Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Hail Caesar!

July 29th, 2016

In the 1950s movie stars didn’t know it, but one man had their back and maintained their star image beyond the silver screen. Hail Caesar! Is an offbeat rental movie about movie making at the end of the golden era and the man behind the stars. I have no doubt it would grow in my affection with repeated viewings.

Hail Ceasar! Takes place during a time when studios manipulated its contract players and worked the media to prevent the “unfortunate” aspects from being revealed to an audience that just wanted escapism fantasy. Josh Brolin is the tightly-wound studio “head of physical production”, an enforcer who’s being seduced by a potential job with Lockheed to oversee work on the atom bomb. Before he can come to a decision about whether or not take it, he has to deal with the sudden disappearance of the slightly disconnected-from-reality George Clooney (who looks like he’s having a blast in this, especially in the final scene of his big budget sword-and-sandal Jesus epic). Along the way, viewers get to enjoy other period movie styles, including Esther Williams, Carmen Miranda, Gene Kelly, and a host of other stars from the era.

That salute to old style movie magic is what makes the film so much fun. It’s not about the story, it’s about how the Coens are celebrating the films we have perhaps idealized a bit too much: Esther Williams’ underwater ballets and Gene Kelly in NYC for 24 hours and Gary Cooper trying to play it in a toney, high-class period drama. There are so many references to the great films of the day that if you blink, you’ll miss a few. They come fast and furious and sometimes with little more than a sly wink. That’s why you’ll want to watch Caesar a few times.

Channing Tatum is a revelation as a song and dance man in a Gene Kelly tribute. His song and dance number was a highlight of the film and I could watch this stuff all day: I would personally LOVE IT if someone would make a complete retro-feature film in this ilk.

Also capturing my attention was a young Ehrenreich as the upcoming Western star without a clue. Many of his scenes, especially those with classical director Laurence Laurentz (a brilliant Ralph Fiennes) are incredibly hilarious!

There are lots of opinions on this movie. Hail Caesar! Doesn’t have a strong plot line, but it’s a very pleasant, clever film.  I personally found it a light-hearted and nostalgic trip into a golden age of studio-management.

If you are an old time movie buff like me, you will love this film to bits.  If you’re not a movie buff, well, you aren’t the target audience and probably won’t enjoy it all that much.


Hymns With a Message: Precious Memories

July 27th, 2016

Completely lacking in formal music training, J.B.F. Wright wrote solely from inspiration. Born in Tennesse in 1877. Times were very, very hard in those days for poor dirt farmers, and when Johnny was age two, his family moved to Limestone County Texas, to a little Community named “Box Church” where he attend the local school and grew up singing in the little local church.

When Johnny grew up he and his wife moved here and there, the word came in 1909 that mother had died, his Precious Mother. Five years later his father died as well. Johnny’s childhood had been full of singing as he grew up in his large family of twelve.

His mother was well known as a singer and his earliest memories were of singing together by her and his father of the songs of their youth. Though they didn’t always have enough food to eat, they always had songs to sing  Somehow in the blessed sound of music, the poverty didn’t seem quite as bad. Now Johnny’s Mother and daddy were gone. He would never hear, or sing with them again.

Years after he buried his Mother, a baby boy was born to Johnny in his later years – becoming truly the ‘Apple of his eye!’ Little Evertt brought joy into their home. Ever so sadly, at age five, Evertt passed away from diphtheria.

In his sorrow, Johnny turned his thoughts back to his childhood and that of his dead son, and more and more toward his own mortality. Johnny spent his long, hard, waning years lost in his memories. Precious Memories they were. They were almost all he had.

Johnny’s sad song has brought love to the heart and a tear to the eye of all who listened carefully. Many contemporary artists have recorded this gospel classic, including Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton and Elvis.

Precious Memories is a song I have heard frequently as far back as I can remember anything. I grew up in a rural church with those old gospel songs, so rich in their history. I feel the chorus reminds us of how precious memories can and should be to each of us. https://youtu.be/YnQIImqAvLM





Sunday in Michigan

July 24th, 2016

Sundays have always been cherished days in my family. It’s the day we sit down to a large dinner after church and either take a nice drive into the country or take naps, rent movies and play games before another week begins. It’s a precious time, a day to look forward to and enjoy whether with your family or on your own.

When you spend your Sunday doing what you want, you set a tone for the upcoming week. You began it on your terms…you can conquer the week on your terms. I’m fortunate to be spending this Sunday with my family in Michigan just talking and enjoying each other’s company. It’s been a great visit and as I prepare to begin my next assignment I’m comforted in knowing I have such a wonderful family supporting me wherever I go.

How you spend your Sunday is up to you. Sometimes, commitments and scheduled events take your time, by chance or by choice. But, if you find that you have time on your hands, consider making Sunday your family day and create memories of a Sunday well spent.

Friday Funnies

July 22nd, 2016

A strong high pressure system off the coast of Florida right now is called a ‘Bermuda High’. It’s a weather feature that forms in late summer brining extreme heat and humid air to Michigan. It’s working, whew!

I went to the backyard to cool off in the pool with my nephew and he exclaimed, “Aunt Tamara, you have cheese stilts!” After figured out what he meant I replied, “No, I’m not walking on string-cheese stilts. These are just my first bare legs of the season!” I really need to get some sun.

But let’s talk about the weather. It was wet and cool, now it’s sizzling hot. Besides if it didn’t change once in a while, nine tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation.

We use a really strong sunblock when we go to the beach with the kids. It’s SPF 80: You squeeze the tube, and a sweater comes out.

You might want to pack that sunscreen when you hit Florida beaches, but plan to leave fish cleaning to the fish mongers. While in the men’s room at a beach park in Florida, Dad noticed they had a plastic baby-changing table installed on the wall. Apparently, some sportsmen had co-opted this politically correct amenity for their own use. Above the table was a sign saying: “It is unlawful to clean fish on this table.”

It’s been raining so much in Ironwood that the Chia Pet I threw out when I left is now blocking my entire driveway.

Speaking of rain, Why does moisture destroy leather? When it’s raining, cows don’t go up to the farmhouse yelling, “Let us in! We’re all wearing leather! We’re going to ruin the whole outfit here!”

Whatever your weather, be safe and stay hydrated my friends.


Hymns With a Message: Shall We Gather at the River?

July 20th, 2016

Robert Lowry’s songs have appealed to singers far beyond the church house walls. A few of his compositions include “Where My Wandering Boy Tonight,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “Nothing But the Blood.” Lowry’s inspiration to write “Shall We Gather at the River?” occurred in the hot summer of 1864 while he was a Baptist minister in Brooklyn, New York. When an epidemic claimed countless lives. Lowry assured many of the living that they would meet their loved ones “at the river of life that flowed by the throne of God.” He composed this song while seated at the organ one afternoon.

Please enjoy this soothing version of the sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

Great Western Road Trip

July 17th, 2016

There’s no better way to see America’s amazing vistas, charming small towns, wide-open skies and bond with your parents than a Great Western Road trip in the RV to see the Western classics.

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Large Granite outcrop named because an ideal schedule would see the Oregon Trail travelers reaching this point around Independence Day. Thousands of the pioneers inscribed or painted their names on the smooth surface of the rock, mostly during the period 1830 to 1900 for their relatives to know they made it that far.

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Last Saturday I packed my bags and met my parents in Casper, Wyoming and we drove straight to take a nice soak in the healing waters of Thermopolis Hot Springs. Hot Springs State Park boast the world’s largest single mineral springs which flow at a constant 104 degrees F. They were part of a treaty signed with the Shoshone Indians in 1896 that it would remain free to the public.

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Thermopolis Hot Springs State Park

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Sunday morning we started our adventure at the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody, Wyoming. Some have asked me why I have such a yearning for history. Honestly, I was raised on it. My parents raised us to appreciate the rich and vast history of this nation.

Today I believe strongly we must never permit ourselves to lose sight of the great and singular achievements of those who came before us and settled this nation. We owe much to the pioneers that suffered much. And we must never forget that the success we enjoy today is built upon the shoulders and courage of the humble giants of the past, including the one and only Buffalo Bill Cody. His life was a living example of one how worked hard. His dreams gave way to a great harvest and compelling motivation for many to follow his footsteps into the American West. (Learn more at: https://centerofthewest.org/)

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Monday we drove over the Bighorn Mountains stopping at the small village of Ten Sleep nestled in the foothills. It’s so named because it takes ten sleeps (nights) to get between the Sioux Camps and Platte River. I couldn’t help but be amused by the little boy rolling himself and sister up the sidewalk on his skateboard. Guess they don’t have internet. I loved the expression on his face.

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Afterwards we drove down the road to see the fish hatchery. Tucked carefully in beautiful Ten Sleep Canyon and built in 1939, the Ten Sleep Fish Hatchery is one of Wyoming’s smallest facilities but still produces over two million fish annually. Part of the reason for its scenic location is the water. Three natural springs feed the hatchery over 3 million gallons of water daily and the combined 54-degree temperature is optimal for raising trout.

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Along the way I couldn’t help but notice every small Wyoming town has had a Crazy Woman shop. Buffalo, Wyoming has Crazy Woman Square with beautifully painted murals and sheep sculptures also. Legend is the Morgan family was traveling west by covered wagon & attacked by Indians. They tomahawked and scalped the husband and three children. Mrs. Morgan was not killed but was driven out of her mind from witnessing the terrible fate of her family. However, she had seized an ax and killed four of the attacking Indians who then left her alone. Supposedly, a mountain man named Johnson chanced upon the scene shortly thereafter, buried the dead family members, but could not persuade the woman to leave the gravesides. As a warning to the Indians not to bother her, he decapitated the warriors and placed heads upon stakes near graves. Johnson then built the woman a small cabin and stopped by occasionally to bring her supplies. Because of her presence on the stream it came to be known as Crazy Woman Creek. Johnson eventually found her frozen body, apparently dead from starvation. Now visitors can buy shirts, mugs and look at murals dedicated to her memory. God bless this crazy country!

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Wearing my Crazy Woman tee shirt in Crazy Woman Square, Buffalo, Wyoming

Wearing my Crazy Woman tee shirt in Crazy Woman Square, Buffalo, Wyoming

A beautiful historical building in the center of downtown Buffalo is the Occidental Hotel. With its original back bar, tin ceilings and furnishings, the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming, is not a re-creation of a historic hotel, but a refinement of the historic structure that has been frequented by guests such as Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane and Butch Cassidy. Started in a tent, the hotel later moved into its first permanent building —a log barn-like edifice that was renovated into the present hotel. It was on the edge of demolition when John and Dawn Wexo bought it in 1997 and began the restoration that brought it back to its early days of grandeur. They not only salvaged the structure but also most of its original furniture. It’s quite magnificent. You can read more at: http://www.occidentalwyoming.com

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Before pulling out of Buffalo Wednesday morning we went for a local history lesson at the Jim Gatchell Museum in downtown Buffalo. The Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum has been a part of the Buffalo community since 1900 when Jim Gatchell opened a drugstore. The Buffalo Pharmacy was a stopping place for cowboys, lawmen, settlers, cattle barons, and famous army scouts. http://www.jimgatchell.com/ Then it was time to head north to Sheridan.

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In 1931, the small town of Sheridan, Wyoming, was so quiet you could “shoot a shotgun down Main Street and have no fear of injuring anyone.” A group of local citizens wanted to do something about the situation and decided to put on a rodeo. We were in luck, the rodeo (and its cowboys) were taking over Sheridan today. Yippee!! Cowboy take me away … and when you tire of looking at the cowboys you can read about the rodeo here: http://www.sheridanwyorodeo.com/history/

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Another Sheridan tradition not to be missed is the First People’s Pow Wow that’s an important part of rodeo week. Held on the grounds of the historic Sheridan Inn, the First People’s Pow Wow happened to be starting just as we finished lunch. We were happy to watch dancers and participants from many Indian nations dance in this one-of-a-kind event. Pow Wows are truly unique in their pageantry and participation across the country. During the Sacred Circle Dance they invited all of us to join to symbolize their desire to work together as one nation. It was a very moving experience to be a part of. http://www.sheridanwyorodeo.com/portfolio-items/first-peoples-pow-wow-dance/

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Thursday we started east visiting historic Deadwood, South Dakota (https://www.deadwood.com/) where we wandered the very same streets as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and other notable Deadwood legends. After dinner we even witnessed a shootout re-enactment (http://www.deadwoodalive.com/main-street-shootouts) on Main Street.

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Notice the working girls in the windows. This was Deadwoods house of working girls.

Notice the working girls in the windows. This was Deadwoods house of working girls.

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Continuing eastward Friday morning we stopped at one of the West’s most well-known tourist stops, it’s hard to believe Wall Drug Store got its start with something we wouldn’t even turn our heads at today … the promise of free ice water. But in fact, the Husteads turned free ice water into a million-dollar idea with a little determination and quick thinking. Read Ted Hustead’s story about the genius behind what made Wall Drug Store into the road side attraction our family loves, have stopped every time we’re in the area, and is celebrated around the world. http://www.walldrug.com/history/since-1931 I got to ride a jackalope!

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We didn’t have to advance too far to reach South Dakota’s Badlands. We’ve been many times before, however the rugged beauty that draws visitors from around the world never ceases to amaze us. These thousands of acres of striking sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. It’s what I imagine being on another planet would look like. https://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm

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Finally, we had time for just one more journey into western early pioneer life at the Prairie Homestead. I was able to step back in time as a member of the Brown family and wander around an original sod home and the outbuildings. It’s one of the last remaining original sod homes intact today. These pioneers played a very important part in settling the Great Plains.  In 1890 the Homestead Act allowed anyone over 21 to homestead 160 acres for $18 and the agreement to build a house, work the land and remain on it for 5 years.

The Brown homestead site was occupied between 1909 until 1949. The beams are the original cottonwood beams though some of the sod has been replaced. The endless supply of aid kept their home warm in winter and cool in summer while safe from weather on the prairie. This was so much fun!! http://www.prairiehomestead.com/

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I’m sure I’ll feel nostalgic about this time spent with them once my ears stop ringing. Enjoy every minute you have with your family, wherever that may lead you.






Friday Funnies

July 8th, 2016

Time for me to drive off into the sunset, which means it’s time for jokes about driving:

A Floridian truck driver was looking for a long distance driving job across the country. He got offered a job driving a load of bowling balls to Casper, Wyoming. He wasn’t too keen on this, but he wanted the money and so took the load. A while along the highway he sees two Jehovah Witnesses on bikes in the middle of nowhere. So he stopped his rig and asks if they would like a lift. They say OK. The truck driver says, “All right, hop in, but you’ll have to ride in the back.”

A 100 miles down the road he stopped at a truck stop, which involved a load inspection by the local agricultural authorities. The driver was asked where he is off to and he replied “Casper.” The cops went round the back, opened the doors, slammed them shut quickly and rushed around desperately to the driver saying, “For crying out loud get to Casper quickly! And don’t stop! Two of your eggs have already hatched, and one of them has already stolen a bike.”

 An Elko patrol officer pulled over Enid for speeding.  Enid was a 65-year-old lady from out of state. The officer asked to see her license. ‘Don’t have one’ Enid said. ‘Can I please see the Vehicle registration’ the officer asked firmly but politely. ‘Nope’ snapped Enid. In that case I will have to take you into the Police station and charge you.  When they arrived the arresting officer said, to the duty sergeant.  This lady has no license and no vehicle registration. ‘Sure I do’ said Enid sweetly.  ‘This officer has got in for me, the next thing is he will be saying that I was going 27 MPH in a 25 MPH zone.’

A Basque man went to the DOT to apply for a driver’s license. First, of course, he had to take an eye sight test. The clerk showed him a card with the letters.  On the bottom row were these letters: Y-N-C-H-A-U-S-T-Y. ‘Can you read this?’ the clerk asked. ‘Read it?’ the Basque guy replied – ‘I know the fellow.’

All this talk of driving and preparation for my drive to Casper reminded me of an amusing incident. While driving down a highway in the U.P. I approached a van which had on the back “Caution, this van is being driven by a blind man”.  As I passed this vehicle the name on the side indicated that it was a delivery van for installing window treatments including Venetian Blinds. That amused me.

There will be no posts next week while I join my family on a camping trip. Keep calm and carry on.




Hymns With a Message: His Eyes Are on the Sparrow

July 6th, 2016

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Matthew 10:29

As I prepare to take flight like that of a sparrow, my mind uncovered a favorite song to sooth me: His Eye Is on the Sparrow. Long ago, there was a woodworker in Nazareth who also considered the birds among His diversions. I make that assumptions, because Jesus frequently referred to birds in his sermons, including the verse above.

It was this theme that caused Civilla Durfee Martin to write this classic hymn on God’s care. Martin was born in Nova Scotia in August 1869. She became a school and music teacher but when she married dr. Martin, an evangelist, she gave up teaching to travel and assist him.

Then in 1905, while in New York, the couple formed a deep friendship with Mr. & Mrs. Doolittle. Mr. Doolittle was an incurable cripple. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nearly 20 years. Despite their afflictions they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day Mrs. Martin asked Mrs. Doolittle where they drew their cheerfulness form. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the heart and imagination of Mrs. Martin. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was the outcome of that experience. The day after writing the song, she mailed it to the famous Gospel composer, Charles Gabriel, who penned the music.

How grateful we are for the simple conversation between friends so many years ago. Listen: https://youtu.be/pCfFi8SDz6I

The BFG: Movie Review

July 2nd, 2016

Sometimes the talent that comes together for a certain movie is simply incredible. Take for example the works of the late great author Roald Dahl whose imagination has made the world a little bit better with such works as “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”, “Matilda” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and the amazing talents of Steven Spielberg. Combining the imagination of Dahl with the signature creativity of Spielberg and you have a lovable summer masterpiece.

The BFG is a visual effects-filled film about a courageous little girl and the big friendly and somewhat shy giant you can’t help but love and wish was a member of your family.

This little British actress, Ruby Barnhill, is quite a treat. She really plays her age really well, meaning she’s so curious and full of questions, that’s what kids her age do. Little girls can be idealistic and optimistic, and Barnhill has all of that and a bag of chips. Rylance is perfect in his role as the BFG, because there’s that sense of child-like wonder also on Rylance’s expressions that are of course magnified by the wonders of Spielberg’s animation. Rylance’s gentleness and charm shine through naturally.

It’s easy to see why Steven Spielberg and Disney really wanted to bring this story to the big screen. Not only has the technology caught up to it, but also because it has those feel-good inspiring themes we need. It’s a story of hope and about two lonely misunderstood characters that become friends; it’s about tackling giant problems by using solutions that may seem giant to some; and it’s about being brave even when the world doesn’t give you a reason to be.

From time to time, Spielberg loves going back to wildly imaginative stories like The BFG that’s just all around wonderful. It’s not thrilling or romantic. The BFG is whimsical, feel good cinema magic that reminds us all when it comes to being brave, size doesn’t matter.

The BFG is a delightful and imaginative fairy tale which is a worthy successor to Spielberg’s equally touching, emotionally engaging and visually beautiful Hugo. It’s a unique spellbinding experience that will keep you intrigued until the end.


Friday Funnies

July 1st, 2016

Light the funny fuse on your Independence Day weekend celebration with these hilarious Fourth of July jokes:

Q: Why does the Statue of Liberty stand in New York Harbor? A: Because she can’t sit down.

Q: What do you call an American drawing? John: What? A: Yankee doodle!

Teacher: What did George Washington say to his men before they crossed the Delaware? Johnny: “Get in the boat, men!”

Tom Swiftie: “Don’t light those fireworks!” Tom exploded.

A book never written: “The Star- Spangled Banner” by Jose Kanusee. (Oh say can you see)

Another book never written: “American Victories” by Norman D. Beech. (Normandy beach)

And the last book never written: “Coming to America” by Anita Greencard. (I need a greencard)


Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.