Magical Hot Air Balloons Send Us Soaring and Set us Down Easy

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Hot Air Balloons

The last time I rode in a hot air balloon, I was in my twenties. I remember being surprised at how hot it was up there. Our pilot kept a constant watch on the fire and gas levels which filled the hollow balloon with hot air. The exhilarating feeling of gliding over the pasture land below was well worth the fee we paid for the thrill.

I’ve had a fascination with these colorful “envelopes” ever since. Every year in Missouri and many other states balloonists gather with their gondolas and designer aircraft to share their enthusiasm with other fans of the sport. When they all take off, it’s a breathtaking spectacle that is remarkable and unforgettable.

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Recently there was a horrible disaster in Texas. A balloon carrying 16 people on an overcast day failed to see the overhead power lines they were heading for. The balloon caught fire and exploded killing all 16. Because of the wind and weather, hot air balloons can be unpredictable.

According to Wikipedia, the hot air balloon is the “oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. Are they safe? Today’s balloons have an envelope that is not sealed at the bottom, the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the inlet of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material.

“Beginning in the mid-1970s, balloon envelopes have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as rocket ships and the shapes of various commercial products, though the traditional shape remains popular for most non-commercial, and many commercial, applications.

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Shortly after 9/11 I attended a hot air balloon show at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. All planes were still grounded, including these magnificent aircraft. We walked from one gondola to another greeting the owners and admiring their colorful envelopes that were inflated and ready to fly. Sadly not one balloon was able to launch that day.

In the interim, we were fortunate enough to witness a marriage ceremony of two balloonists. They had met during a balloon conclave, fell in love, and wanted to share their wedding day with the friends who enjoyed the sport as much as they did.

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When your Kids take the Wheel – the Nail Biting Begins

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1936 Ford Coupe

Remember when you learned how to drive? Was it via a Driver’s Education Class or through the help of a husband, father or mother? A Sibling?

My Dad drove miles every day to work to provide for our family. He was extremely proud of his Chevrolet; the only brand he would buy. He wouldn’t allow his three daughters to drive, let alone take driving lessons. He flatly refused by calling his car his “only means of livelihood.”

My boyfriend, who later became my husband, taught me how to drive in his 1936 black Ford coupe. I had never driven a stick shift before and kept getting the clutch and the gas pedal mixed up. We drove on small country dirt roads, but when we came to the first intersection, I faced a strip of black asphalt piled at least four feet high down the middle of the cross road.

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My friend shouted for me to break, but I hit the gas pedal instead, and we sailed right over the top of that obstacle at 35 miles per hour. I hit my head on the roof light and cracked its plastic plate. We flew through the air and landed safely on the opposite side of the pile. Amazingly, we continued our driving lesson on the other side. I learned the importance of focus and concentration. Soon I was able to keep the three pedals straight and figured out how to use them.

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My oldest daughter took Driver’s Ed, and drove with her dad or me until she finally got her license. I was a parent chaperone on a high school field trip when she drove the car. There were four other girls with us. Pam had difficulty concentrating with the noise and chatter in the car. There were a few close calls as we manipulated the city streets.

images (15)When we got close to our destination, she pulled into the wrong side street. Everyone was yelling at her to turn around and go back. She was flustered, distracted, and confused. I was shouting my own instructions to watch out for that man crossing the street at an angle toward her, but she didn’t hear me.

She pulled over to the curb just as he was reaching almost the same point. He literally arched his back over the hood of the car as his feet jumped up on the curb.

To this day I can still see him back bending over the front of the car with a shocked look on his face; his feet way ahead of him. That he remained upright is a miracle in and of itself; that she didn’t hit him was another. He looked just like a character from a Wily Coyote – Road Runner cartoon.

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Pam was completely oblivious to what was happening. According to Driver’s Ed statistics. 50% of teens are in an accident the first year they start driving. How parents ever survive teaching their children how to navigate a car especially in traffic is a wonder. Waiting patiently for them to return safely from an errand or an evening out is nerve wracking, to say the least. And how to describe the feeling when the whir of the engine finally pulls into the driveway? sweet relief!

There were no cell phones back then. Parents dreaded their home phone to ring when their older children were out somewhere. It could mean anything from running out of gas, sliding on the ice into a tree, or locking themselves out of the car. Heaven forbid if it was anything more serious. I remember well the familiar cringe when the phone rang.

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When they were all home, the phone was constantly ringing. Because we had a large family, limits had to be placed on how long anyone could stay on the phone. The girls would run for the phone at the first ring convinced the call was for them.

I worked at home as a free-lance writer and consultant in addition to holding leadership roles in my community and church and needed to use the phone often, as did their father who had many responsibilities as a Boy Scout Leader and volunteer at our church. Believe me, we kept the wires hot. How we endured one phone is mind boggling.

In my adult life, I’ve always had a telephone phobia. I resent the interruptions when the telephone rings during dinner or at the climax of my favorite T.V. show. I don’t like to talk to people without seeing them (and their reactions). I dislike calling for assistance and getting an artificial computer voice that requires me to push buttons until they finally push me out the other end. It never occurred to me why I have this phobia. Now, looking back, I say is it any wonder?download

Why do we forget? The Number One Cause is Stress!

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Like the latest Geico commercial, I can hear you saying “Everybody knows that!” When people are anxious and have too many things going on simultaneously, of course, they forget. End of story.

If only it were that simple! But in many instances, your forgetfulness and theirs may cause harm, or at the very least cost you money. Let me explain.

1. How many times have you asked for a “take home” container (we used to call them ‘doggie bags’) so you may enjoy the rest of your meal later. Then you either leave it on the table in your haste, or it ends up on the floor of your car where it overheats while you finish your errands and is uneatable or is forgotten altogether until the odor reminds you that it’s still in the car.

2. Have you ever left something in the car after a trip to the grocery store? Twice I’ve put my eggs and a few other perishables in the back seat of my car on the floor to protect them from accidental breakage. Twice I’ve forgotten this fragile baggage after unloading my trunk and thinking I’m done. Unfortunately I don’t remember until I need an egg, or some yogurt or ham, etc. By the time I remember, the heat in my garage has ruined any chances of redeeming my items. The pain in my pocketbook should prevent me from doing it again, but who knows?

Whether my negligence was caused by added stress or plain old stupidity makes no difference. The results are the same.

We once had a parakeet named Pete. My daughter kept her bedroom door shut and allowed Petie to fly around the room. He enjoyed his freedom, but we worried that her brothers would barge in and set him free. Luckily that didn’t happen. But one thing we hadn’t bargained for was the danger that resided within his cage.

If you’ve ever owned a bird, you must know how important a cuttle bone is to help sharpen their beak which grows much like our fingernails. One day my daughter woke up with a shriek. Petie was lying still on the bottom of his cage. There was no blood that we could see, but the sweet feathered bird was not breathing.

Later a vet discovered that Petie had tried to wedge between his cage and the cuttle bone. Its sharp edge had sliced into Petie’s feathers and severed a lung. He had died instantly. Add this to your list of freakish accidents from my last blog. Who would have thought that a necessary cuttle bone could cause the death of a beloved pet?

Was Petie stressed out in his new home? Had he tried to nestle in a safe place? We will never know for sure. I can tell you my daughter was upset. When asked if she would like to replace him with a new parakeet her answer was “No.” The look on her face said it all. We ended up with an empty bird cage and some bad memories.