty chaotic because the plans were to have all of them (my parents, my sister-in-law and her kids, and her parents) stay with us, but with the family room and guest bedrooms out of commission, that would be hard! We called the insurance company, and then a local home restoration service, but they only came after 7 pm to get started on their work. They ripped off some of the vinyl flooring in the hallway and stairwell, cut off some drywall, and brought in a huge dehumidifier and four large fans. Those were on from Monday night through Thursday morning and were very noisy!

On that first evening my sister-in-law stayed at our youngest son's bedroom, her parents in the oldest, the boys slept in our bedroom and my parents slept in front of the Xmas tree in the living room (in spite of the noise coming from the first floor). The subsequent nights, a neighbor offered two spare bedrooms in her house for my parents and my SIL's parents to sleep and that was incredibly helpful!

We did go to Pennsylvania for a couple of days and when we came back my brother arrived from Indonesia where they live.

I will continue later because I need to go to sleep now. But it's been CRAZY here in the past two weeks!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

November is almost over and I didn't blog once (till now)! :-(

I blame it all on being forced to use a laptop, something that I don't like much at all, since my oldest takes over the desktop computer for hours for Minecraft or gaming during his free time -- which coincide with the hours I would be working at home in the evening. I am thoroughly enjoying the one brave friend who is still blogging daily in November and making me a tiny bit wistful for the good old days of NaBloPoMo. Oh dear... I have FIVE labels for that in my sidebar, from 2007-2011, I didn't know I had quit it in 2011, how depressing! But I did it a few more times all 30 days from 2013-15, I stopped in 2016. HA! That coincides with the time when we moved the desktop from the office upstairs (which became Kelvin's bedroom) to the family room on the first floor.

Anyway... yeah. These days I journal on two separate journals, but I haven't yet given BuJo a try. I'm considering. I had no idea the author had created it to help him manage his ADHD -- this is precisely what I need! Help managing mine. Sigh...

I went to check BuJo and some articles about it and got distracted from writing this post! ;-P And of course my son will soon come to use the computer (I was writing this earlier, late morning, by now I've done three loads of laundry, most of which I am attempting to line dry since the weather is nice, nearly 60 degrees.

What else has been going on? We had a lovely Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law's family coming and spending two days and a half with us. We spent 10 Thanksgivings with them from 2002-2013 before they moved to Egypt in 2014. They moved back to the U.S. last year and since then my BIL had to have his leg amputated to get rid of an extremely rare recurring cancer. He is doing incredibly well and we hope and pray that his cancer will be permanently gone now.

I'm not looking forward to the last two weeks of the semester, this break is always a little unsettling... but I will soldier on, and grade a lot and everything will end well as it always does.

Hopefully I'll blog again a few more times before the year is out.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sad for Brasil :-(

Brazil elected a new president today and it was a really difficult choice, people were between "a rock and a hard place" with the two most hated candidates running against each another in the second round, but in min, and a lot of other people's opinion, one of the options was way worse than the other.

The former president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached two years ago and the former two term president Lula (Luís Inácio "Lula" da Silva) is currently in jail. Their party, PT, Partido dos Trabalhadores (the Worker's Party) has been caught in a serious corruption scheme and a brave judge in my home state of Paraná, Sérgio Moro, has been prosecuting, charging, and putting the guilty ones in jail. If you want to understand the background of the investigation, you can watch the Netflix series The Mechanism. It's so depressing I haven't been able to watch it all, just the first episode. The runner up to today's second round of the election was Fernando Haddad who was appointed the candidate for PT after Lula was unable to run and he lost mostly because of the people's hatred for the party.

The winner, sigh... I don't like to say his name, the same way I avoid saying #NotMyPresident's name like the plague, so I'll just link to him. This man  (#AlsoNotMyPresident) is a former Army Captain and he was a congressman for 27 years and did basically NOTHING. He is pretty outspoken like the U.S. president and has made many outrageous statement which were racist, homophobic, misogynistic, really bad stuff. He's also in favor of allowing people to have guns (guns aren't freely allowed in Brazil), torture, the death penalty, the police having free agency to kill criminals (which it kind of already does in Brasil), and many other controversial things. He says he is a Christian and has the support of most evangelicals. Poor people and minorities, particularly Black and gay Brazilians are really upset by all the hatred unleashed by his candidacy. Some of his statements show fascist tendencies too. Hatred was running so high that he was actually stabbed with a knife when campaigning back in September.

He won partly because of the rampant fake news campaigns in social media. Brazilians are apparently the most gullible people in the planet, who most believe in fake news. I cannot find any articles about this in English, but there were a few in Portuguese. The main reason he won, though, is everyone's desire to get rid of the worker's party. Many people didn't like him, but voted against the other party. Others actually literally say that he's "a myth" and that he's going to save Brazil from PT and make it succeed.

This election destroyed lifelong friendships and pitted family members against each other.This whole thing is just too sad and upsetting. I just pray that the situation gets better in Brazil. :-(

Sunday, October 07, 2018

It's not funny anymore! :-(

Over ten years ago I wrote a post about a parody of the classic children's book Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown) that made fun of George W. Bush and when I clicked on the link to the publisher on that post, I discovered that there will be a new book from the same authors about our current president whose name I don't want to even say. It will be released soon, and it has lines such as:
In the very classy room
There was a golden mirror
And a silver spoon
And a broadcast of --

A half-baked story from a fake newsroom.

This kind of parody was funny to me in 2008, but ten years later and with that man as president. It's not anymore. :-(

The past two weeks have been hard, and made harder by the presidential election in Brazil (the front runner is as bad as the U.S. president, if not worse). It's all so very upsetting. How the country and the political climate has changed in the past ten years. Who knew the backlash for 8 years of a Democratic African American president would be so fierce and devastating?

White Americans feel threatened and are doing all they can to stem the threat of a future with a majority of (brown) immigrants and their descendants in this country. This has been a central goal of everything that this government has done since January 2017. It's way too depressing...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Wasted" Seeds?

OK, since I broke the "blogger's block," and wrote about "sowing seeds" let me write some more on a related topic.

So today I received an email related to a "seed" that actually was thrown my way, but maybe I'm just wasting it. I was supposed to write (to have written by now) a paper for a book, a "handbook" in the subject area of my dissertation. It was an "invited" publication and I was excited about it, BUT... there were many stumbling blocks:
  • I my email communications with the editors suffered numerous delays (I didn't hear back from them, then I dind't write back);
  • I never received a contract from them as they said they would send, and 
  • I had the hardest time retrieving my dissertation data from an old and inaccessible computer (only late July my husband broke through) -- I couldn't write the paper without that data;
  • an academic friend who is tenured and trying to mentor me mentioned that "Handbook" papers aren't worth very much in the grand scheme of things, which took the rest of my already embattled/non-existent enthusiasm for the project.
And today I get this email. Strange timing. I actually got an earlier email on August 3 and I was surprised by it. These are the "last call" emails I had received from other people before.

But I actually don't know if it would be worth it trying to write this thing. It wouldn't be extremely hard, but it wouldn't be easy either. Sigh...

What do I do? I think I will reply to the email saying I need more time, but also that, I don't know... I never got any kind of contract, so is it really going to be published? Sigh... and I also feel kind of ashamed that I didn't follow up to several of the emails. I do have the excuse of not having the data, which is true, but still.

I feel such a failure! Sigh... I have this feeling I bring these things upon myself. Partly because of my poorly handled ADHD, partly because of...? well, I'll blame on the ADHD. It makes me feel slightly better. And it's not totally a lie.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sowing Some Seeds...

... I cannot write that without thinking of the song "A Bit of Earth" from the Broadway musical version of one of my favorite books, Secret Garden, it's not my favorite song (see below), but it's about sowing seeds:

My favorite is "The Girl I Mean to Be":


In any case, this is not about gardening, but about submitting a paper abstract for a conference that will be nearby. I continue not to have any funding for conferences that aren't related to teaching, but a friend who went to graduate school with me has offered to let me stay in her hotel room!

This is the first paper I submit in a few years (nearly three!), and it has been very intellectually stimulating to do so.

I guess that this post also means that I'm "sowing some seeds" in the blog as well, right? I still plan blog posts in my head (old habits die hard, I started blogging nearly 14 years ago!!). I have so much to say, but I will publish this and hope that I'll come back here soon.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Summer Road Trip of a Lifetime (and maybe... How Social Media is Ruining my Life and... the World? ;-)

I suspect that my smart phone (I was a late adopter and only got a smart phone in 2012, 6 years ago) and social media (Facebook and now Instagram -- the new "micro-blogging" and photo sharing site) have ruined my life. Sigh... I spend too much time scrolling through its bait-y feeds and though I follow very few people on Instagram, it's still distracting because of the stupid stories. I REFUSE to look at stories on FB. I still miss blogging and reading blogs immensely and I haven't completely lost the habit of "writing blog posts in my head" -- [relatively] old habits die hard! -- but I feel like I am slowly losing my ability to concentrate on longer texts and tasks. It doesn't help that I have ADHD. I am also being influenced by the images I see and people share (more on that later).

OK, I promise that this annoying introduction will connect to my main topic, our AMAZING, Dream-Come-True trip of this summer...

We DROVE from the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. where we live all the way to the Canadian Rockies and even a bit of the Pacific Northwest and it was GLORIOUS!!

Yes, it was an insanely long drive of 4 days there and 4 days back, but we took our time and it worked well. It was also slightly stressful to sleep almost every night at a new hotel and plan, shop for, and prepare ALL OUR MEALS (except for breakfast at all but 4 mornings of the trip) on the go. We ate out exactly ONCE during the whole trip -- on the last day driving back. I took my wonderful pressure cooker (Power XL if you don't want to click) and a small hot pot and we had three ice-packs and a small cooler. ALL hotels had fridges, some of them full-sized ones.

A quick summary of the trip if you're curious, I added links to the official National Park sites:

Day 1 - 7/30 (Mon): 8h+ drive to Michigan. We slept at a friend's house and my parents at a hotel (mistakenly reserved by my son)
Day 2 - 7/31 (Tue): 8h+ Drive to Minneapolis (accidentally did a bathroom stop at Wisconsin Dells!) where we had an amazing Home2Suites across the street from a natural grocery store. We went to check out the Mall of America in the evening.
Day 3 - 8/1 (Wed): 7h+ from Minneapolis to Winnipeg, Canada. We saw the city a bit, purchased our National Park Pass, and rain ponchos at a Dollarama store before heading to the hotel. We didn't like downtown Winnipeg very much.
Day 4 - 8/2 (Thu): 10h+ drive from Winnipeg to Medicine Hat (Alberta). We hurried along because the hotel had indoor water slides and we enjoyed that (I cooked soup).
Day 5 - 8/3 (Fri): 4+ hour drive to Banff, AB, passing through the North of Calgary and seeing it in the distance. We stopped in Banff and were delighted by the turquoise water of the river and the gorgeous Cascades of Time Garden. It began to rain (hence the ponchos) and, because of the rain, which emptied the parking lots, we managed to quickly see Lake Louise (definitely "the Mona Lisa of Lakes" -- SUPER CROWDED, it's almost disappointing ;-), Moraine Lake (an AMAZING blue even in the rain), and, after some annoying traffic and the end of rain, Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park (British Columbia). We were staying in Golden, BC.
Day 6 - 8/4 (Sat): Rain was in the forecast for the Banff area, so we drove through the Canadian Glacier National Park and visited Revelstoke National Park, where we saw the beautiful Columbia river from above and enjoyed beautiful alpine wildflowers! It was partly cloudy at times, but not cold! The only thing we didn't like was the vicious mosquitoes at the parking lot at the summit where we had our lunch. (stayed in Golden, BC a second night)
Day 7 - 8/5 (Sun): Today was sunny with some clouds and we drove through Yoho & Banff National Parks all the way to Jasper National Park and beyond, about 6h driving, with many stops. Amazing day of "adventures" & incredible views: canoeing at Emerald Lake (cheapest spot, gorgeous lake), seeing Takakkaw Falls (both in Yoho NP), seeing a freight train go through both of the spiral tunnels!! Hiking up to see the incredible Peyto Lake. Marveling at the mountains and glaciers along the Icefields Parkway North and seeing a black bear next to the road! Stopping to see the Columbia Icefields and its great visitor center. And then... driving all the way to McBride, British Columbia (seeing two majestic elk eating calmly by the roadside) where we spent two nights in an apartment at the North Lodge Motel. The farthest Northwest we went on the trip!

Day 8 - 8/6 (Mon): Lots of driving because McBride is TWO HOURS from Jasper. We did the round trip and hiked the beautiful Maligne Canyon, drove to see Medicine lake (and unfortunately didn't drive down to Maligne Lake, so we didn't have a chance to see moose -- they are around Medicine and Maligne lakes). We had lunch next to the Maligne River and were going to go up on the AirTram in Jasper, but they closed due to the weather -- very disappointing! It was a beautiful and sunny day, but it was probably windy. So we went to downtown Jasper instead, where we had ice-cream, and went grocery shopping. On the drive back we stopped to see the majestic Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. This was the last sunny and crisp day of the trip.

Day 9 - 8/7 (Tue): Long drive back South (nearly 300 miles), and it was sunny, but unfortunately very hazy. South on the Icefield Parkway we stopped at Athabasca Falls and enjoyed walking through it's canyon and going down to the river, we saw Sunwapta Falls and had lunch there, then, we stopped at the Athabasca Glacier (Columbia Icefields), walked all the way to the glacier (even though  it's forbidden, everyone does it), and walked a little bit on top of it -- but we didn't go very far like lots of other people. Then we stopped at Peyto lake (a bit hazy and it was 6:30 pm) to see it again at a different time of day and we enjoyed taking tons of photos of the gorgeous blue Bow Lake with lots of sunshine. We arrived at the most luxurious (and expensive!) accommodation of the whole trip at the Mystic Springs Chalets and Hot Pools in Canmore. We went to the pool and also had to go grocery shopping. It was very very smoky in Banff and Canmore due to the Wardle fire in Kootenay National park. :-(

Day 10 - 8/8 (Wed): Today we went back to the lakes in the Banff area, but we couldn't get an early start and the parking lots were closed, so we had to park at the overflow area and pay for a shuttle to Moraine Lake. It was SO WORTH IT!!! The bluest lake, incredible photos, can't even describe it. Then we had lunch at the parking area (all picnic tables are in the sun, so we used a large rock for table and tree trunk stumps to sit on). After lunch, we were able to find parking to visit the über-crowded Lake Louise. There were two brides taking photos there! Last, but not least, we hiked the Johnston Canyon where I was wretchedly disappointed that the "hidden cave" and huge boulder and waterfall (link to image search), the "most photographed spot in Alberta" is now off limits. See, social media ruining my life. I REALLY wanted to see and photograph that place!! The ostensive reason is protecting birds, and I do believe the birds were probably bothered by the foot traffic in that hilly wooded area, but the canyon is SO MASSIVELY VISITED that I believe unless they closed it completely, it wouldn't help the birds much. But who am I to say/judge? My husband tried to console me saying that I care for the environment, but I was devastated. 

Day 11 - 8/9 (Thu): Last visit to Banff National Park area: we visited the lovely Cave and Basin National Historical Site which is where the very first Canadian National Park originated to protect the hot springs from prospective bidders. Then we drove to Calgary where we stayed at the excellently located Homewood Suites downtown and went to have dinner with friends at Blaze Pizza (we hardly ate because we had eaten at the hotel!).
Day 12 - 8/10 (Fri): Today we drove from Calgary to Glacier National Park in the U.S. and we met up with friends again! We met them at Logan Pass and then hiked with them for about an hour in the scary Highline trail. We headed to our hotel in Kalispell where we went grocery shopping (at Costco!) and then I cooked dinner for our friends, since we were staying at Homewood Suites again. 
Day 13 - 8/11 (Sat): Today we visited Glacier National Park again with our friends before they had to leave to go back to Missoula. In the morning our youngest son took the challenge and jumped off a cliff into the frigid waters of this swimming hole! Then, after a picnic, lunch we hiked to the Hidden Lake in Logan Pass and saw many mountain goats (and snow)! Then we drove four hours to our hotel in Helena where we arrived pretty late (10 pm).
Day 14 - 8/12 (Sun): Today we drove for 8h+ from Helena, MT to Mount Rushmore and we stayed for the evening presentation and lighting, it was nice! We stayed in a Best Western in Hill City that looked very "Western" indeed! ;-)
Day 15 - 8/13 (Mon): Today we drove through Badlands National Park on our way to Omaha, NE. There was a moment we were 90 mph on I-90 and it was 99F! I really liked Badlands, I wish we'd spent more time there, but we needed to get to Nebraska.

Day 16 - 8/14 (Tue): Took a detour to visit a denominational College in Lincoln, NE and quickly visited Saint Louis, MI in the late afternoon/ evening. It was lots of fun to take the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch. We literally forgot our hunger and tiredness in the brand new museum under the arch, FANTASTIC! 
Day 17 - 8/15 (Wed): Drove back home, longest day, over 13 hours, but we had a good lunch at Olive Garden. ;-)

This was long and took me a lot of time to write, but it was fun to remember it all!

Back to the social media issue. I believe that people have more money and that's why they travel more, but I also think that the ability to see photos of your friends in beautiful places, such as the Canadian Rockies lakes and vistas, makes people want to go there too, so I think that the huge crowds we saw -- everyone trying to take the most perfect pictures, even risking limb to do so (there was this girl who fell in the water in Moraine lake trying to reach the rocks and several people were trying to balance on logs and rocks to take photos). Of course we were busy taking photos too and I spent A LOT of time selecting the perfect 10 photos of each day and writing a short descriptive text to post on Instagram. I posted way more photos to Facebook (later), but used the same texts.

Yeah... is this all very bad? Not all of it, I'm sure. I have to go now, I have to practice a song with a group of women to sing tomorrow!