Ruth Zavitsanos

July 8, 2018

America’s Alluring West Provides a Showcase of Wildlife and Astounding Vistas

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 3:16 am

After spending the past week traveling through Utah, Idaho and Wyoming my take on AMERICA, THE BEAUTIFUL has grown to monumental heights (pun intended).

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Bison often cause delays

Traveling from Salt Lake City, Utah to Idaho Falls gave cause to volunteer to drive. With no smart phone distractions or the possibility of catching a quick nap after a long flight (I’d napped on the plane shortly after departing from Philadelphia) kept my eyes on the road that offered captivating views of bright green grass, colorful wildflowers, tumbleweeds, and astounding mountains.

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The drive is mostly open highway of 80 mph speed (a vast difference from my recent trip to Costa Rica where heavy traffic turns going 4.8 miles a nearly thirty- minute drive) making the 216 miles less than three hours away.

 

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Arriving in Idaho Falls on a breezy summer evening added to the ambience of the city set against the Snake River. The expansive falls supply 50 percent of the hydropower energy source for the city’s residents. Just over the bridge, historic Idaho Falls includes several blocks of small shops, a variety store filled with memorabilia, and wine bars. Along the riverfront are restaurants offering a view and the sound of the powerful flowing waters. Beyond the town in the distance is the striking temple of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints completed one month after World War II ended in September of 1945.

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Idaho Falls–powerful and invigorating

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Snake River, Idaho Falls

 

 

 

After spending the night and an invigorating walk along the river the following morning we drove (less than two hours away) to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We entered our nation’s first park for a mere $35 per car for the week. Once inside, we saw Elk, Bison, Bears, Wolves and lots of snapping cameras, both smart phones and those super lens kind from the past that most definitely are not extinct. Within ten minutes of arriving in the park we came to realize that cars on the side of the road meant wildlife was not far off. Sometimes visitors pulled over for a closer look adding to an abundance of cars. Often a park ranger scrambled to direct traffic, which usually meant a grizzly and her cubs or a herd of bison were holding things up.

 

My advice for enjoying the Park is to get out of your car and hike a trail or horseback ride through the backcountry. It is highly recommended to hike in groups of three or more because of the wildlife. Seeing a bison out in the open grazing on grass is a quick reminder that we are in their “home on the range”. Certainly one does not want to have a close encounter with a black or grizzly Bear. It seems to me that stuffed animals with their sweet faces and soft fur have deceived the human mind into thinking the animals replicated are warm and fuzzy, too. During an introductory movie with footage of tourists being attacked by wildlife makes it all too clear the dangers of being too close to the wildlife or compromising “their” comfort zone. Certainly, the park is a photographer’s haven and a hiker’s dream with the beautiful vistas and numerous trails.

 

Here again, I advise taking precaution, especially if you are not used to the 7k+ feet of elevation. I’ve never smoked and pride myself on walking my dogs or hiking three to five miles a day. Yet during my hikes out in the high elevation I had to stop as I reached a peak, under somewhat of a pretense for taking in the view, while catching my breath. It felt like I swam under water without taking a breath and gave me trepidation for climbing peaks. One quick remedy during the respite is to stay hydrated. The air is so dry that one tends to forget to drink water. There’s an abundance of refreshing, natural water that comes from the snow-capped mountains year round running through the rocks filled with minerals. Nothing quite compares to drinking the refreshing water (I filled my bottle each morning from the water fountain or sink) and taking in the cool fresh air with a mesmerizing view of waterfalls, wildlife and mountains set against a wide open blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds.

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Another dimension to Yellowstone is that it boasts having the most geysers in the world including the mighty Old Faithful Geyser. This cone shaped geyser has erupted every 44 to 125 minutes since 2000. Though raining heavily just a few minutes prior to the “big show” the day we visited everyone waited with anticipation at witnessing nature’s most predictable eruption. It’s definitely a sight to behold as the water shoots into the air at an average height of 145 feet, yet to the human eye it appears to be, as one little boy in front of me proclaimed, “Touching the cloud.” There are other smaller geysers and areas of ground near the once active volcanic areas that are bubbling at the surface, often creating a hotbed of kaleidoscope colors and the sight of a half dozen hats forever gone with the wind because of the sulfur and heat index.

 

 

Not far from the exit of the park heading toward Jackson, WY is the Grand Teton National Park. This park has the most magnificent views of the 40-mile Teton Range of mountains. The Grand Teton dates back 11,000 years when the first nomadic hunter-gatherer Paleo-Indians roamed the region in search of food. Inside this park are over 200 miles of mountain trails. Since we had plans to eat lunch in Jackson Hole, we hiked five miles at Jenny Lake. This was by far my favorite with five pristinely beautiful miles forever etched in my memory as being the most gratifying hike highlighted by the Hidden Falls with views of majestic mountains.

 

Our drive to Jackson Hole, WY added to the magnificent splendor of the day since our GPS gave us an alternate route through parts of Idaho where cows instead of bison grazed along the roadside. We found ourselves driving along the Oregon Trail on the dusty hot day making me wonder how the pioneers survived the treacherous trek in the days of horse driven wagons. (What no air conditioning or jamming of QUEEN tunes?” Seriously, these are our true heroes, the ones who have expanded our nation and discovered places that brought us the resources to grow and advance.

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We entered Jackson Hole with quite the appetite. This well-preserved old western town attracts the growing number of tourists thanks to the beautiful setting and the many shops, restaurants and step back in time offerings, such as dressing up like a Pioneer or taking a stagecoach ride.

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Jackson Hole, WY

Since the town is at the crevice of the mountains in a low lying valley the trappers, cowboys, and mountain men had to travel down steep slopes to get there, they referred to it as entering a “hole.” One fur trapper, David E. Jackson, proclaimed the area to be his favorite trapping ground. Not long after, the area was named for him. It came as no surprise that one of my favorite movies, “Dances with Wolves” was filmed in Jackson Hole.

 

 

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View from the charming Lake Hotel of the captivating full moon

 

 

If you travel West:

  1. Pack layers. One day I started out with a raincoat, flannel shirt and t-shirt. That afternoon I was wearing my tee shirt while on horseback but by evening I put my flannel back on.
  2. Wear comfortable hiking boots. The terrain is rough and at times steep. As I told my husband, “I would’ve twisted my ankle three times over in sneakers.”
  3. Water bottles are a must. Remember to hydrate.
  4. Bring binoculars. I saw a pack of wolves (truly a thrill for this canine lover), four black and one white, thanks to my father’s high powered binoculars.
  5. Be respectful. Not just to other humans but to the wildlife, too. They are unpredictable and though used to the many tourists they can still be startled. No need to enter their territory and risk being attacked.
  6. No internet. I only mention this because if that’s something you can’t do without then forego visiting this beautiful part of our nation. One can text at times but leave Facebook and social media behind. Enjoy the astounding views instead. You’ll be glad you did.
  7. There’s so much to see and do that it can be physically taxing at times. The lodges provide lots of rocking chairs for good reason-kick back with a huckleberry ice cream and relax.
  8. Recommended Music. Though I highly recommend opening your car windows and breathing in the fresh air, if it’s too hot, a great musical accompaniment for driving through America’s West is One Republic, especially their Native album.

 

 

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June 8, 2018

My First On Screen Chat

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 10:32 pm

Last night when I put my head to the pillow I vividly recalled my first on screen chat. Lately, this has been the typical time of profound thoughts reflecting on my past. And usually if I write it down, as I did last night, I can connect the timing. In this case, it’s been 35 years since that first message came to me via a computer. Yes, 35 years! My daughters (in their early twenties) like most of today’s younger generation might believe the computer onset happened once they were born, but in reflecting on that initial screen chat I realized it happened in early June 1983.

As a journalism major, I had acquired a summer internship working for a daily newspaper. I recall logging either a high school graduation or an obituary that morning. My “cub reporter” assignments were speeches of young enthusiastic people discussing the ever popular “Color of My Parachute”, what they learned during high school, what they’d hoped to gain in the years to come, and how they planned to better the world. Or, the phone call from a somber-toned stranger sharing details of a loved one and their contributions to everything ranging from church, military service, domestic reign to the rotary club during their lifetime. Certainly the newsroom was as one might imagine for a daily newspaper, very active during the morning hours leading up to deadline. And it was at deadline that I received that first text computer chat. It popped up out of what seemed to be nowhere on my computer screen.

“Hey,” it simply said.

I remember looking at it somewhat perplexed. My editor was deep in edits and the other reporters were discussing lunch plans and their afternoon assignments. All but one, he’d been staring at his screen. Ron was tall and lanky with a full head of black curls, the only thing that set him apart from Ichabod Crane (the neighboring town was Sleepy Hollow so comparing him to this eerie Washington Irving character came easily.)

Back at my screen another word popped up. “Lunch?”

“Hey. Who is this?” I asked my fingers trembling. This was both freaky and scary. Instantly a reply, “It’s Ron,” I looked up from the screen and his long skinny fingers waved at me. Another reporter, Phyllis, stopped at my desk to see if I wanted to join her for lunch and I shared this “chat” with her.

“Say no.”

“I’m going with Phyllis,” I typed thinking simply saying “no” might cause my computer to blow up.

She rolled her eyes. “You do know he’s sitting right there.”

Another text, “Want to go to a movie tonight?”

“He’s asking you on a date!” she said louder than I appreciated. And with that, Phyllis turned my computer off.

I followed her out the door and she told me all about the on screen chat I’d been subject to that still had my heart pounding.

“I don’t think I like it,” I remember telling her.

“Well who would the way Ron went about asking you out is ridiculous. Nobody is ever going to get a date that way,” she said. I had agreed. Insert, “If I knew then what I know now.” Followed by loud laughter, or rather LOL!

I have no idea where Phyllis is these days. I don’t recall her last name and never kept up with her. My guess is she, too, is caught up in the flurry of emails, texts and never ending scrolls along social media.

Dare I say Ron was on to something that decades later would be a popular means of dating? It didn’t work in the 20th century, certainly not for me. To his credit, at that time it was the only way to chat on line. There weren’t any smart phones and our computers were very limited, mostly used for logging stories. Oddly the number one song playing on the radio that summer was “Every Breath you Take” by the Police. Phyllis, in her somewhat warped sense of humor, often sang that when Ron approached my desk, “I’ll be watching you…” At times he’d text me (and after the realization that my computer would not blow up) I sent him one-word replies back. Eventually, he got bored with the one-sided chat. Looking back, I can’t help but think that if I was the guinea pig for his “online dating” attempt, it blew up in his face.

May 2, 2018

Raise the Bar with Cycling

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 11:49 am

For the past six weeks my daughter has been doing a cycling class at a CycleBar that recently opened in our area. Her class is at night and to her credit she went throughout the cold, rainy weather we’ve been experiencing this year. Once, while I was complaining about the weather and how it’s so hard to keep weight off because of it, she invited me to go with her. I hemmed and hawed, which for me means, I considered it but really didn’t have the interest. I’d heard it’s a rigorous workout. I believe in staying fit, but not at the expense of beating my body to a pulp and then walking around like a ninety year old in need of a cane for days on end.

I must’ve needed something more to prompt me and take away my fears. After seeing the Amy Schumer movie, I Feel Pretty, with an opening scene that takes place at a CycleBar, I thought, ‘that looks like fun.” I told my daughter. Again, she invited me to attend her class as her guest. At the end of next month, she’ll be going to Florida for a summer internship. “I can do it,” and it’ll be a fun mother daughter memory when I do get through the class, I told myself.

In preparation for the class, I bought cycling pants and a loose running top that were on sale at Macy’s.

“Do I look like I’m ready for tonight’s cycling class?” I asked her.

She smiled. “Definitely.”

When we got there I was impressed that everything had been prepared for our arrival.

“I did it all online,” my daughter said as we retrieved our shoes that were in the bin assigned to a cycle number.

We shared a locker and after looking at the other women attending class, I realized most of them, like my daughter, were in their 20s. Suddenly, I turned chicken.

“Maybe this isn’t for me,” I whispered.

“Mom, remember I said to do it at your own pace. You’ll be fine.”

So many times I felt younger than my actual age. This was definitely not one of those times. It was like being on a beach with a bunch of sorority girls and I was the lone parent, or in my eyes, the whale amongst minnows. Three decades this body had on their young and energetic ones. I banished the thought and took my place on the bike next to my daughter.

An assistant placed my feet in the special pedals that my daughter later told me keep “Your feet from flying off since you’re going like 20 miles per hour.” Good thing she saved that little nugget of information for after the class. That might sound slow to some, but that’s five times faster than my four mile an hour walk I do with my dogs.

When my daughter signed me up for the class her sales pitch included, “It’s going to be a Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears sing off night. And the trainer is so nice. She’s very encouraging, you’ll really like her.”

My daughter grew up listening to the two former Mouseketeers and I took her to her first concert at 7 to see Britney Spears. She loved every minute of it.

Hearing, “She’s so Lucky,” while getting comfortable in my bike seat, I thought, I am pretty lucky that my 23 year old wants to do this with me.

Once situated on the bike, the assistant showed me how to adjust the tension and watch my speed to increase and decrease momentum. At first I felt like the bike had been propelling my legs to spin rather than the other way around.

“I got this,” I told myself as the lights dimmed and the trainer said, “We ready?”

I put both thumbs in the air and looked around realizing everyone else looked quite intense. I guess I should’ve taken their cue. Next thing I knew their butts were off the seats and the ride no longer felt like I didn’t have to work at it. I quickly went from “I got this” to “I can do this.” And I did for the first seventeen minutes. I know this because that was the point when I thought, “This class has to be over in a few minutes. I’m sweaty and spent.” No, 7:17 wasn’t even the halfway point. That’s when I sat down while the others were still pressing hard, butts in air doing ‘push ups’ no less. I felt bad for the girl to my right. She went at a hard pace and there I was the slacker just inches away. I stood back up then lowered my butt and worked it again. By it, I mean this body that definitely felt it’s age. I kept going somewhat strong, breathing, listening to the prompts of the trainer, pleased when the lights dimmed because I was certain others in the class must’ve identified the weak link.

“MY thighs are burning,” I yelled and my daughter, knowing I’ve never been one for hiding my feelings, laughed. She later told me the girl next to me, the amazingly athletic one, seemed to enjoy my presence. “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Mom you were trying hard. You did it.”

 

When the lights came on, I looked at the others and realized, they could care less about me and my pace. This class was for their personal achievement. With that in mind, I kept forging forward, following the trainer’s lead and picked up the bar weight. My brain liked the idea of adding something else to the bike ride. My brain also reprimanded me for doing yard work that day since my arms felt it during the weight workout. Again, I looked at my watch, 730. I’d made it through ¾ of the class and hadn’t stopped. Yay for me! Though I’d wished class were over, I looked over at my daughter who smiled at me. I dug deep down for more energy to continue cycling to what now seemed like the bitter end. My pace was slowing down then I sped up, I felt like a yo-yo, but I was moving and trying to keep up.

“Ruth give yourself an A for effort,” I thought.

Again, I looked at my watch, 7:37 and the sweat is pouring off of me. I never should’ve declined a tie back my daughter had offered me before the class started. My wet hair stuck to my skin, blurring my view. Of course, since I hadn’t worn my glasses my already blurred vision made it impossible to see the pace I’d been going, which may have been a good thing.

The instructor announced, “We’re nearly finished. When you go out be like these song lyrics, strong and beautiful,” She encourages the group, sweat pouring down our faces, yet I feel certain the pounding hearts embrace her words.

A Britney Spears video plays for the final minutes of class, she is scantily clad revealing her very toned body everyone in the class is after during this 45 minute kick butt, sweat it out class.

At the end everyone gets off the bikes for the wind down stretch portion of class. Everyone except the newbie, me, that is. “How do I get my feet out of the pedals?” I ask my daughter louder than I thought since the music had died down and the lights were turned up. Nobody cared. They were stretching to preventing their bodies from soreness. I need to do that, I realize. My daughter informs me, “Twist it off.” I do and one foot is out, free. The next foot does the same with little prompting and I’m part of the stretch class now. “Great class, have a fabulous weekend. I hope to see you next week.”

“That’s it!” I’m thrilled I got through the class and surprisingly I can walk out in the same way I walked in. No discomfort. I thought I’d feel sore, especially in the buttocks. I sat down next to a woman who appeared to be my age and asked, “Do you do this class a lot?” I took my shoes off.

“I do. I like it.”

“Will I regret it tomorrow?”

“No. But you have to do something. And you have to take a break from this,” she informed me.

“I was planning to come back next week. I made the mistake of doing yard work today and really felt it during the weight workout.”

She nodded, “Oh yeah. When you do this class, you shouldn’t do anything else that day.”

I smiled.
“See ya next week,” she said.

“Definitely,” I replied.

“You liked it then?” my daughter asked.

“Yes.”

“Great I’ll sign us up for four more classes.” I forced a smile. That’s all we get until she departs for her internship, I realized. Then I told my dubious body, ‘Even more reason to ‘bring it on.’”

Later that night, my CycleBar results were sent to my email. I’d burned nearly 400 calories and placed 25/25 in class. The latter is no surprise. I might always be at the bottom of the class results, (until the next newbie comes along) but at least I’m there.

This morning I woke up with a little soreness in my upper thighs, but nothing compared to what I had expected. I’ll take that woman’s advice and get in a vigorous walk today to avoid any other achiness. I’m going to the second class with my tie back, eye glasses, and that much more determination to sweat, burn, and keep the class pace. I’ll also be less concerned about what others think knowing they aren’t there to grade, judge or mock me. The initial achievement of getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new melted my fears and concerns away.

CycleBars are growing more and more popular for good reason. It’s a highly energized, fast-paced workout that offers fast results and is rewarding for both the mind and body. It’s not easy, you will sweat, you might be sore, but like most, you’ll probably return the following week, ready to commit yourself to a vigorous 45 minutes that will push your body to raise the bar.

 

December 17, 2015

A Christmas Tail

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 4:27 pm

A Christmas Tail-based on a true story

Since I was feeling spiffy in my Santa Sweater, I wanted to share my enthusiasm for this festive time of year with my sweetheart. Don’t tell her I said that, she thinks she’s too old for this young pup. The moment I felt a cool breeze, I snuck out and trotted down the street to my best girl’s home. First, being the friendly pup I am, I greeted the woman I often encounter running toward me. We practically knock each other over, but she does stop to greet me when I’m with my humans. This time she greeted me and took hold of my collar. At first I resisted but then she took me right to my girl, Pebbles’ home. I can see her confusion since; to be honest I was near Pebbles’ driveway when we bumped into to one another.

 

I was let in by a woman smelling of Windex. They use that a lot at Pebbles’ house. It’s a unique, clean scent that I sometimes smell on Pebbles. She brings a certain Pepe Le Pew aroma to it that brings me to rolling over with excitement. Once inside, I was hoping Pebbles and her pesky little brother, Rocky, would greet me. I ran upstairs and one of Pebbles’ humans at first looked surprised then gave me a sweet hug. “Oh, it’s you Chance. I love your Santa sweater.” I barked with joy before running around the house in search of Pebbles. Instead, I discovered those wrapped gifts that go under that pine-smelling tree this time of year. Santa is coming soon. My tail wagged and I sought out something I might enjoy that the elves wrapped. Instead perfumes and sweet candles hit my nostrils. I guess Pebbles and Rocky will have to wait for Christmas morning, like me! I licked my chops at the thought of a savory treat.

 

I trotted downstairs to the tree and the kind human stopped to snap a photo of me in my spiffy Santa Sweater. I hope she shares it with my best girl, Pebbles. We can see photos, and if we don’t we can feel the joy they give. I barked and she patted my head and said, “They’ll be back soon.”

Chance Christmas

 

I waited for Pebbles and Rocky to return.

What to do? I’ve been left all alone for Christmas and it’s not my family! I began to whine. I ran to look out the door where Pebbles, Rocky and I freely play on a big field of green with a fence keeping out those not invited to our playdates. The green balls we play with lay waiting for Rocky and me to chase. Pebbles only has to leap my way and I drop the ball at her paws. I looked around and sniffed hoping they’d come trotting my way.

Silence.

My throat grew dry. I drank some water and sniffed at their empty bowls. That’s when I thought I heard my name being called. I ran to the front door. It was one of my humans. They were looking for me! My tail wagged and I barked. They rang the doorbell. I ran around the empty house. Then I ran toward the place where that woman who runs toward me dropped me off. My human came to that door, opened it and I nearly knocked her down. Though I kept looking back, hoping to see Pebbles, I never stopped from walking back home. I’ll be home for Christmas. My tail wagged non-stop.

Later, while begging for scraps during dinner, I heard my humans say Pebbles and Rocky were at the groomers all day. I dozed off. In my mind I chased Pebbles, her scent of Windex and Pine conditioner filling the air. Rocky chased after that green ball as moist soft snowflakes fell on our snouts.

“Chance is sleeping after his exciting day,” I heard one of my humans say.

“He looks pleased. I wonder what he’s thinking.”

Thanks for the White Christmas with my family and friends, Santa.

June 13, 2015

23,000 Steps

23,000 Steps

By Ruth Giachino Zavitsanos

We met in the early 80s while pledging and living in the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority House at Marshall University. After graduating, we kept in touch with phone calls and greeting cards that grew sparser and sparser over the years. The Christmas cards never faltered and with the onset of the Internet, we connected (albeit, virtually) again through emails and texts. In the passed ten years we’ve had our “mini-reunions” at a wedding, the mountains, the beach and most recently, the island of Manhattan.

When it all began!

When it all began!

Welcome at Mailbox

Welcome at Mailbox

Marco and NYC

Six of us Alpha Chi’s had put aside time from work and family to spend three laughter filled nights and four fun loving days in New York City. That’s certainly what the brochure would’ve read had I (the self-appointed hostess and tour guide since I grew up outside of NYC) printed one up during the planning stages for our getaway. After weeks of late night searching on AirBnB I found a place suitable for the six of us to rent. We’d be joined intermittently by a “sister” who has been residing in NYC for decades and another who managed to come up from Washington D.C. for the day and masterfully took us through the subway system for our Staten Island Ferry ride, featuring Lady Liberty.

Marco and Lady Libtery

We were all pleased with the charming Brownstone in the Flat Iron District of Manhattan where we met after taking planes, trains, and automobiles to get there. We privately shared the entry code with one another. On the first night back one of us shared it with the Flat Iron District, making a joke of shouting out another more historical code to remember, 1776, that never actually existed for entry. “That’ll throw them off course.”

Flat Iron Building

On our first day we took in all of the sights Mid-town had to offer; St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Broadway, Saks Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, and Time Square. Since the others hail from the south and are used to a much slower pace, I was kindly asked to “Dial it back.” I reminded myself we had three more days and I didn’t need to jam pack everything into the first day. But, it seems every time I go to NYC I become that seventeen year old girl filled with wonder, energy and enthusiasm. Later that day when we arrived back at the Brownstone to relax before changing for dinner and a Broadway play, we all wondered, “Just how far did we walk today?” In an instant several of us pulled out our fitbits. 23,000 steps! We’d walked 23,000 steps. And, there’d be more steps to walk that evening. All of us were more flabbergasted by this revelation than anything else. We weren’t trying to set any kind of a walking record. Though we all agreed that was our personal individual best by a long shot.

Something Rotten

Something Rotten

During those 23,000 steps (give or take a few) that we did each day throughout our stay, nothing bothered us. How can that be? We all had such a positive flow of energy and were so happy to be together that even a place like New York City couldn’t drain us. Each of us caught up with one another at various times and never left anyone out. All of us had our strengths that shined throughout because just like we did in our college days, we drew on those strengths from one another creating perfect harmony.

Little Italy

Of course, we recalled with admiration those days that brought us together in the sorority house; the somewhat crazy cook, the flirtatious houseboys and the astounding housemother with her quirky poodle, Chi.

Mostly, we took each step not in stride but in pure delight, with our AXO sisters by our side. All of us realize how fortunate we are to have shared such a fabulous time together! “My expectations for my first visit to New York City were really high. And it went far beyond my expectations.” One sister said on our final day while we were walking through a sun drenched Central Park. That remark had me thinking that perhaps I should put together that brochure, after all!

Central Park

Street front of our Brownstone

Street front of our Brownstone

Returning home, our legs ache, blisters sting and there is catch up at work. Yes, reality bites. However, our texts reveal the admiration we have for one another. Bonded through AXO, we are life long friends. We are the ones who knew us when we barely knew ourselves, the ones worth walking thousands of steps with throughout this life long journey. No matter the paths our steps take us in our daily life, we’ll always have thousands of steps to take together because next up…Tuscany!

NYC Cabaret

May 3, 2015

That’s Three for My Bucket List with a Little Color Thrown In

Filed under: Travel Bucket List — ruthz621 @ 12:33 pm
Tags: , , , ,
Checking ID

Checking ID

This past weekend I traveled for the first time to Tennessee to participate in an author-signing event. When I told two of my close friends about my plans they asked if they could come along. Poof, my entourage was in place. Since I always wanted to take a steamboat ride much like the ones I’d read about in Mark Twain, we planned an excursion on the General Jackson Riverboat Cruise. Now with three heads (and drivers) being better than one, we’d also added my other bucket list entry, Graceland, to our itinerary.

Nashville was nothing short of stupendous. We walked up and down Lower Broadway strolling (it’s the south, things are slow and easy down there) in and out of Honky Tonks. My first thrill came when I was carded. Yes, I’ve been legal for three decades and haven’t been carded for the past two. Evidently, in Nashville, it’s the law. One I took great pleasure in abiding in. No cover charge, reasonably priced drinks (unless you’reIMG_7485 a beer drinker then they’re down right cheap!) and extremely talented musicians kept us entertained for hours on end. Not to mention the down home country cooking. Sure I’ve had ribs and fried chicken before but not the tasty, slow cooked, very tender, dripping with tantalizing spices and sauces kind. Oh and I’ve never had VooDoo Potatoes but I’m still hankering for another serving of the not quite mashed potatoes with glazed onions and Cajun seasonings sprinkled on top.

On our second night in Nashville we boarded the General Jackson or as the locals call it, The G Jack. It’s a beautiful steamboat that exudes both Southern charm and elegance. The large paddles dipped in and out of the water at a sweet rhythmic pace as the sunset over the Cumberland River.IMG_7340 In the distance Music City lit up. The riverboat ride featured a delicious buffet and a fabulous Country artists through the decades show. Everyone on board appeared to be both amazed and pleased with this experience of an era gone by. My only regret was that I didn’t book a three-day cruise. And, that when we were told it was a three-hour cruise, I kept thinking I’d bump into Gilligan and the Skipper.

The following morning we headed southwest to Memphis. On our way we took a slight detour to visit the home of Loretta Lynn. This coal miner’s Daughter now resides in a gorgeous setting that overlooks a working gristmill. We were told that, at 83, she still tours and often says “Howdy” to her fans. “She’s real down to earth,” one of her employees at the ranch told me. Her homestead has several shops, a camping ground and a Motorcross. We had high hopes of coming up close and personal with the little lady of Country Music fame, but soon discovered her tour bus was gone and that she was indeed off performing.

Once back on the country road that took us to the main highway, wIMG_7361e stopped in Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen. Though we didn’t eat I did discover some writing on the ladies room wall that summed up our trip so far, “Girls Road Trip, 2015.” When we pulled off the highway we’d all agreed that, “we’d never be doing this impromptu hokey stop with our husbands and kids.”

Less than three hours later, we arrived at Graceland where the King of Rock and Roll once resided. It was smaller than I thought but definitelIMG_7422y held the allure of Elvis riding around the grounds on a golf cart, playing at the piano or singing in the jungle room to his receiving guests. Seeing all of his gold records line the walls and his collection of cars from an era I grew up in had my hips swaying. There’s a reason he smiled a lot and said, “Thank you, thank you very much.” He enjoyed life and appreciated his fans. To this day fans from all over the world visit Graceland. Elvis was unique. He’ll forever be the one and only King of Rock and Roll.

That night we walked the five blocks from our hotel to the famous “Beale Street” home of the Blues. It’s a few blocks of bars and restaurants that feature fabulous food and very talented musicians. “You won’t get any country music here. You got to go to Nashville for that,” our waiter, who had been at the Blues Café for thirty-seven years, told us. The vibrant locals add character they readily share with others. What we did get to listen was “Rockabilly and Blues.” Our waiter’s Memphis twang and fun loving approach had us returning for some of what he called “BeKeith Memphisst Pecan Pie Ala Mode around.” He definitely added a special dimension to our visit to Beale Street.

On our final day in Memphis the front desk clerk confirmed that the famed Peabody Hotel hosted the duck parade daily at 11 a.m. Encouraged to take in more local tradition, we quickly made our way to the highly impressive historical hotel. IMG_7482

It is more than 100 years old and has been visited by every American President since that time. The aristocratic feel prompted us to sip Mimosas while waiting for the Duck Master. He arrived in an attire much like Willie Wonka and offered fun trivia about his highly coveted position. “Watch for the middle elevator,” he said before going to get the ducks on the penthouse floor. Yes, these

ducks are living the life of luxury, well taken care of and “never, ever is duck to be found on the menu.”

As the numbers on the middle elevator moved a hush came over the crowd lined up on either side of the red velvet rope with cameras in hand. Arriving like celebrities, they waddle their way down the red carpet to the center fountain. The exuberant ducks playfully wade in the water to the delight of their admirers.

My book signing was a success and going with good friends allowed me to savor every amazing moment we experienced.

Taking time away from family and the expense of travel can be difficult but bringing home a suitcase full of memories makes it truly worthwhile. I proudly wear my t-shirt,“Keep Calm and Elvis On.”

December 31, 2014

Bring Back Suzy Homemaker, Bye Bye Housewife

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 3:18 am

Bring Back Suzy Homemaker, Bye-bye Housewife

By Ruth G. Zavitsanos

I grew up with the term Suzy Homemaker and in my admirable eye my mother held that title with great esteem and competence, much like her TV counterparts Donna Reed or June Cleaver. Every morning Mom poured coffee for her husband (my father) and gave him a peck on the cheek before he went off to work to bring home “the bacon”. I can still see my mother drying her hands on her apron after rinsing the dishes. I’d come home from school and she’d be working in the garden or taking the laundry off of the clothesline.

In our home, my mother made things happen and the words of a popular television commercial from the 60s rang true. “With Suzy Homemaker you can entertain, wash dishes, clean house, launder, iron, bake… and always look lovely.”

A typical day involved music playing in the background, perhaps greeting the Avon lady and readying herself for a shopping spree for that “always look lovely” appearance. There were phone conversations with other homemakers discussing the local news, latest fashions and swapping recipes all to continue the quest for improving their lifestyle. . They auspiciously navigated the many interruptions to their day i.e. forgotten instrument, gym suit or lunchbox, perhaps a call from the school nurse, or a last minute dinner guest brought home by their husband.

With the onset of the women’s movement in the 1970s, Suzy Homemaker was no longer hailed as a role model for young girls. Evidently, housewife replaced homemaker because as the word implies, it connotes marriage and is considered to be in contrast to a “career woman” according to Wikipedia. This baffles me because I know quite a few career women (of all ages) who are, indeed married.

According to today’s society and definitions, I’ve spent the past two decades as a “housewife.” Though, I admit, mostly men, rather than women use this term. Most women prefer, “Stay-at-home mom.” I’ve used the latter myself in my author bio. It’s a term directly referring to my choice of not working outside of the home. Now that my children are older, driving and with part-time jobs, the term has lost it’s value. I’m no longer chauffeuring kids, assisting with homework, volunteering at the school, etc. However, I’m still very much a “homemaker” and proud of it. I’ve taught my children the tasks that they’ll need whether they join the ‘workforce’ or eventually stay-at -home to raise their own children. Therefore, my job is useful regardless of the path they choose. How many positions in life can one say that applies to? Lets face it, one rarely hears the term Househusband, but as we all know, the stay-at-home Dad, definitely exists. And, many are doing a wonderful job of it while their wife is bringing home the money needed for Stevie Homemaker to properly manage the home.

I’ve never been one to get caught up in “labels” but I admit this one causes me to cringe. Housewife is a term that needs to be abolished. There’s no shame to the position but it’s like comparing the term “janitor” to “custodian” or “gopher” to “personal assistant”. A more dignified and glowing term can be taken from the era I grew up in, Homemaker.

thCleopatra a strong, intelligent and capable woman famously said to her troops, “Make it Happen.” Isn’t that what we women do all day long and tell our kids as they go off to school everyday? We make it happen; dinner, clean clothes, homework, growing gardens, financial stability, tidy homes, warm cookies, and ‘always look lovely’.

October 12, 2014

Best Buy Doesn’t Deliver

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 2:12 pm

BEST BUY DOESN’T DELIVER

On Tuesday, September 23rd, I set out to buy a refrigerator. I went to four different appliance stores and eventually found the model I wanted for the price I was willing to spend at Best Buy.

A sales manager came out to assist with the big-ticket sale and told me if I opened a Best Buy charge card I’d get an additional 10% off. While I’m not one for credit cards I am one for savings. So, I opened the card to get the more than $100 off the final sale price.

Later I shared my shopping experience with my family. I told them that I’d gone to the others stores and ended up at Best Buy for what appeared to truly be the Best Buy. Delivery was scheduled for more than a week later, but once my new refrigerator arrived in my kitchen I knew I’d feel the wait was well worth it.

As I was told by the salesperson I received both an email followed by a phone call the night before telling me the time period of delivery, 8 a.m. to 12 Noon. I got up the following morning followed their instructions for removal of the old refrigerator and rearranged my work schedule to be home.

Hours went by and it was now past 12Noon. I called the delivery number on my receipt. They said someone would get back to me. I didn’t hear from anyone until past 4 p.m. At this time I was told my refrigerator didn’t make it on the truck and would not be delivered.

And, thus begins the saga of Best Buy Doesn’t Deliver.

They informed me that my next delivery date was for nearly a week away.

This time I’d been told my refrigerator would be delivered on Wednesday October 8th. I never received any confirmation the night before so I called the delivery number, and although I used the extension given to me I spoke with yet another representative. They checked into it and said it was on their list to be delivered and someone would get back to me with a time. The following morning I’d chased this delivery time down. Several phone calls and lots of time waiting on hold, I finally was given a call that confirmed a delivery time of between 3 and 7 p.m. When it didn’t arrive, once again, I knew I had to schedule another day to prepare and be home.

I was never given a reason for the ongoing delays. Yet, I was obligated to adjust my schedule with great difficulty.

It neared the 6 p.m. hour and I hadn’t received that “thirty minute away call”.

The delivery department said they’d get back to me. Keep in mind all of these calls that I’d been making in an effort to chase down a refrigerator (is it running goes the old joke, mine isn’t even plugged in!) were very time consuming. I often waited twenty to twenty-five minutes on hold just to speak to someone. I have a slew of names ranging from Samantha at the store to Ebony, Carla, Shannon, Greg and a few others that promised to get back to me and resolve the problem. I trusted them knowing this was their job. I’d been worn down because everything was going in a direction of no follow through and no results. Finally, I was told at 6:30 p.m. in a returned phone call that the truck broke down and the delivery had to be rescheduled.

Upset, frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, all of these feelings ran through me. I did my best to remain calm and hear what BEST BUY might do next.

“We want to offer you a $100 Best Buy gift card,” the upteenth customer respresentative said.
“If it comes with my refrigerator I’ll take it.” While I appreciated and definitely had no intentions of turning down the gift card, I still wanted my refrigerator.

“We can deliver it on Friday.” Once again I entrusted them to complete the job I’d paid Best Buy to get done.

Friday, October 12, 2014 arrived. I’d had my reservations about this third attempt at a delivery because I’d never received a phone call giving me a time. I did receive the email the night before so I knew the date had been confirmed. Still, my hopes of getting the refrigerator faltered when, once again, I had to chase it down. I made the initial phone call to speak with the store manager; the delivery department and nobody seemed to know where my refrigerator had gone. Several hours later another person from another warehouse called. He could only do what the others had done before him, schedule another phantom delivery date.

I finally realized that I was given a lot of empty promises and no results. Looking back it was a very difficult, upsetting and unjustifiable time for me. I kept believing that I’d get results. It never happened.

That same day, I went to the store where I purchased it. I met with the store manager to get my money back.

I’m not waiting on another Delivery. I always had to initiate communication that resulted in a lot of different responses. Sadly, in the end, Best Buy Doesn’t Deliver.

August 14, 2014

Motionless In Mud

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 2:01 pm
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Motionless in Mud

I’m trying new things these days. Some are on my “bucket list.” These are the ones that make me feel giddy all over. For instance, my recent “bucket list” adventure involved touring a Napa Valley winery. It proved to be worthy of “bucket list” status. I learned a great deal about what makes a fine wine and what I personally enjoy in a glass of wine in the beautiful surroundings of what my husband refers to as “farming for millionaires.”

Just north of Napa my family and I stayed in a modest (I’m thinking that back in the late 60s early 70s it would’ve been first rate) resort that boasted natural hot springs filled with minerals. These springs enter above ground at a temperature of 160 degrees. Of course, the pool guy said they regulated it to be about 100 to 104 degrees. There’s something to be said about floating on a noodle and knowing that the temperature along with rejuvenating minerals is nature’s gift.

I’d been suffering from a bout of poison ivy since I arrived in Northern California. It seems to find me every July and is as annoying as a fly buzzing around dinner. Only there’s a quick fix for that fly-an open door or deadly swat. Personally, poison ivy persists for a solid two weeks no matter what I do. Applying anti-itch ointments and taking Benadryl offered little relief though I walked in a blanket of menthol and quite the daze. The chilly saltwater of the northern Pacific Ocean soothed (I was the only one in the ocean without a wetsuit on and it felt so good that I went back at dusk for a final “rinse”) but a week later and my itch still managed to spread. That’s when I decided to try something new that might just prove to be a cure, too. 

The resort offered “Mud Baths” and advertised specials for “couple mud baths.” I tried to entice my husband.

“Wait, we go in a tub of mud for how long?”

“Like 15 minutes.” I replied, glancing at the brochure.

“Not for me.”

I admit I wondered if it was for me after recently being grossed out by a hug he gave me at the completion of a Mudder Run. Then I recalled the mud pies I made as a kid. I’d grab an old tin and, after a heavy rain, fill it with thick mud adding swirls with my fingers. “Mom, I made a mud pie.”

“That’s nice,” she’d say and when I showed it to her up close, she quickly added, “take it outside before it gets all over the rug.”

Surely the memories alone would be worth it. Making mud swirls with no rugs to worry about.

I showed up for my appointment and was escorted to a room where I took off  (most) of my clothes and donned a robe and flip-flops.

“Please take off any jewelry,” the young assistant said.

I followed her to a back room.

“The temperature is 100 degrees. Go in slowly. I’ll check on you in a few minutes.”

She left and I looked at the sunken tub filled with black mud. On the wall was a fan, but it did nothing to take away the vile smell. I felt like I’d invaded a party of cows that had rolled in manure before returning to a musty barn. I decided to step in fast, sit down and lean back. Once I was two feet deep in mud (I know this because I measured one foot on top of the other) I covered myself with the mud up to my neck. I’d read that Cleopatra often took mud baths consisting of mud from the Dead Sea.

After a minute, I attempted to lift my leg and instead of being relaxed my mind took me to a dark place. In it, I was buried alive. I realized the cranking fan from above, nasty sewer like smell, and heavy hot mud made me feel like I’d been in a bad western and this was my punishment for not serving grub on time. I looked at the clock and told myself I could continue down a path of torturous thoughts or try to find the benefits in this therapeutic treatment for body and mind. I lifted my hand and started to make swirls. The mud was so hot and thick that they didn’t begin to look like the ones I’d made on those youthful mud pies.

A voice, “How are you doing,” came closer and the young assistant offered a cold glass of water. I sipped through the straw to the last drop. “I’ll be back to check on you,” she said and left. I looked around and realized why they advertised a discounted couples mud bath. Though it would be nice to talk to someone. I knew my husband would’ve been long gone. “I have a stagecoach to catch.”

The assistant returned. “You can shower off and get in the mineral bath.” I went in the tub filled with lavender induced bubbles, realizing the worst was over.

Back at the hotel room, I told my family it was one of those “First and last” times for a mud bath. Later, while my husband and I were in a store I shared more details on the mud bath. “I was getting claustrophobic and the smell was horrible. And the mud was thick, heavy and hot. 

A man about our age asked, “Did you do a mud bath?”

“Yes.”

“My wife and I did a couples one when we were here last time. No way would I do one again.” We all laughed.

That night I didn’t wake up to scratch or apply cream. And the following day, I discovered all the scratch marks and irritated skin had vanished or greatly diminished. Eureka! I’d found my poison ivy cure. Obviously there are benefits to a hot spring mud bath. Have you ever had a mud bath?IMG_2810

July 6, 2014

Ruth’s Writing World

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruthz621 @ 10:10 pm

I’m participating in the world wide blog hop. Special thanks to Agnes Alexander for inviting me to take part in this blog. Agnes is the author of 22 books written under Lynn Hall Hampton. She has written in both the Mystery and Western Historical Romance genres. Currently, she is working on several Contemporary manuscripts and has set a goal of writing a total of 26 Western Historical Romances. I”m currently reading Camilla’s Daughters and very much enjoying this “sweet” romance with a page-turning plot and strong well-developed characters.

Her website is http://www.agnesalexander.com.

I’ve been requested to introduce my “writing world” to all of you. At this time, I have three children’s chapter books, two Western Historical Romances and one sensuous novella all published by small independent presses. My children’s books are set in exotic locations and told through the dog’s point of view. They’re easy reader level but all ages enjoy these heartwarming stories. I had no intention of being a children’s writer but after my family and I stayed at a Villa in Lucca, Italy I was inspired to write THE VILLA DOG. I’m pleased to say “Sole’s” story received five star reviews and was a third grade book club read in several area schools. Children, parents and teachers all asked if there would be any other “dog books”. That inspired me to write THE OLD FORTRESS DOG. The story takes place on the Greek Island of Corfu, where my family and I visit relatives every other summer. In 2010 my family and I went to Maui and YES…I was inspired to write THE KONA DOG. I’m pleased to say all three books have received great acclaim.

Prior to writing my children’s chapter books, I had written a story that took place in the early 1870s. I’d been a fan of Laura Ingall Wilder’s books, Little House On the Prairie and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, therefore I found the time period enjoyable to write. In 2010 FLIGHT OF LITTLE DOVE was released through Whiskey Creek Press and received great reviews. I then wrote the story of two women the readers came to know in FLIGHT and that became my second novel, SISTERS INN also released by WCP. My novella, SAFE ENCOUNTER is a workplace romance with a strong and driven heroine. This story and my children’s books were published by Wild Child Publishing.

When did I start writing? Back when I was twelve-years-old I had a babysitting job that often went past midnight. Back in those pre-cable and pre-computer days, there was nothing to watch on TV but a yule log and that really did nothing to keep me up. I soon discovered that the woman I babysat for belonged to the “Book of theMonth Club. Two of my favorites, THE THORN BIRDS and ROOTS, made me look forward to Saturday nights and babysitting far more than the meager hourly rate. However, there were times when I pulled out my favorite book, a green spiral notebook. I wrote all of my stories in it. These stories ranged from tragedies to romances and mysteries. I still have the notebook as a reminder of that girl who loved to write more than anything else. In fact, though college bound people have a difficult time knowing just what they want to do in life, I knew I wanted a journalism degree. After acquiring my degree I worked off and on for various newspapers as my husband and I moved several times for his career to advance. After both my daughters were born I stayed home to raise them. Once they got on the school bus I went back to my writing.

Currently, I’m writing a memoir about the 12 times I have been to Corfu over the past 30 years. It’s MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING with a Slice of MOONSTRUCK meets EAT, PRAY, LOVE. I’m hoping to get an agent soon for both my memoir and a contemporary romance, EMBERS WILL GLOW, the story of two lovers destine to reunite and the woman who brings them together again.

Finally, for those who wonder why I keep writing, that’s an easy question to answer. I keep writing because it gives voice to my characters and allows their story to be told. And, if I’m writing about something I’ve learned or want to share, I feel (and hope) that I’ve added something to one’s day. All of my stories have happy endings.

For more on me and my books, please feel free to visit my website at http://www.ruthzonline.com.

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