Every Man For Himself

A good friend of mine e-mailed me today writing:

I have a question…and since you are the Cuban Dalai Lama, I thought I’d address it to you.  If the government has the money to (possibly) lend the automakers a gazillion dollars … why doesn’t it have the money to fund our schools, provide medicine for the sick, feed the hungry and house the homeless?  I’m thinking of writing a letter on this very subject to our President-elect.  Because these are issues that truly bother me.  I have a family in my development that is facing serious economic problems.  These are honest, decent, hardworking people.  He had two accidents, one work-related, another was a car crash, and was unable to work for almost a year.  She works cleaning houses, takes in sewing, laundry, you name it, she does it.  Because of the economy, two of the houses she cleaned weekly have stopped using her services.  She’s down to one house.  She made pillow shams and seat covers for my sofa, did a splendid job and charged me a very reasonable rate.  Then I thought, well, I go to the laundry and spend money there, maybe she could do that for me and I’ll pay her what I pay the laundry.  Done deal.  She also makes and sells croquetas (I’m a steady customer).  He can’t find a job (he’s a welder).  They have exhausted their savings and were unable to meet their rent for this month, so they got an eviction notice.  They are expecting a settlement check from one of his accidents, to the tune of approximately $5,000 (the attorney got the larger chunk).  They went to their attorney yesterday, eviction notice in hand, to see if he could do something about getting their money now.  He said there’s nothing he can do, it’s a process.  The other case is still in the settlement process, or so their attorney tells them.  So … they could be out on the street. They went to the management office and explained their situation, they gave them until the 15th and then they’ll start eviction proceedings.  They don’t live in a luxury apartment, their place is identical to mine, one bedroom/one bath.  It’s a blue collar neighborhood.  It hurts to see this.  It hurts even more to see the government mulling over the possibility of lending billions to automakers who gad about in their private jets.  In the words of Chris Rock “that ain’t right.”  I am having a very hard time dealing with this, it’s very frustrating.  At their church, their pastor got him a job delivering newspapers, minimum wage.  You should see them, they have such faith and they know they will get through this.
Okay, I have vented … I have unloaded.  Feedback please.

I happen to share in my friend’s frustration. This family’s story is one I hear often nowadays…about friends of my friends, about friends of my mother’s…it’s everywhere, it seems most of us know someone being put through the wringer by this economy. Meanwhile, our government gets in bed with these mega-companies, I think not so much to save the day as to get to own a piece of the pie, as this latest deal indicates. There is no piece of pie to be had in funding schools, providing medicine for the sick, feeding the hungry, or housing the homeless. Do you see? The standing economy will make the rich richer (as there is much money to be made off the inopportuneness of others), make the middle class sweat it out (as most of us consider gambling with our children’s future too high a risk), and make or break the poor (as necessity is the mother of invention).

As for this family she talks about, we should take comfort in knowing that they are so faithful, because that is precisely the one thing that will get them through this, not our government. Because the only words I hear lately from the political powers that be, reverberate that old familiar Spanish saying that goes: “Salvese el que pueda.”

It is frustrating indeed. But, just because our government’s thinking is “every man for himself,” doesn’t mean ours, the people’s, has to be, no? We can certainly have a hand in bailing out one another.


Geez, we should all be so disabled.

        I have this student, let’s call him Joe.  He’s kind of slow, a bit mentally challenged; enough to be labeled with a disability.  I gotta tell you though that if Joe’s disability has something to do with the reasoning he exhibits, maybe more of us should suffer from the same kind of disability.

        I’ve had the opportunity to observe him for a few weeks now.  This fourteen year old, despite his slowness, seems to be in tune with what matters.  This past Saturday I asked the kids to take out a piece of paper for an activity.  Of course there is always someone in class without paper who has to borrow from the others.  This was the case last week with one of the kids sitting at Joe’s table (they sit 4 to a table, as I teach in the school’s art room).  While the other students at his table were oblivious to this kid’s need for paper, before he even asked, Joe was handing him one.  I’ve seen him do this kind of thing time and again for the other students.  Always attuned to their needs.

        I proceeded with the activity and asked them to list ten things for which they are thankful.   Joe is a slow thinker and writer, but the kid managed to finish that list before anyone else, listing things such as family, school, friends, food, while some of the other kids’ minds were bogged down with so many material things they just didn’t know which ones to write first.

        Even though he seems to be far off somewhere, he lives in constant awareness.  His mind is occupied with what’s in front of him only.  And I believe this is what allows him to be so in tune with those around him and their needs.  With us, if we seem to be far off somewhere is probably because we are.  I know half the time our minds are preoccupied with legit concerns, I grant you that, but the other half of the time they are so full of insignificant material, it seems like there’s almost no room in there for what’s important, what’s essential — the now — that which is right in front of us.

        Later, I spent part of that class talking about siblings and the importance of that relationship in our lives.  Some of the kids shared their own sibling experiences, some of which were pure nightmares.  And during the break, Joe came to me and said: “My sister thinks I invade her privacy so sometimes we fight.  When I go home now how can I get near her so she doesn’t think I’m doing that…I don’t want her to hate me.”  The genuine concern in the tone of his voice, coming from a person like him, broke my heart and at the same time put a smile on my face. 

        I don’t think I need to explain to you why.  All I’ll say is that at that moment, and after what I had witnessed from him throughout that class, I thought to myself, geez, we should all be so disabled.


“Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.”
-James Thurber

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
-Henry Miller

Rhyme and Reason: Thankful

We are entering the time of the year in which we are reminded the most about giving thanks. We all know giving thanks should be a year-long habit, and most of us do try to make it so, but still, it’s never more present in our minds than when the holidays roll around. Let’s remind ourselves of the importance of giving daily thanks. : )
“A Thanksgiving Thought”

When you woke up this morning And washed your sleepy face, Did you think to pause a minute or two And thank God for His grace? Or when you stepped outside today And you saw that big blue sky, And that shinin’ sun that smiles on you Like the Lord was sayin’ “Hi”… Did you stop to pray and thank the Lord For the good He sends your way, For His matchless love and His endless care That He pours out everyday?

How would you rate At the Pearly Gate If God said, “Don’t you know… You’ve as many days As you filled with praise When you walked down there below!”

Would you get to spend Just a short weekend Or a half a dozen worth, If He let you stay For each single day That you thanked Him while on earth?

While it sure is great That we celebrate What we call Thanksgiving Day, And it’s fun to see All the family And to watch the children play… Still, it just seems odd That we thank our God Only when Thanksgiving’s here, For it seems to me Giving thanks should be Every day throughout the year!
-Connie Hinnen Cook

“Thanksgiving Every Day”

The table is brimming with good things to eat; We’re surrounded by family and friends; what a treat. The feelings that fill us today can’t be beat; It’s Thanksgiving Day, and it all feels complete.

But other days, sometimes things don’t seem so fine; Those days are not polished and don’t seem to shine. It’s then in our minds, we forget all the good, And think of the things we would get, if we could.

On days when our thinking causes us dread, If we could remember, it’s all in our head, And not let our minds take our gratitude away, Then we’d make every day like Thanksgiving Day.
-Karl Fuchs

“A Prayer of Thanksgiving”

Let us give thanks…

For generous friends…with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn — and the others — as plain as potatoes, and so good for you.

For funny friends, who are as silly as brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who — like parsnips — can be counted on to see you through the long winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around as like tendrils, and hold us despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past, that have been harvested – but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;

For all these we give thanks.
– Max Coots


“I’ll Sit Here and Pray”

So I’ll sit here now and I’ll pray to You (‘though I can’t really say why), as the walls collapse around me and my loved ones suffer and die, and my health gives way and bills pile up and time slips too quickly past, as I count all the joys life’s denied me, and those that didn’t last. I’ll offer You thanks, my Creator, for the gifts You’ve yet to repeal; for walking and vision and laughter, for music, and dreams that seem real, for people who love me and seasons that change, for my body’s own memories of love, and I’ll sit here and pray in the darkness, for all the good it does.

-Veronica A. Shoffstall 

En Español: Poesías de José Martí

José Julián Martí Pérez nació en La Habana, el 28 de enero de 1853, de padres españoles. Patriota y escritor cubano, apóstol de la independencia de Cuba.

Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca

Cultivo una rosa blanca, En julio como en enero, Para el amigo sincero Que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca El corazón con que vivo, Cardo ni oruga cultivo: Cultivo la rosa blanca.
José Martí

Cuba Nos Une

Cuba nos une en extranjero suelo, Auras de Cuba nuestro amor desea: Cuba es tu corazón, Cuba es mi cielo, Cuba en tu libro mi palabra sea.
José Martí
Cuando Me Puse a Pensar

Cuando me puse a pensar La razón me dio a elegir Entre ser quien soy, o ir El ser ajeno a emprestar,

Mas me dije: si el copiar Fuera ley, no nacería Hombre alguno, pues haría Lo que antes de él se ha hecho: Y dije, llamando al pecho, ¡Sé quien eres, alma mía!?
José Martí

Los Zapaticos de Rosa

Hay sol bueno y mar de espuma,
Y arena fina, y Pilar
Quiere salir a estrenar
Su sombrerito de pluma.

-«¡Yaya la niña divina!»
Dice el padre, y le da un beso.
-«¡Vaya mi pájaro preso
A buscarme arena fina!»

-«Yo voy con mi niña hermosa»-
Le dijo la madre buena.
«¡No te manches en la arena
Los zapaticos de rosa!»

Fueron las dos al jardín
Por la calle del laurel:
La madre cogió un clavel
Y Pilar cogió un jazmín.

Ella va de todo juego,
Con aro, balde y paleta.
El balde es color violeta;
El aro es color de fuego.

Vienen a verlas pasar:
Nadie quiere verlas ir:
La madre se echa a reir,
Y un viejo se echa a llorar.

El aire fresco despeina
A Pilar, que viene y va
Muy oronda: «Dí, mamá:
¿Tú sabes qué cosa es reina?»

Y por si vuelven de noche
De la orilla de la mar,
Para la madre y Pilar
Manda luego el padre el coche.

Está la playa muy linda:
Todo el mundo está en la playa:
Lleva espejuelos el aya
De la francesa Florinda.

Está Alberto, el militar
Que salió en la procesión
Con tricornio y con bastón,
Echando un bote a la mar.

¡Y qué mala, Magdalena,
Con tantas cintas y lazos,
A la muñeca sin brazos
Enterrándola en la arena!

Conversan allá en las sillas,
Sentadas con los señores,
Las señoras, como flores,
Debajo de las sombrillas.

Pero está con estos modos
Tan serios, muy triste el mar:
¡Lo alegre es allá, al doblar,
En la barranca de todos!

Dicen que suenan las olas
Mejor allá en la barranca,
Y que la arena es muy blanca
Donde están las niñas solas.

Pilar corre a su mamá:
-«¡Mamá, yo voy a ser buena;
Déjame ir sola a la arena:
Allá, tú me ves, allá!»

-¡«Esta niña caprichosa!
No hay tarde que no me enojes:
Anda, pero no te mojes
Los zapaticos de rosa».

Le llega a los pies la espuma:
Gritan alegres las dos:
Y se va, diciendo adiós,
La del sombrero de pluma.

¡Se va allá, donde ¡muy lejos!
Las aguas son más salobres,
Donde se sientan los pobres,
Donde se sientan los viejos!

Se fue la niña a jugar,
La espuma blanca bajó,
Y pasó el tiempo, y pasó
Un águila por el mar.

Y cuando el Sol se ponía
Detrás de un monte dorado.
Un sombrerito callado
Por las arenas venía.

Trabajaba mucho, trabajaba
Para andar; ¿qué es lo que tiene
Pilar, que anda así, que viene
Con la cabecita baja?

Bien sabe la madre hermosa
Por qué le cuesta el andar;
-«¿Y los zapatos, Pilar,
Los zapaticos de rosa?

-«¡Ah, loca! ¿en dónde estarán?
¡Dí, dónde, Pilar!» -«Señora-
Dice una mujer que llora-,
¡Están conmigo; aquí están!»

-«Yo tengo una niña enferma
Que llora en el cuarto obscuro,
Y la traigo al aire puro
A ver el Sol, y a que duerma.

«Anoche soñó, soñó
Con el cielo, y oyó un canto:
Me dió miedo, me dió espanto,
Y la traje, y se durmió.

«Con sus dos brazos menudos
Estaba como abrazando;
Y yo mirando, mirando
Sus piesecitos desnudos.

«Me llegó al cuerpo la espuma,
Alcé los ojos, y ví
Esta niña frente a mí
Con su sombrero de pluma.

«¡Se parece a los retratos
Tu niña» -dijo-. «¿Es de cera?
¿Quiere jugar? ¡Si quisiera!…
¿Y por qué está sin zapatos?

-«Mira: ¡la mano le abrasa,
Y tiene los pies tan fríos!
Oh, toma, toma los míos;
Yo tengo más en mí casa!»

«No sé bien, señora hermosa,
Lo que sucedió después:
¡Le ví a mi hijita en los pies
Los zapaticos de rosa!»

Se vió sacar los pañuelos
A una rusa y a una inglesa;
El aya de la francesa
Se quitó los espejuelos.

Abrió la madre los brazos.
Se echó Pilar en su pecho,
Y sacó el traje deshecho,
Sin adornos y sin lazos.

Todo lo quiere saber
De la enferma la señora:
¡No quiere saber que llora
De pobreza una mujer!

-«¡Si, Pilar, dáselo! Y eso
También! ¡Tu manta! ¡Tu anillo!
Y ella le dió su bolsillo:
Le dio el clavel, le dió un beso.

Vuelven calladas de noche
A su casa del jardín,
Y Pilar va en el cojín
De la derecha del coche.

Y dice una mariposa
Que vió desde su rosal
Guardados en un cristal
Los zapaticos de rosa.
José Martí



How That Book Cover Totally Threw Me Off

        I should know better than to judge one of them.  I DO know better.  After all, one of the things I discuss with my students about the issue of judgment is the predicament it puts us in, and the consequences that follow.  So you would think I could practice what I preach, especially when it comes to them.  Well, I try; I SO do try not to judge a book by its cover.

        Our society has raised us to judge on the basis of many things:  sex, race, religion, appearance, you name it.  And I admit to you that I for one am guilty of conforming to this more often that I care to, occasionally jumping to conclusions about people when I know I shouldn’t.  So as part of my responsibilities as a Christian, I talk to my students about the problem that judging is — and I call it a problem because that’s exactly what it is.  Just like us grown-ups, except actually at a higher level, teenagers get caught up in what our society feeds them about looks, behaviors, relationships, etc.  Their need to fit in and be accepted often distorts how they view and treat others.  So my students and I discuss this.  I think I’ve been discussing this with them for most of the 30 years I’ve been teaching, so you would think I have it down.  Yet, every once in a while I get caught up in that awful trap too.  After all, as fitting or not as the judgment may be, the cover is still the first thing a person sees.

        Recently, one of my students showed up to class with her bottom lip pierced, twice over.  Right…ouch.  Given that it was just the second class of the term, and I didn’t know much about this group yet, I was immediately consumed by judgment.  She happens to also dress a bit gothic.  So right off the bat, I labeled her.  Not much was revealed about her in the couple of weeks that followed, as she kept to herself, and so the label stuck.  Then came the class during which I give them an assignment to write about an encounter they have with Jesus, detailing when and where it takes place, what is said, describing Him, etc.  As you can imagine, I always get back very interesting essays.  But let me just say without beating around the bush any longer, that hers blew my mind.  I found myself reading the name on top of the page more than once to make sure it wasn’t someone else’s paper I was reading.  I wish I could show you, but I don’t publish my students’ writings, only quote excerpts.  I can tell you, however, this essay was almost grammatically perfect, well structured, and most importantly, imaginative to the tenth power:  “…[He] opened his hands and formed them into a bowl…showed me…the light flashing at my face…said if I can spread the word of God and follow his laws, I will go here…he closed his hands and the kingdom of God disappeared…He smiled and said ‘be candid and love everything and everyone around you’…then he disappeared.”  This essay that to me appeared to be written by such an unlikely source, was full of hopeful connotations sounding well beyond the author’s years; a piece containing lines contradicting of her appearance.  “Tisk, tisk,” I thought, “shame on you Connie.”

        As Christians we are supposed to see, or at least look for, the godly side in our fellow human beings, first and foremost.  Despite the pressures society puts on us to form these preconceptions, we should, we must, try our darnedest to overcome the temptation to judge others and set them aside from the outset because they don’t seem to meet our prerequisites.  Sometimes the judgment fits but other times it doesn’t.  And think of what’d be at stake if we erred; what we’d risk losing — the opportunity to get to know someone; the opportunity to make a life-long friendship; or even the opportunity to learn from a student.  

Thank heavens for the continuing reminders that life throws at us.
– by Connie Perez

Never judge a man by his umbrella. It may not be his.
– Anonymous

If you judge people you have no time to love them.
– Mother Teresa


Invoking Those Interceders

The other day my son asked me to help him with a project on saints that he was asked to do for his religion class. He had to choose three saints and write about them, and he said there were so many of them that he wanted to know if I thought the ones he had chosen were good picks. I suggested we go down the long and distinguished list of saints and see who was who.Saints, as some of you may know, are those people who were persecuted and martyred for their Christian faith, or who lived their lives generally as holy people. Those who through their extraordinary lives of virtue, upon entering Heaven, are believed to share in what is called the Beatific Vision, a face-to-face experience of the presence of God, and are thereby able to provide assistance to us mortals when we ask through prayers directed at them. My son was amazed to see how many there are and that there is a patron saint for practically every area of life you can think of — St. Jude, patron saint of desperate cases; St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, St. Mark, patron saint of lawyers (what? lawyers?) — and the list goes on.

To some people this might seem almost comical, I know. But I must tell you that I believe in them. I am a devout follower of some of them and carry their prayer cards around in my wallet. Sort of a security blanket deal. I have friends who do as well. Recently, one of them was in dire need of selling her home, and began praying to the patron saint of this cause. She prayed and prayed and prayed, but became discouraged when time went by and her prayers seemed to be to no avail. It is quite frustrating when we think our prayers are falling on deaf ears. I’ve been there. And as I told my friend on a day when she was experiencing that frustration, I am still waiting to see the results I want from some of my petitions…the results “I” want…which lack thereof could only mean they are not the results God intends. Because in the end, our beloved saints are merely interceders who, like us, have to plead our cases to a higher power. This sometimes takes a long time, and even then, they may be turned down by Him for a better result for us.

So why pray to the saints then? Well, why not? Don’t you ask friends, sometimes even strangers, for help? I for one like believing there is someone besides me, someone out there in the spiritual world, pleading my case and pulling for me. Listen, life gets rough sometimes, and if you believed there were saints out there who’d be more than willing to work for your cause, you’d pray to Santa Barbara, San Lazaro, y la Caridad del Cobre if you could.

Although we are strong in our faith in God the Creator, the omnipresent, omnipotent, all knowing, all wise and most merciful Heavenly Father, and through our prayers we intend to give our troubles to Him, some of us choose to call upon the saints as well for assistance. After all, they are mentioned in the Bible, and for the faithful, they are there for the taking. In time, my friend’s prayers were answered; allowing her to move to the next chapter of her life, but it took much faith and patience on her part. It is said that patience is a virtue. But darn, how much patience we gotta have to have patience! Especially when invoking those Interceders.

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” – Soren Kierkegaard


Book List 2

More books I recommend (most current read on top). You can click on the link to read about them. For you Spanish speaking folks, those titles marked with an asterisc are a better read in Spanish.

Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way
by Rick Carson

The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho

– A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

– The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Chronicle of a Death Foretold* by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Of Love and Other Demons* by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What Jesus Saw From the Cross by A.G. Sertillanges

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuck

The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Seeing* by Jose Saramago

Blindness* by Jose Saramago

Death With Interruptions* by Jose Saramago

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd

– The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho

The Devil and Miss Prym* by Paulo Coelho

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept* by Paulo Coelho

– The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Book of Confidence by Father Thomas de St. Laurent

Stop Thinking This is All There Is

I read something the other day that struck a chord.  Well, much of what I read does, but this in particular goes to how I think many of us feel about our world today.  It read:  

                “Stop thinking this is all there is…

            Realize that for every ongoing war and religious outrage and environmental devastation, there are a thousand counter-
                balancing acts of staggering generosity and humanity and art and beauty happening all over the world, right now, on a
                breathtaking scale, from flower box to cathedral.

            Resist the temptation to drown in fatalism, to shake your head and sigh and just throw in the karmic towel.

            Realize that this is the perfect moment to change the energy of the world, to step right up and crank your personal volume;
                right when it all seems dark and bitter and offensive and acrimonious and conflicted and bilious…there’s your opening!

                And, finally, believe you are part of a groundswell, a resistance, a seemingly small but actually very, very large impending
                karmic overhaul, a great shift, the beginning of something important and potent and unstoppable.”  

                -Mark Morford

Okay so not so easy to do when much of the world around us is falling apart it seems.  I know all the adversities and tragedies we witness, and those we personally face, sometimes take us to the brink of hopelessness.  They are buckets of cold water thrown on our spiritual flames.  We get down on the world, and that feeling just trickles down to our personal lives.  

There comes a time, however, when regardless of what is going on in the world we live in, and in our own homes, we have to look deep inside and we, ourselves, have to take care of keeping that flame burning.  Doing what we must to keep that light going or we will live in inner darkness.  Sure, the world may seem chaotic some days, especially if you watch any one of the news channels, where grim images are continuously shown, and yes, some of it in truth is just that grim.  But like Mortford points out above, we must resist the temptation to give up, because there are other things, wonderful things, taking place as well in the world today — most of them triggered, ironically, by these dark moments of human and environmental activity.

Thinking this is all there is can be a form of inadvertent expectation, and expectations, right off the bat, set us up to self-induced predetermined outcomes.  I’ve always been big on expectations and have felt its wraths.  At the same time though I’ve always been big on hope.  Fortunately, because we live and learn, I’ve learned to turn my expectations into hope instead, as much and as often as possible, and I have seen how looking at things through a hopeful eye can make a difference.  

At a time when “change” is what most people seem to think we need and want, maybe that change should be to start believing that the darkness of this world cannot extinguish our inner light, as long as we spend most of our time controlling the environment within us, and what time is left on the environment around us.  Let’s realize that this is not all there is…that there is more to this world than meets the eye. 

-by Connie Perez

            Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who 
            have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.  — Dale Carnegie

            Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune,
            fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good;
            that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there
            is always tomorrow.  — Dorothy Thompson

In the News: Controversial Drug

There is much concern with this drug and its possible medical side effects in later years. Aside from that, the Catholic view is one of worry in that the vaccine may give young girls the wrong message: not only is it “okay” to be sexually active, but now it is also safe! Undoubtedly, the ultimate responsibility will rest on us parents. Check out the linked article below.

The Dangers of Gardasil 7/10/08 www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=28539

Travel for the Soul: Exploring the National Parks – Colorado

Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountain National Park, where you can drive on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the U.S.  It is also home to Black Canyon National ParkMesa Verde National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park.  We just returned from our trip to Colorado and totally loved it.  

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Rainbow Curve Overlook                                     Trail Ridge Road
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights         Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the north-central region of the Colorado.  It features beautiful mountain views, lots of wildlife, and different climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra —and easy, moderate and strenuous trails.  The park is split by the Continental Divide, and it contains over 60 peaks higher than 12,000 feet.  The quaint town of Estes Park is at the eastern entrance of the park.

General information:  http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/index.htm;
                                     Estes Park – http://www.estesparkcvb.com/

Accommodations:    Solitude Cabins in Estes Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison:

Painted Wall shows ancient lava flow.                Black Canyon’s wild flowers.                        
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights       Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights  
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Black Canyon National Park is so named because of its steepness which makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate very far down the canyon, and as a result, the canyon walls are most often in shadow, so this causes the rocky walls to appear black.  The Gunnison River is primarily responsible for carving the Canyon into that extreme steepness and depth.  This Park is the least visited of all National Parks, and on any given visit, it can feel and seem like you are the only one there.  You can see a vast variety of wild flowers there, as well as wild life.  The main attraction of the park is the scenic drive along the south rim. 

General info.:   http://www.nps.gov/blca/planyourvisit/index.htm

Mesa Verde National Park:

Cliff Palace                                                        Mesa Verde Plateau
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights      Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                   reserved.

Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 as concern grew over the archaeological well being of its ruins.  The Park features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the ancient Pueblo people known as the Anasazi, who made these stone villages their home in A.D. 1200s. The Park is best known for several spectacular cliff dwellings, these structures built within caves
and under outcroppings in cliffs.  One of these dwellings, Cliff Palace, is thought to be the largest in North America.  

General information:   http://www.nps.gov/meve/
Accommodations:  http://www.visitmesaverde.com/lodging-dining/index.cfm
                                 Inside the Park accommodations:                                 

Great Sand Dunes National Park:

View of the dunes from the Visitor Center      View from atop one of the dunes
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights    Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                 reserved.

Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America.  They rise about 750 feet from the floor of the San Luis Valley, and cover about 19,000 acres.  The dunes, which are believed to be about 12,000 years old, were formed from sand deposits of the Rio Grande flowing through the San Luis Valley.  Over time, west winds picked up sand from the river and as the wind lost power before the range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues today, and the dunes are slowly growing.  The shape of the dunes change dailey because of the winds.

General info.:   http://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/index.htm   

Accommodations:  http://greatsanddunes.areaparks.com/hotels.html