Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bill Nye demonstrates cold balls

"When I felt them, they were perfect. I wouldn't want anyone touching those. I would zip those things up and lock them away until I got on the field and had the opportunity to play with them." — New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, January 22, 2015

YES, TOM, zip those balls up and keep them safe until you're ready to play with them.

This is the perfect, PERFECT post before the big game. From Funny or Die, it's hilarious!!! Enjoy. 

PS: Go Seahawks!


Helen's tagging, sorting and packing party

“In the coming legislative session you will have an opportunity to pass a bill that will be an expression of one of the first principles of government, public safety.  It's called Violent Habitual Offender Bill, SF 23.” — Karl Schilling, president of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, in a letter to the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee

Monday night, January 26, Helen's Pajama Party held a working party at Great Southern Bank in Ankeny to get 870 pairs of pajamas ready for delivery to the 13 regional domestic violence shelters in Iowa.

It was a group effort from inception to completion. Pat VanLent from the Omega Nu chapter of Phi Tau Omega, an adult women's sorority, contacted me to ask if her group could host a pajama party. She and other members had been to one in the past, and thought Helen's mission a worthy one.

I'll be honest, keeping shelters supplied with pajamas is a Sisyphean challenge, and I'd taken a bit of a hiatus, but Pat's call got me moving again.

The next step was finding place to hold the event. Paul and I happened to be in our Great Southern Bank a few days later, and I looked around at the spacious lobby and thought, "Hey, maybe we could have it here." Tammy Zook, who manages the North Delaware branch, liked the idea, and after checking with the home office, it was a go.

In the meantime, Floyd and Kathy Hammer, founders of Outreach — a remarkable non-profit building hospitals and schools and providing fresh water and food to people in Tanzania — had been storing the pajamas for me that have continued to be donated, unbidden, by generous community members, and they loaned us a big ol' truck so we could haul them from their warehouse to the bank.

Through Karl Schillingfriend and president of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, I learned about a bill currently in the legislature to prevent more Iowans from becoming victims, and I met the primary author, Tiffany Allison.

If you don't already know Tiffany, here's a little bit about how and why she has become such tireless advocate on behalf of victims and Senate File 23

In 2009 she was the victim of an especially brutal assault. The front page story in the newspaper described it using words such as felony assault, false imprisonment, beaten with hands, knees, feet and a wrought iron cross, numerous bite marks on her body, beaten to unconsciousness, urinated on.

During his trial, Tiffany discovered that she was was her abuser’s fifth victim!

Yet when convicted of his crimes against Tiffany, her abuser was given only a 2½-year sentence and served just 10 months before being released. Within two years after her abuser’s release, he again violently re-offended. This time he permanently disfigured his victim’s face.

Although sentenced to 15 years for this, his sixth offense offense, he will most likely be released after serving only 1½ to three years.

As a result of her real-life experiences, Tiffany wrote the Violent Habitual Offender Bill (SF 23) to protect herself and the rest of us by making sure that serially violent offenders get longer sentences and serve more of the sentences they're given.

I invited Tiffany and Senator Matt McCoy, Senate sponsor of SF 23,  to speak at the pajama party and I was honored that they did.

I was fortunate to have media support for the event. Erin Kiernan from WHO-13, who's been a loyal advocate of Helen's from the beginning, and KCCI gave us air time to promote our efforts and help us get the word out about this important bill.

Everyone pitched in, and as a result, the whole process from start to finish was fast and efficient. Tammy's husband, Bill, and Evan Wyer, manager of the other Great Southern Bank in Ankeny, were such a help with carrying and setting up. And how fun that most everyone wore their pajamas! It was after all, a pajama party!

But the person who hands down did by far and away the most work was my devoted husband, Paul. He worked for three solid days loading the truck, unloading the truck, schlepping heavy, 8-foot tables from storage to our office and from their to the bank, helping me make fliers, running to the printer, buying supplies, making three trips during the party alone to get things we either ran out of or I forgot. He is the wonderfulest!! He really is.

Our goal was to pack 870 pairs of pajamas. We would have made it except that we ran entirely out of size 1-X, so if you are in a position to buy a few pairs of 1-X's, and get them to me, please do. 

Karl on the end (where are your jim-jams, Karl?) and me in the light blue jammies. 

Tiffany and Senator Matt McCoy.

Great Southern Bank team members.

We packed a lot of jammies.

The Omega Nu chapter of Phi Tau Omega, Tiffany and me.

Friday, January 30, 2015

In memory of Chuck Shea

"Someone please tell the Pope that in the rest of the world we have always believed that our family members, our beloved pets, have always gone to heaven!" — Chuck Shea

MY ADMIRABLE, animal-loving, gun-violence-fighting, all-American Facebook friend, Chuck Shea, died. 

I wrote this on his Facebook page when I learned of his death:

"Chuck, you always knew you were special to me. There are only a handful of Facebook friends whom I'd call periodically just to check on them; you were one of those few. You often talked to me about feeling like your New York friends had forgotten you. We were of like minds on so much, but on this, I'm glad to see you proven wrong as evidenced by the outpouring of sorrow at losing you.

I don't feel like I can do you justice!

What a big kind heart — always holding steady for peace, justice and love. I loved it that you were both so passionate and so compassionate.

You never stopped missing your Lorraine. Oh how you adored her. Rest in her loving arms now; you don't have to miss her anymore."

Below is one of his last posts and a video I'm throwing in for good measure because he would have loved it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

You Raise Me Up

“It there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” — Mark Twain

WE'RE STILL having pizza for dinner, kids.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The latest Dear Kitten

“For the first time ever, overweight people outnumber average people in America. Doesn't that make overweight the average then? Last month you were fat, now you're average; hey, let's get a pizza!” — Jay Leno

HERE'S THE DEAL: when I get behind schedule on Hey Look posts, you get funny videos. Kinda like when Mom is too tired to make dinner and orders pizza.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sidecar dogs

“Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness?” — Jonathan Safran Foer, author 

HERE'S a story and two videos from NBC News I'm sharing with you just for fun. Who doesn't love a dog?

'It's So Cool!': Sidecar Dogs Make Easy Riders
By Jacob Rascon

The first time he put a sidecar on his motorcycle, JD Whittaker was in Egypt, carting around radio equipment for the Air Force during the Cold War. When he got home, he built one for his family.

"Kid grow up and, of course, they want to bring their dog," said Whittaker, one of 18 riders and their dogs featured in "Sit. Stay. Ride: America's Sidecar Dogs," a Kickstarter-funded documentary. "When the kids are gone, all you've got left is the dog."

Even though none of the dog owners met during filming, "we all spoke with one voice," Whittaker told NBC News. "Such a diverse group of people, a diverse group of motorcycles, a diverse group of dogs, and we're all speaking with one voice."

That voice might best be summed up by Philippe Murat, who rides with his wife and two beagles, who says in the film: "There are two reasons to have dogs in your sidecar. One is because you don't want to go anywhere without your dogs. And the second reason is because it's so cool!"

In an email to NBC News, filmmaker Eric Ristau said: "Sidecars are such an antiquated, unusual form of transportation. The image of a dog wearing doggles, sitting in a sidecar and having a blast riding down the road was just so refreshing and joyful."

Ristau and his wife, Geneva — who own a vintage BMW sidecar themselves — own rescue dogs, and most of the dogs in the film are rescues. In fact, the Ristaus dedicated the film "to all rescue dogs, on motorcycles or off," and they're donating all proceeds from theatrical screenings and 25 percent of digital and DVD sales to dog rescue organizations.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Retiring on a cruise ship

"Let the music take your mind. Just release, and you will find you're gonna fly away, glad you're going my way. I love it when we're cruisin' together." — Smokey Robinson

SOMETIME during our cruise, I overheard two women talking about retirees who had found that it was cheaper to live on a cruise ship than in a retirement home. When we got home, a Facebook friend pointed out an article about a woman who is doing just that.

Paul had such a good time on our cruise that his hair grew back in.

Woman Spends Over $140,00 Per Year To Live On A Cruise Ship
The Huffington Post UK 
Jan. 20, 2015
By Rachel Moss

The day before Lee Wachtstetter's husband died from cancer in 1997, he had one piece of key advice for her: "Don't stop cruising."

And she's certainly taken his words on board. (Excuse the pun.)

The 86-year-old from Florida has been living as a permanent resident on a luxury cruise ship for almost seven years.

Wachtstetter, who is known on the ship as Mama Lee, pays $164,000 (approximately £108,000) per year to live on the 1,070 passenger vessel Crystal Serenity.

"My husband introduced me to cruising," she said. "Mason was a banker and real estate appraiser and taught me to love cruising. During our 50-year marriage we did 89 cruises. I've done nearly a hundred more and 15 world cruises."

Wachtstetter sold her five bedroom home on 10 acres of land to raise the funds needed for her cruising. She said it was her late daughter who first gave her the idea to sell the property.

The rest of her family - three sons and seven grandchildren - are supportive of her decision to live aboard the ship.Although she sometimes misses her family, Wachtstetter has got to know the ship's 655 crew members well and stays in touch with those back home over the internet.

She sees her children whenever the ship docks in Miami, roughly five times a year.

"When my children were all young, I took them on cruises many times. Now they have families of their own and do what's right for them," she said.

The globe-trotter said she's lost count of how many countries she visited, but thinks she's probably been to almost every country that has a port.

She loves the glitz and glamour of life on the cruise and enjoys the dancing and decadent dinners the most. She has no intention to bed down on dry land anytime soon. We don't blame her.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Newcastle Brown Ale

"I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four." — Yogi Berra

TODAY, thankfully, was a quiet day at home, although not an unproductive one. In the morning Paul and Myron unloaded a truck full of pajamas at Great Southern Bank in preparation for the Helen's Pajama Party packing party Monday night. Paul and I cleaned and did laundry, but there was time for a nap on the couch in the warm sunshine with Shiva. She's a daddy's girl.

PS: Paul found this great anti-Super Bowl ad for Newcastle Brown Ale. Enjoy.

A walk around Trujillo, Honduras

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

THE LAST stop on our cruise was Trujillo, Honduras, the oldest port town on the Honduran Caribbean coast. The view of the mountains rising straight out of the sea was breathtaking.

We longed to drive into the mountains, but it was a short day on land and a rainy one, so we decided to be content with walking around Trujillo, population 30,000 as of the last census in 2003.

Foraleza de Trujillo was built in 1575 to protect the town and Spain’s then- 

burgeoning colonial interests.

I liked the texture of the wall on the building in the picture above this one.

And the bricolage of the composition of the wall — made of rocks and bricks and whatever else.

A row of cannons and our ship in the background.

Norwegian Cruise Line has only been sailing to this port since October, so the city is not as touristy. 

I was enamored of the construction of this house.

There's a bromeliad growing out of the plaster of the wall above the door.

Trujillo behind us. 
The view from our balcony at sunset.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tiffany's law

"I have made it my mission to fight for tougher legislation in order to affect positive change in the criminal justice system because no other individual should experience what I went through, both as a victim of crime and of the current criminal justice system." — Tiffany Allison, survivor

AS SOME of you know, several years ago I created a charitable non-profit called Helen's Pajama Party. Through it I collect new pajamas and provide them to Iowa's domestic violence shelters. Sad to say, but it takes about 3500 pairs a year; that's how many women enter shelter protective shelter each year at the 13 regional shelters in Iowa — not even counting the children.

This coming Monday night, January 26, we'll be having a packing and sorting party at Great Southern Bank in Ankeny where we'll pack up a three-month supply.

I'm also using this event to highlight and promote an important bill currently in the Iowa Legislature, and Tiffany Allison, the bill's main author, will be speaking briefly.

Rather than retell Tiffany's story — it's so horrific and tragic that I had a difficult time writing about it once — I've attached the press release. All three of our local newscasts channels will be covering it barring breaking news. 

I hope you'll take a moment to read it.

Lots of Hey Look readers are from out of state and out of country, but for those of you who live in Iowa, you can make a difference by writing and calling your state senator and representative to urge passage of this bill.

And as an FYI: if you're a member of a civic or social group, Tiffany and I will come and speak to your organization anytime, anywhere.

January 21, 2015 

Every year in Iowa more than 3,500 victims of domestic violence are forced to run for their lives and seek protection at domestic violence shelters. 

Helen’s Pajama Party packing event with special appearances by Tiffany Allison and Senator Matt McCoy

Monday, January 26 at 6:30; speakers at 7:15 

Great Southern Bank 

210 Northeast Delaware Avenue, Ankeny, IA

Pack 870 pairs of new pajamas (unfortunately, only a three-month supply for Iowa domestic violence shelters) and spotlight a bill in the legislature that would require serial violent offenders to complete more of their sentences

Helen’s Pajama Party
Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance

Omega Nu chapter of Phi Tau Omega

Kelly Sargent

In 2009 Tiffany Allison was a victim of domestic assault. The front page story in the newspaper described it using words such as felony assault, false Imprisonment, beaten with hands, knees, feet and a wrought iron cross, numerous bite marks on her body, beaten to unconsciousness, urinated on. 

Tiffany was her abuser’s fifth victim. Yet when convicted of his crimes against Tiffany, her abuser was given only a 2½-year sentence and served just 10 months before being released. 

Within two years after her abuser’s release, he again violently re-offended.

This time he permanently disfigured his victim’s face. Although sentenced to 15 years for this, his sixth offense offense, he will most likely be released after serving only  to three years. 

As a result, Tiffany has become a victim advocate and a proponent of tougher legislation on violent crimes, working with Senator Matt McCoy and Representive Chip Baltimore to propose a bill (Senate File 23) to help protect Iowans from the most dangerous repeat offenders by making sure they complete more of their sentences.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

You'd better Belize it

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” — Martin Buber, existential philosopher 

AFTER OUR day in Cozumel, we sailed all night to Belize, and in the morning tendered into Belize City.

I've wanted to go to Belize for 25 years, so unsurprisingly, I'd conducted a bit of research before we left home and proposed that we spend our day at the Belize Zoo. Paul was enthusiastic about the prospect. 

Although there were various excursions available though the cruise ship, once again we thought the better plan was to secure our own driver and embark on a private adventure. We were lucky in the driver we chose. A native-born, well-educated BelizeanAlbert was knowledgable about the history, culture, religion, politics and language of Belize, generous in sharing it with us and patient with questions.

I found the below synopsis on a travel site called Adventure Life which follows very closely what Albert told us:


Located in the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize is a small country (9087 square miles) bordered by Mexico to the North and Guatemala to the West.

The first inhabitants in what is now Belize to develop a succinct culture were the Maya. Belize was an important part in the great Mayan Empire. The Maya Empire was possibly the most sophisticated civilization in the ancient Americas. Including modern day southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras, the Mayas reached their peak in the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries AD. However, by the 14th Century this once great civilization mysteriously declined. By the time the Spanish arrived in the 16th Century, Maya presence was barely felt.

Even though the Spanish ruled Belize since their arrival in the new world, they were never able to truly control the area. For them, Belize was a backwater, good only for cutting dye wood. This lack of control eventually allowed for pirates from England and Scotland to come in and find sanctuary during the 17th century. When pirating became a less popular profession, these former buccaneers turned to cutting log wood in the rich tropical forests of Belize.

From the outset of Colonization, Belize's roots were more British than Spanish. Britain gained full control from Spain in 1798, when they defeated the Spanish Armada off St. George's Caye. While the United States was embroiled in Civil War, Great Britain declared Belize to be the colony of British Honduras, against the terms of the Monroe Doctrine.

As in many other countries, Belize's economy faced decline after WWII. This eventually led for the push for independence. Self-government was granted in 1964, which allowed for the formation of democratic parties and parliamentary style of rule. Belmopan was named the new capital since Belize City was practically destroyed by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. In 1981 the country gained full independence and officially became Belize.

Belize's independence and rule has always been threatened by the neighboring country of Guatemala, which has maintained that Belize has always been their rightful property. In 1972 during Belize's political transition from colony to an independent nation, Guatemala threatened war. British troops stationed on the border prevented any incident.

In recent years the US government provided additional stability to Belize. In the 1980's the US invested large amounts of aid into Belize's economy. For this reason it has remain extremely pro-US. Belize is an extraordinarily peaceful country. It's standing army of 550 soldiers is testament to this stability. Due to civil wars in Honduras and El Salvador, Belize has experienced an influx of refugees from these struggles that have significantly increased the population of Spanish speakers in the country. Still, the country remains peaceful, and tolerance prevails with the mix of cultures from Garifuna and British Ex-pats to Mennonites and settlers from Hong Kong.

Culture, language and religion

The official language of Belize is English, but many other languages are also used. Along the coast you're most likely to hear Creole spoken. A colorful variation of English, if you listen carefully, you might notice a familiar word or two. Spanish is the main language in towns that border Guatemala to the west and Mexico to the north, and it's possible to run into several other languages such as Mayan, German, Chinese, Lebanese, and Arabic.

The majority of Belizeans are Roman Catholic, however due to the heavy British influence, Belize has a larger Protestant population than any other country in Central America. The Maya and Garifuna practice their own fascinating mixture of shamanism and Christianity.

The Belize Zoo bills itself as "The Best Little Zoo in the World," and I think it just might be. It's located 29 miles from Belize City, making it about a 45-minute drive. 

The zoo has an interesting and admirable history. From Wikipedia:

In 1983, a film making team, headed by cinematographer Richard Foster came to Belize to create a documentary entitled "Selva Verde." Sharon Matola accompanied the crew as an assistant and animal caretaker.

At the end of filming, funds were exhausted, and there was debate over what to do with the now tame animals. Releasing them into the wild was out of the question and there was no zoo in Belize to take them to. When the film crew left, Sharon remained with the 17 animals (an ocelot, a puma, a jaguar and several exotic birds), and started a makeshift zoo, using the animals' enclosures as exhibits, to generate funding for their care.

It became apparent that Belizeans were largely unfamiliar with the native animals of Belize, and had many misconceptions and superstitions about them. The zoo's focus then shifted to educating residents and visitors alike about the native wildlife of Belize.

After garnering local support and both local and foreign donations, the zoo was relocated to its present 29-acre site in 1991. By 2010 the Belize Zoo was home to more than 170 individuals of 48 species native to Belize. Keeping to its goal of bringing visitors closer to Belize's natural heritage, the zoo only houses native animals. No zoo animal has ever been taken from the wild. Zoo residents were either people’s pets, donated to the zoo, injured and brought in for healing and rehabilitation, born at the Zoo, or sent to the zoo from another zoological facility.

We love, love, loved the zoo! Albert waited for us while we strolled through it, and lucky us: there were only a few other people in the zoo.

Then we got even luckier. We rounded a turn on the path, and from having poured over the zoo website several times before we left, I recognized the woman who came into view as zoo founder Sharon Matola.

I asked her if I could give her a hug for being such a hero. She not only indulged me but invited us to walk with her while she fed the jaguars! Could we have gotten any luckier?!?

When we approached the enclosure, Sharon said, "Now this might sound strange when you hear it, but this is how I call our black jaguar, Lucky Boy," and she started loudly calling out, "I'm sorry, I hoped to be able to show you Lucky Boy, but he isn't here. Nope, no black jaguar to be seen. I'm sorry." Then we heard a rustling and crashing of leaves, some deep "chuff chuffs" and in seconds here was this very, very big black cat who jumped up and put his humongous front paws on the fence to high-five Sharon.

What a treat!!

Founder Sharon Matola, Lucky Boy and lucky me!
Don't let the camera foreshortening fool you. His head was easily as big as mine.

Spotted jaguar. Those spots are effective camouflage.

This eerie-looking creature is a female Harpy eagle. This is the one
species of animal where the female is larger (by a lot) than the male.

Mrs. Harpy in profile. Harpy eagles are the largest eagles in the world.

Mr. Harpy is much smaller than his mate.

All the informational signs are handmade.
Spider monkey.

Folded-up pelican.
Mystery bird.

Mystery bird.

Keel-billed toucan, the National Bird of Belize.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Oscar is definitely a white guy

“We have to start looking at the world through women’s eyes — how are human rights, peace and development defined from the perspective of the lives of women? It’s also important to look at the world from the perspective of the lives of diverse women because there is not a single women’s view, any more than there is a single men’s view.” — Charlotte Bunch, American activist, author and founder of the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University

THIS YEAR'S Academy Award nominees are decidedly white — and male. I'm guessing that the makeup of the academy itself has something to do with it; an LA Times study three years ago revealed that the academy was 94% white with a median age of 62.

Although I'm not done telling you about our trip, this Funny or Die video is so wry and to the point that I have to share it.

Although Selma received a best-picture nomination,
it's director, Ava DuVerna, was not nominated for best director. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

AFTER SAILING Saturday night, Sunday and Sunday night, we awoke docked at CozumelSeveral excursions were available through the ship, but we thought they were pricey, so we grabbed a cab and headed for a destination I'd read about before we left home: Chankanaab National Park about 15 minutes away. 

The name Chankanaab comes from the Mayan language: chan (small) kanaab (sea or ocean) making reference to the natural lagoon inside the park. Decreed a national park in 1980, it's a conservation area for fauna and flora. 

We could have paid to swim with dolphins or snorkel at Chankanaab, but we passed on swimming with dolphins because we didn’t want to bother them and on the snorkeling because it was just a few feet off the shore in groups of 10 or more. 

We've snorkeled a few times before and loved it, but we decided to wait until we have more time, like several days, to either snorkel, snuba (scuba diving while tethered to an oxygen line on a boat as opposed to swimming with tanks) or possibly get certified and dive.

This time around we just wanted to hang out on the beach with our feet in the sand, a blue ocean in front of us and a blue sky above, so we trekked to the farthest end of the beach where there were fewest people and chillaxed. And we took a little dip in the sea. Couldn’t not, right?

Chankanaab also has walking trails through a botanical park with more than 60 replicas of pre-hispanic archaeological sculptures from Mayan, Toltec and Aztec cultures. Of course we walked the trails.

Cabeza colosal, meaning giant head.

We met Mr. Iguana on our walk.

Socratea exorrhiza, the Walking Palm or Cashapona.

After the park, we caught a cab into downtown San Miguel where we happened across a fantastic little restaurant called Comidas Caseras Toñita. It just had a beckoning look about it. 

We hadn't been seated long before a distinguished, mature couple came it and sat at the table next to ours. I asked the señor if he and his wife lived in town: affirmative, and then I asked him if we'd selected wisely in choosing this particular restaurant. He was enthusiastic in his praise. He said he and his wife eat there at least twice a week. 

If you find a restaurant local residents like, you know you've got a winner. The guacamole and chips were the absolute best ever!! Both of us had the snapper Veracruz as an entree. So good and at such a reasonable price. I'm not normally a big fan of Mexican food, but I loved the food here.

The plaque above the door which I think is the address.

Aside from Chankanaab and our little gem of a restaurant, overall we were disappointed with Cozumel. We visited Cancun twenty years ago, and really didn't like the hotel-after-hotel-after-hotel nature of the place (I can't even imagine what it's like now) and knew we never wanted to go back, but Cozumel was supposed to be less crowded and more laid back — or so we'd read. Maybe it is on other parts of the island, but the area near the docks reminded us of Tijuanachockablock with open-door stores and aggressive vendors hawking basically all the same stuff. It's not on our list of places to revisit. I'd take a shipment of Comidas Caseras Toñita's food, though, any day.