Columns

Montana, Milestones and Wascally Wabbits

When several Facebook friends posted about their fabulous experiences at Quinn’s Hot Springs in Montana, I knew I’d found the destination for our anniversary getaway. Especially since a hot springs visit meant I could actually wear the swimsuit I’d purchased last year to wear on Hawaiian beaches. The suit that arrived shortly after our plane took off for Oahu.

I booked the “Cabin Fever” special for two nights, and on March 21, our 31st anniversary, we hit the road. Less than three hours later we were greeted by a friendly front desk clerk.

Our room keys were attached to tiny flashlights.

“Press once to turn on the flashlight,” the clerk explained. “Press twice to scare away any bears. Press three times to attract a bear. Nobody’s survived pressing it four times.”

You have to love a Montana welcome – and Montana scenery. The resort, located on the Clark Fork River in the Lolo National Forest, is tucked in a hollow and surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

We briefly explored the grounds, checked out the hot springs temps (106 degrees in the warmest pool!) and headed to the historic Harwood House for dinner.

Built in 1948, the log restaurant features the original fireplace and offers a menu comparable to any big city fine dining establishment.

After we let our prime rib dinner settle, we donned our suits and robes and headed out for a late-night soak.

It took a certain amount of bravery to take off my robe when the outside temperature hovered at 50 degrees and a light misty rain was falling, but by golly, I had my Miracle Suit on, so off went the robe and in went Cindy.

The glorious heat of 100-degree mineral waters quickly quelled my shivers. Though there are six pools for soaking and swimming, we braved only the three warmest pools that first night. The faint smell of sulfur proved a small price to pay for the delicious luxury of sinking chilled shoulders into warm water that left our skin feeling silky soft.

The steam from the pools wafted upward into the moonlit sky, adding an otherworldly air to our scenic vista.

In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, we hiked along the banks of the Clark Fork. So far we hadn’t seen any wildlife other than the elk head in the dining room and the moose head in the lodge.

A flicker of movement caught Derek’s eye.

“Look!” he said. “It’s Peter Cottontail!”

Indeed, just a few yards away, a rabbit sat munching on something he’d found in the tall grass.

“Oh, he’s so cute!” I exclaimed. “I want to pet him! Can we keep him?”

“If you can catch him, you can keep him,” Derek said.

Now, regular readers know my husband has issued an edict that we are a two-cat household. No matter how many sons move out, I’ve been forbidden to continue replacing them with kittens. It’s the price I pay to stay married to a pretty great guy, but with son No. 3 exiting the nest at the end of the month, my nurturing instincts are in overdrive.

So, imagine my joy – my exultation, when I was this close to getting a pet bunny. THIS CLOSE!

Unfortunately, my rabbit-stalking skills leave much to be desired.

I figured a direct approach was out, so I carefully inched sideways across the grass, avoiding eye contact at all costs.

“Um. What are you doing?” Derek asked.

“Shh! I’m catching a rabbit,” I hissed.

But his question distracted me, causing me to look up and meet the wary black eyes of my prey. In a flash, he bounded off.

“You did that on purpose!” I said.

Shoulders shaking with laughter, Derek said, “I have never, ever seen anyone hunt a rabbit like that!”

My annoyance dissipated a short while later, as I sipped a fizzy, fruity drink while lounging in the pool. It wasn’t a mai tai, but when the sun came out, I closed my eyes and soaked in the rays and the mineral water and didn’t miss Hawaii a bit.

Then Derek decided to visit the polar plunge pool.

Lots of bad ideas begin with the words, “Hold my beer,” but I didn’t try to dissuade him. Gamely, he swung his legs over the edge and into the 55-degree water of the cold pool, lowering his body into the chill.

Boy! I haven’t seen my husband move that quickly in a long time. He was back in the soaking pool before I had time to sample his beverage.

“I think my heart just stopped!” he said.

Later, on our way to dinner, we decided to visit the casino inside Quinn’s Tavern. Apparently, in Montana a few gaming machines make a casino.

We’re not much for gambling, but Derek recently took a trip to Laughlin, Nevada, with a buddy and wanted to show me his newfound knowledge.

I picked a slot machine and slid in $2, while he explained about lines and bets and a lot of other stuff I didn’t pay attention to. When our $2 had more than doubled, I was ready to take our $8 winnings and head to the restaurant.

“No,” he said. “We gotta keep playing. This machine is hot!”

I let him take over pushing the buttons and watched the $8 dwindle down to $1, and then the tide began to turn. In ten minutes, with our winnings at $101.52, we decided to take the money and run.

The next morning, flush with victory and hot springs water, we returned to Spokane.

Our sons were eager to hear about our adventures and wanted to know what we meant by “sulfur smell.”

“It smells like the fart bombs Santa used to put in your Christmas stockings,” Derek explained. “Next time you guys should come with us!”

They smiled and quickly left the room.

It’s a pity, because I feel like with their help, next time I could actually catch a bunny.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

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Columns

Family, friends, foes and Facebook: Election 2016

There’s a reason I keep my Facebook page politics-free, and it has little to do with being a journalist.

I don’t like conflict. I don’t like name-calling, and I really, really don’t like intolerance and ignorance.

Sadly, there’s nothing like a contentious election season to bring out all of the above. But I purposely keep my political views to myself. In fact, for someone who’s written a column about her underwear, I’m actually an intensely private person. Imagine my surprise when I found myself unfriended by a family member following the election.

My apparent offense? I “liked” a comment another family member had left that repudiated a label often used during passionate political posts. The label? “Privileged white male.” The PWM in question explained why he was tired of his opinions being dismissed with this label and I liked his explanation.

Bam. Apparently, hitting the like button on that comment exceeded her tolerance level. Keep in mind I’d never disagreed or argued with anything this person had posted.

I’m not alone in my experience. A friend was banished from Facebook friendship by a family member because he admitted he’d left the presidential spot blank on his ballot. He couldn’t stomach either option, so he did what he felt was honorable.

He was accused of being a sexist, racist jerk and told that he should … well, I can’t print the rest of the rant in a family newspaper.

When imagined incorrect interpretations are applied to Facebook likes, when rage and rhetoric rule the day, how then can our country and our community move forward? Is it possible to stand and fight for causes and people we’re passionate about without dipping buckets into wells of hatred and splattering others with venom and vitriol?

I’d like to think it is. Perhaps part of the solution is getting to know the “other” among us.

In the weeks preceding the election I had coffee with a friend who said she honestly didn’t know anyone who would vote for Donald Trump. She was joyfully planning a small voting victory party for election night.

That same week I had lunch with a friend who said she didn’t know anyone who would actually vote for Hillary Clinton. “Of course, that doesn’t mean she won’t win,” my friend said. “It’s just that I can’t imagine anyone I know choosing her.”

My reticence renders me like Switzerland, so both of these friends felt comfortable tossing around labels about people who would vote for the candidates they opposed.

“Underclass, undereducated, sexist bigots,” my liberal friend opined.

“Sensitive snowflakes, elitists and whiny millennials,” my conservative friend asserted.

And therein lays the problem. The minute we apply a blanket label to anyone who may vote differently from us, we’ve ensured our bubble is intact. We have become so comfortable in our social and political isolation that we have lost touch with the wider world.

This past week I’ve seen an outpouring of grieving and gloating on social media, and while the hateful rhetoric of some shocked and saddened me, I was relieved that my closest circle of friends had more measured thoughtful reactions.

Whether frightened or hopeful about the next few years, I hope the path forward will include listening and learning from those who differ from us. Hatred can never be part of the solution.

Violence won’t beget tolerance or peace. Rage doesn’t lead to enlightenment.

Our children are watching. They’re listening to our words. They’re reading our posts on social media. If we truly want to create a safe world for them to thrive in, we owe it to them to forge ahead with courage and to take every opportunity to choose love.

The words of Martin Luther King Jr. have never been more apt, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

War Bonds

Happy Bookiversary

In the rush of Monday deadlines I didn’t even notice that yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the release of War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation.

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The Facebook Memories app reminded me and as I pored over pictures of that special day, I was overwhelmed.

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A mixture of joy and sadness flooded my soul. Joy at the fabulous launch at Auntie’s Bookstore. Joy at the fact that the first print run sold out in a month. Joy at the relief of finally seeing my book baby in the hands of readers.

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And sadness that so many of the people featured in War Bonds have passed away in the year since publication.

But mostly what I’m feeling is profound gratitude. Thank you so much to all of you who were part of that amazing book launch on February 22, 2015. Thank you to readers who savor these stories and understand their importance. Thank you to booksellers, civic clubs, retirement communities etc.who’ve invited me to come and do readings. And thank you to those of you who’ve written reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

The love stories of the Greatest Generation will live on because of you.

War Bonds

Win a copy of War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation

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Spokane Talks Online is offering a copy of War Bonds in their latest give away!

Simply like the post below on their Facebook page and enter to win.

Local author of the book—”War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation”—Cindy Hval, was a guest on our show, and we are giving away her book for free! Follow instructions below to enter, and check out Cindy’s recording on Business Talks at SpokaneTalksOnline.com

1. Like this post
2. Confirm your entry here (won’t ask for any information, just to agree to rules & confirm: http://tab.fo/wsvcvqz (+ see rules)

For official rules click on the link above.