Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Um....did you HEAR that?

What WAS it?

No I'm not imagining things.
I just heard a spine chilling scream...
like a hysterical cackle.

There it goes again!

Sounds like there's more than one out there.
In the dark....waiting.

I am not being a chicken! I'm merely concerned that whatever is lurking out in that field will swoop down and harm our people...then WHO, I ask you, is going to feed us and take us for rides?

Chill out kid.
It's not Halloween's just coyotes.

Granted they do have the voices to create spine chilling, but as long as you don't mess with their food, you're in no danger.

No Kid, danger around here means one of 3 things: a trip to the Vet, running out of food, and [gasp]

Oh the inhumanity of man....soap and water.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Twilight Zone

Ever have one of those days at work which is so bad, you wonder if you've lost your mind or if it really IS the rest of them? I call that Wednesday. Hopefully it's not a trend I'll have to repeat.

All that angst and anger, however, followed me into my dreams. I woke up exhausted. You see, all I did last night was apply for different jobs. The brain is a dangerous thing when it contains a creative imagination fueled by disgust. I can't remember all of them, but the last "job" I was inquiring about had me yelling at a Fireman, "These pants are too danged big for me! How can I fight a fire if I'm about to fall down because I tried to walk? Hey! Where are you going with my jacket?" I woke up with a sigh.

Geez, am I losing it?

This morning I stopped in the grocery store to pick up a couple of things so I can flee straight home when my 8 hours of hard labor has concluded. You know how when you're in a not so great frame of mind, you always get behind the woman with the screaming baby? Well, the one ahead of me had a happy baby but a full cart. I had 7 items, the guy standing between us had five. I always let someone with less than 10 items ahead of me when my cart is full. She looked at both of us, taking stock of our purchases. He won. He had flowers. Mama let him go ahead and pretended not to see me.

That was okay until the woman behind me pushed her cart into me. I'm not tall, but I should've been seen at least like some form of barrier as I stood there. Ironically her toddler was the one who screamed. You know that high pitched squeal that only babies can make, the one which makes fingernails on a chalk board non-existent? His was that times four. His sister shushed him and Mom giggled. One of the other cashiers finally woke up to see how long the line was at this sole register and said, "Ma'am, I'll take you over here." I know the drill. It was my turn but I wasn't about to move. Good thing. Giggling Mama almost slammed me again with the cart until the cashier came to her rescue. I'll have to admit, I've never seen one like it before. It was shaped like a little blue car. A two seat convertible allowing harried mothers to con their kids into believing this was an adventure, not shopping. The basket in front is so small, I suppose it's in direct proportion to a child's ability to tolerate grocery shopping. At least your ankles are safe now, I thought, glancing over my shoulder to see if there was another early morning Mama shopper aiming for me.

Nope, there stood Snow White. In living color, not technicolor.

"I'm losing it", was my first thought. A second covert glance confirmed at least my vision is working. There she stood, like an escapee from Disney World, a fully costumed, sweet smiling Snow White, oblivious to the stares she was receiving. Or maybe she liked that and was good at keeping in character, all innocent and the like.

Isn't Halloween tomorrow? I wondered, checking to see if the brain still worked. It's been under pressure you know, between work and the 95% complete root canal.

Oh lighten up! huffed the portion of my brain where sense of humor dwells. You know what you sound like?

I have every reason to be Grumpy, I shot back during this mental argument. And then I laughed.

And in the role of the Seven Dwarfs....ME!

That I'm almost the correct height is a starting point. Then throw in a root canal tooth, which had a mild infection that flared up. At first I was too Bashful to call the Doc and ask him to change my prescription to one which wouldn't make me a walking list of side effects. I'm Happy I did. Now if only he could write a prescription to cure what ails me at work. You see, right now I'm Sleepy because I went to bed Grumpy, leaving me feeling a little Dopey this morning.

As I looked at Snow White once more, my nose began to itch. That's a sure sign the antibiotic is working. Go ahead...just call me Sneezy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In My Defense

No, I'm not one of those childless people who dresses up her dog. For one thing Smokey weighs in at 85 lbs. and his son Bou is about 105 me, you don't put anything that size which can squirm AND bite into a situation they are very much against.

However, several years ago as a goof, I did a calendar for my husband's archery shop which featured pics of him and/or Smokey. It was such a hit the customers would take it off the wall and thumb through it, not content to wait for the next month to appear. It's become an annual tradition. One year I couldn't get the calendar kit until February and the customers pouted!

Generally I don't put anything human on Smokey. Well, there is the one picture of him in a fedora reminiscent of Indiana Jones, but that was part of an in-house joke. The joke was on Smokey however because when he moved, the hat slid to a more jaunty angle. Poor dog. That only gave me an idea.

So for the month of October, I got him to lie down in front of the gas log fireplace. Not a problem, he loves it there. Then I added a set of light up devil horns from some past Halloween stuff. He was most unhappy. It took several attempts and a stern, "No! Stay. No, I mean it. Sit still so we can get this over with!" Someone asked later on how I'd gotten this sweet dog to look so well...evil. I'm pretty sure it had to with him mulling over what he'd like to do to me. To this day if I pick up a camera and look at him, Smokey will find a reason for the next room to be more appealing for napping.

The next year, I used the same photo and spared him the shame and embarrassment. The year after that Bou was 2 and as Smokey's son, I decided it was his turn to wear the Halloween crown. This is exactly what he thought of the whole concept:

He was asleep when I put it on, slept through the picture and snored. Loudly.

Smokey sat by and watched, looking somewhere between irate and...jealous. After I took the horns off Bou, Smokey actually walked over and sat next to me. He looked at the horns, then looked at me. I told him we'd use the old photo. Thumping his tail in approval, he laid on the floor and put his head in my lap.

Who knew dogs could be divas?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bits and Pieces....Odds & Ends...Better than doing laundry

Ah, the vacation is grinding to a close. How can I tell? A sense of sadness at being forced to return to a schedule with rulers I don't respect is wrapping around me like a wet blanket. Oh, I'll be fine. I just wish some days I was independently wealthy. :)


Spent most of the week working on the family tree....thus the title. You work on a branch, run into a snag, move over a branch. Pruning is not allowed. This week was the Ireland and Scotland dig. Good news... I found a book online published in 1938 dealing with a branch I know came from Ireland but is believed to originate in Scotland. Bad news...although I was able to confirm family back to County Antrim, Ireland in 1732, the book's author claimed he could not determine which of the 3 original Torrance brothers who came to America was my relative's kin. Sigh.

That's okay, I'm determined. No one family has sole claim to the gene for stubbornness. :)

What complicates matters in my tree is an annoying, yet lovingly meant trend that is a genealogical nightmare: the passing on of family names. It's not a problem when one of the boys inherits say his mother's maiden name as a middle name. It's easy to follow Grandad is Dwight Moody, Dad is Joseph Moody and brother is Marcus Dwight. There's a nice symmetry there and I can easily determine who's who without checking the birth date or name of spouse. The problem in my family tree is that when Hugh has 4 sons, the one named "Hugh" is always the one I'm descended from. Not James, John or Robert. No, I always end up with the one named for dear old Dad. Some families skip a generation but you still have to pay attention: John begat George, who begat John, who begat Samuel Sr., who began Samuel Jr. until we hit the 1890s and guys started receiving their own first name with the middle name commemorating a previous relative. Could be worse. Hubby's family has a branch where there are 5 generations of alternating Georges and Nicolases.

I'm beginning to believe that female spouses were merely there to help with the "begetting" and to serve as a visual marker for their generation.


We interrupt this walk down memory lane to thank the following folks across the pond for their aid in my research: Susan at Stony River Farm for being my Irish connection and patiently answering my questions. You people know how curious I am, therefore question answering is a huge task when it comes to me. Thank you for your offer to aid in my search. You know I'll take you up on it.

Then in the Scotland contingent I begin with Rachel. No, I haven't really tortured her yet with questions explaining words [what's a "kirk" when one is discussing being buried at the Kirk of Torrens?]. Let's just say she provided me with some touchstones that brought Scotland closer to me...a reminder hanging just above my computer reaffirming that nothing is impossible. Then there's Professor Shug, who provided a most fascinating history lesson which has merely encouraged me to look harder. Given my work this week, am I the only one who sees the irony in your name being Hugh?

Thank you, my across the pond invisible friends. Don't worry Ken, I'll think of something to ask you as well.


Hubby made a comment today, out of the blue, about how odd it must seem to people today here in the 2000s [that looks weird!] that both of us had at least one grandfather born in the 1800s. No, we're not THAT old. His grandfather was born in 1884 and mine in 1898. Hubby was 12 when his grandfather died, I was 14 when mine passed on. Unlike my hubby whose family was military and had to depend on the occasional visits home, the first 8 years of my life I'd lived next door to those grandparents. As the first grandchild, I'm sure no one spoiled me. ;) Both men lived a long life: hubby's Grandpa until he was 85, mine until he was 75. The odd part, as I sit here typing into cyberspace, is to realize our grandfathers went from horse and buggy to automobiles, radio to television to witnessing men walking on the moon. All in their lifetime. Wow. Wonder what I'll look back on in amazement?


I end with the silly. Several years ago hubby's Mom and sister went to Ireland. Yes, like my Mom, the Irish genes are the ones considered God given and able to rise above all others. His Mom asked what we'd like as a souvenir of the trip. I laughed and said a 4 leaf clover. Hubby wanted a lead him to that illusive pot of gold. I got a beautiful pair of Celtic Cross earrings. This is what hubby received....

Smokey isn't sure if it's a chew toy or the shortest person in the house.
So far, no sight of that pot o' gold.
I would, however, loved to have seen
my Mom-in-law carrying that little guy onto the plane.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

Okay, it's a mild victory. Not even a large victory. But my hubby will no longer have to hear me say every time I turn on my computer, "Norton I HATE you!"

No, my computer is not named Norton. Actually it's Jack... which is a nickname. Yes. For that animal. But I digress.

I've had Symantec's Norton System Works for several years. When it was renewal time, I got the bright idea that I should improve and get Norton 360. Wrong. Oh, so wrong. After having it slow my computer to snail speed as well as question my every move, I proceeded to the Troubleshooting section. I followed all of the suggestions. After all, I can read and English is my first language. Nothing worked. This in turn led me to the mandatory exchange of e-mail with some computer geek in India who types English as a 3rd or 4th language. The problem, he explained, was that Norton 360 only likes IE and I prefer Mozilla Firefox.

In the war of human vs. computer, it is mandatory for the computer to win, no matter who paid for the software. I put down the white flag this morning.

I wanted to end my vacation on a happier note. My car is getting it's oil changed and a set of new spark plugs. I wanted to pay for something today that felt as if it were actually for me. So I made friends with a new computer geek in India whose name started with a "P", had 12 letters in between and ended with an "n". His English typing skills were much better, plus he did his homework. After telling me how to remove 360 and replace it with my old friend System Works, "P" noted that he'd found I still had 139 days on my subscription. Usually I would've waited until that had expired but the political season and those words of "change" and "maverick" just motivated me to move ahead and sneer at deadlines. It felt good. Therefore, my new Indian friend announced, as soon as I had removed/replaced, I should e-mail him so he could add those 139 days to my new subscription.

Finally, we speak the same language. Commerce is good.

Jack is happy, I am ecstatic and I'm sure hubby will appreciate not having his ears burned on a regular basis as I forget I am a genteel, southern lady. The world is right again, even if it's raining.

Thank you, P. I'm guessing your name is Indian for Politely Patient.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thanks, but no thanks

Okay guys, I tried EntreCard. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I thank Matt for all his least I know more about Blogger now. :)

Sadly, my computer doesn't like the taste of EntreCard and kept spitting it out in the form of refusing passwords. I did everything as instructed in the Troubleshooting Guide and nothing worked. I contacted them, they sent a VERY condescending e-mail telling me exactly what to do.

Right. I did all of that last night. Didn't work.

Oh I accessed it again this morning and it let me in. I thought maybe the computer had just needed its beauty sleep. I changed the password to one I can remember. I logged out. Went back later...same song and dance. Change a password, log out and the site gets amnesia where my computer is concerned. I suspect part of it is my anti-virus program, which is very picky about what it allows me to access and we've had many a fight over such. I don't need another headache and sadly this song and dance is bordering on migraine territory. You know, I don't mind someone pointing out the error of my ways but don't talk to me as if I'm a brain damaged two year old. My blog is my sanctuary and I don't want to be held hostage by another entity.

To those of you who enjoy EntreCard, I'm glad it's there for you. As for thanks.

Matt and Ken, I do appreciate your efforts and encouragement but I'll just have to keep visiting you the old fashion bookmark. And Matt, if you ever need a part time job, I think the guys at EntreCard could use your diplomacy. ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday's Word....and a question


Okay, Matt and Ken are encouraging me to give this a try. I've visited the website and read Matt's very well thought out Pro/Con list. My question is....

...if you're good with words but not computer savvy, can you actually sign up for a program like this without having a mental meltdown? I know, I managed this Blogger account but admit to flinching every time I hit a new button....I'm convinced I'll somehow cause worldwide chaos because to me, "Code" is the word following "Zip". [But I swear the Financial Mess in America is not my fault!]



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We Interrupt this Vacation...

...for a dose of reality. Okay, so it actually was a compromise. The only way I could get the time off, and trust me it was safer for all involved if I took some time off, was to agree to come back in today for two hours. Why? Every year we have a Flu Shot clinic for the senior citizens....and today was the day.

Granted, the day didn't get off to a fine start. My "95% complete" root canal had been filled with miracle gunk to make the bacterial infection dwelling beneath the tooth take a hike. Well, the bacteria was more long lasting than the gunk. I grabbed the prescription the oral surgeon wrote me 10 days ago and stared at it hesitantly. He'd written it as a "precautionary" measure. But he'd grinned when he handed it over, saying, "Here you go. This stuff really works. But don't fill it unless you REALLY need it. It'll tear up your intestinal track."

Oh joy.

Yesterday the side of my head with the non-compliant tooth began to throb. Jawbone ached. Ear began to join in the ache party. Obviously the time had come to fill the dreaded prescription. Sigh.

I glared at the innocuous piece of paper last night, the medical gibberish now printed by a computer rather than scrawled like a chicken scratching in the dirt. That meant I could actually read the name of the drug. I looked it up. The list of side effects wasn't just alarming, it was appalling. I'm on vacation. I don't want to spend it in the bathroom. And that was just for starters, as this miracle drug promised to lend you those side effects for WEEKS after you'd taken it. I took an Advil and went to bed.

I awoke this morning with a head less pounding but still filled with concrete...that would be my sinuses chiming in their displeasure with the pollen and cooler temperatures. I got ready for work, glancing at the paper offering a dispicable cure as my stomach churned. If it could make my stomach do that before I even got it filled, maybe this wasn't such a bright idea. I looked at it once more and then my brain whispered...

"Hey....wait a minute. We took that stuff once, 10 years ago. Got all the side effects plus a couple not even listed. Pain's not so bad, is it?"

I trudged down the steps, head hung low. Great, no miracle drug to cure my aching jaw and now a flu shot to look forward to as well. Hubby asked why the long face. After listening to me sigh like someone walking towards the death chamber he said with a smile, "Why don't you just call his office, tell them you can't take it and ask for something else?"

Why is it men see simple solutions when women only see, "Gee, I don't want to be a bother."?

So I called the oral surgeon's office on my way to work. The receptionist listened sympathetically, including the part where I was suppose to be on vacation but was on my way to work for a couple of hours so my folks wouldn't catch the flu. She kindly put me on hold. My phone made hold permanent. Looking down, I realized the battery had gone dead. Sitting on the side of the road I blindly thrust my hand into the glove compartment and came up with the phone cord that goes into what years ago would've been the cigarette lighter. Cars don't come with those any more. Now they're listed as something more healthy, like "USB Mobile Phone access plug" or the like. I was soon back in service, apologizing to the receptionist who laughed sympathetically, then asked which pharmacy I'd like her to call with a new, non colon cleansing prescription.

Wow. Simple as that. This being a girl stuff is for the birds.

So long story short, the seniors are protected from the flu, I'm protected from intestinal hell and the nurse promised to come back and shoot me can't have a flu shot if you're on antibiotics.

And now maybe, with half a first dose in me [oh that's another story...can't take more than 1 of anything medicinal at a time] I can get on to playing. Yeah, I know. Research isn't play. But it is if you get to pick the topic.

I'm off now to find a decent map of Ireland and Scotland so I can see where the more adventurous relatives of mine began their journey towards America. Okay, so first I'm going to make a small pitstop at a couple of blogs in Ireland and Scotland. I'm on vacation you know. I don't have to follow a that the shots are done.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

You Move, You Lose

Today it's finally starting to feel like autumn! Early this week the high temperature of 85 broke a 19 year record for an October temperature.

I admit it. I love sweaters! It wasn't all THAT cold today, about 65 degrees, but in the house it was a little cooler so I used it as an excuse to slip into a sweater.

We were watching a DVD today {Ironman} and it was a little nippy inside. So I threw an afghan over my legs to watch. The dogs took advantage of the cooler temperatures to do some major napping...not bad until they begin to snore. Bou sounds like a 300 lb. lumberjack while Smokey snores less enthusiastically.

When the movie was over, I tossed aside the afghan and took a bathroom break. When I returned, I found that when you move, you really do lose.

Smokey didn't just get up on the couch and steal my warm spot...

he backed under the afghan and was snoring merrily when I returned.
I retreated to the rocking chair.

If you ever have to come back as an animal, Smokey would be my choice of mentor.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's Your Job Too

I just finished watching the last installment of "Real Time with Bill Maher". If you've ever seen him, you know a little goes a long way. If you haven't...let's just say he use to be a "comedian," [he was more mean than funny], a truly lousy actor and now he believes himself to be a political pundit. He can be loud, rude, insulting and no one is any further left of Liberal. So why watch? His guests are an intriguing mix of personalities you don't expect to find in the same room, much less at the same table.

This episode featured actor Martin Short, Ben Affleck [who was listed as a Writer/Director] , Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont and a pollster named Frank who's evidently a regular but I missed his last name. I'll give Frank credit for not backing down when Maher literally got in his face. With a smile he said firmly, "Don't touch me Bill" when Maher tried the "buddy" move of hand on shoulder after insulting Frank for the third time.

Martin Short is a veteran of improv and it served him well on occasion. I'll have to admit that any comment he made which the audience didn't embrace came with the disclaimer, "Well, I'm from Canada you know." After a while he gave up talking and let Affleck and the Senator address the issues while deflecting Maher's vitriolic wit. You know what the most surprising thing was? Affleck was impressively informed and well spoken on the topic. He wasn't an "actor", he was a man who stood by his beliefs, even when Maher sniped and hissed. The Senator's common sense points didn't come across as a tired, well rehearsed speech. No, he got angry and describe the America we should be and how to accomplish it. Thomas Jefferson would've cheered. Affleck and the Senator shared the same belief: the average American is not stupid. John Q. Public understands politicians lie and have self serving agendas. [How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips move. Insert rim shot here]. It appears the current financial crisis has finally shaken some Americans awake...the ones who were asleep at the wheel because they believed that 30 second sound bite of "I'll take care of you" by the politician of their choice was actually the truth. Oh yeah we're awake...and we're not going to take it any more.

Americans are angry and rightfully so.

If the statistics bandied about are to be believed, 1% of Americans have more wealth than 50% of the "average" folk combined. The man/woman who comes to work, does their job well and strives for more are worse off than they were eight years ago. What's hard for most Americans to swallow is that greed ran rampant, loans were made to people who couldn't pay them back, Congress looked the other way and now all of America's citizens have to hand over money to fix a problem they did not create.

Or did they? How many of us are guilty by association....apathetically thinking the "other guy" would handle things?

The Senator brought up that point of view with a smile, stating that Americans should use their well deserved anger and ask the question they seem to forget after election day,"Hey Mr. Representative, what are you doing? Is it for the benefit of all of America or just your buddies?"

Such a simple concept and yet one that, sadly, most Americans never consider.

Election Day isn't the end. It's the beginning. After all the parties are over on Nov. 4th, it's time to roll up our collective sleeves and get to work. Not digging ditches or taking on part time jobs to make ends meet. Nope. Time to call, write, e-mail those people who are suppose to represent us and ask them, "Okay, what are you doing today? How will it make us a better nation? What can I do to help?"

Oh yeah. You're suppose to help your country. Even after Election Day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday's Word


[Only a few more days now. Hold on. You can do it.]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time Travel

In 8 days, I'm looking forward to a week off from my desk and the ensuing responsibilities of being a well as the entire staff. My vacation will probably seem odd to some but not to those who know me.

I'm traveling back in time.

No, I haven't figured out how to build a time machine in my backyard. [We don't have basements here...too close to sea level]. I've been working on my Family Tree for years and when I get the chance, and the curiosity bug bites, I whittle away on it a little more. The problem, you see, is that I'm not content with a list of names of who begot whom. No, I want to one day write this as a story for future generations. Ah, the ultimate irony; she who has no children is the one interested in family history. My sister didn't want children and my brother adopted a boy who I will leave this tome to some day. Hey, the nephew loves to read and he's only eight. I think genes can rub off on a person too. :)

During this journey I have been able to make contact with relatives I didn't know growing up...and some literally lived next door to relatives I visited! As a kid I thought that was a combination of odd and just plain dumb. As an adult I now know what all the whispering was about...and the whys of family members who didn't get along. I discovered the answers because I asked what no one else did: why? Oh, I did it politely and usually prefaced with, "I have no idea who you really are. Will you tell me?" The majority did.

One of my favorite up close and personal discoveries was a great aunt I'd never met. My maternal Grandfather came from a family who gave their children names like Minnie, Yates, Hubert, Parks, and William Wallis, so Aunt Myrtis' childhood nickname intrigued me: Dolly. Yes, she was the baby but the name came from her being so cute, everyone said she looked like a living doll. I found it fitting that she married a man who's last name was "Love".

When I was in my early 20s we'd corresponded by mail [yes, regular mail, no internet then] this sister of my Grandfather Hubert, who'd died when I was only four. Mom had sent Aunt Myrtis a letter or two also and one day she invited us to visit for lunch. We drove two hours to see her and you would've thought I was a kid going to visit Santa. Aunt Myrtis hadn't seen Mom since my mother was a small child, but she opened the door and hugged her as if she'd seen her only the week before. Aunt Myrtis went to hug me and got the strangest expression on her face. I chalked it up to the fact that I look alot like my Mom, to the point she'd joke she didn't birth me, she cloned me. [Okay I have Dad's nose and his sinus problems to go with it, but he also contributed a sense of humor gene that makes it bearable]. We sat down at the table and her husband came in to join us.

We small talked for a minute but her eyes kept wandering to my face. I was beginning to think there was something present there besides the usual sea of freckles. Her husband smiled at me mysteriously, almost nostalgically. About the time I was going to politely inquire if I'd done something wrong, Aunt Myrtis looked at her husband with a soft smile and asked, "Do you see it too?"

He looked at me kindly, this man I'd never met, and said softly,"She's got his eyes. It's like sitting here and staring into Hubert's eyes."

I don't know which came first, the lump in my throat or the thrill of having someone I'd never met recognize me as family.

About a week after I got home, Aunt Myrtis sent a letter saying how nice it was to finally meet me and see Mom again. Then, almost self consciously, she admitted she'd sent me a little something she'd written for her two sisters. They were the only three children left in that family and she wanted someone to know where they'd come from. Now I KNEW we were related! Her book was 28 carefully typed pages in a book format. You would've thought she'd sent me gold!

One of the branches on this tree which intrigues me so much was her father, William Wesley. When you work on a family tree for a long time, your relatives become like the characters in a storybook. William Wesley is one of my favorites, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, Aunt Myrtis' "book" was exactly what I want to write! She didn't just name names, she described the house where they'd grown up, tidbits that made me see my grandfather much clearer. When I wrote her a thank you note, she sent me a few pictures, saying I was probably the only one who would find them interesting. Gold again! Not only was there a shot of my 12 year old grandfather with his horse, there was William Wesley....and he had "my" eyes.
Sadly, that part of the family has been difficult to trace. because they kept to themselves mostly. So when you get stuck, you move over one branch. That would be my mother's maternal side. But in my case, it's not moving much. You see my Grandfather Hubert had a brother named Yates. Hubert married my Grandma and Yates married her sister Hazeline. That's the line I'm going to fiddle with next.

Which is how some of you, dear readers, might just be asked to provide a background gem or two.

The line I'll be working on during vacation includes a James Faires from County Antrim in North Ireland, as well as a Hugh Torrence [Torrance before he came to America, Torrens before he hit Ireland] born of Scots-Irish parents in Londonderry Ireland. I'll be tracking down a lead which makes me wonder exactly how much genetic material we inherit. For no apparent reason, I've always been fascinated by the Isle of Skye. Don't know if it was the name or what. I recently ran across something which indicated that Hugh's family, originally Torrens, came from...yep, the Isle of Skye.

Life is interesting. Mom likes to claim her Irish genes, I wanted to find a Scotsman in the tree. Looks like we both may get our wish.

Oh and Rachel and Dave. Don't feel left out. Dad's side of the family is English. Seems the first guy here was John Huggins, born in Berkeley in Gloucestshire England. But that's for another week.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Very Interesting

I've seen two presidential campaign signs so far. None in the country where most of my commute takes place. Why? Because those folks go to the polls to show their support rather than add litter to their own front yards. There are plenty of signs springing up in the city where I work, although most of them appear to be for local candidates. I'd seen one for McCain. Today I saw one for Obama.

Sure, when candidates stick to the traditional Red, White and Blue theme, there isn't a whole lot you can do in the area of eye catching. Jimmy Carter may have won using a green and white sign, but his presidency seemed to be punished for having stepped outside the traditional. "campaign color scheme". Although I wasn't looking for it, I found a slightly Freudian message in the McCain/Obama signs which silently commented on the candidates' philosophy of self importance.

McCain's name appears above Palin's, both in white lettering on a blue background. I thought it was a nice artistic touch that the thin line which separates their names has a star at the mid point, making it appear at a glance to read "McCain and Palin".

Obama's name appears in white at the top of his blue sign. Directly beneath his name is "Biden". However Biden's name is in a blue which is about two shades lighter than the background. At first glance, Biden's name is all but invisible.


Who am I voting for? I can't tell you. I live in the country, remember?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

When Honorable was Normal

In the 70’s a group named Player recorded the song “Baby Come Back.” The song’s nostalgia factor has been pushed aside by commercialism: the tune is now used in an ad as a plea… by a mop. I saw it while watching the news and thought, “How appropriate”. Not for swabbing tears over fleeting youth, but to clean up the mess that’s replaced the reliable news of my childhood.

“If it bleeds, it leads." Sad, but true. Yet in the past, at least we knew what caused the bloodshed and suffering on the evening news. Anchors defined the problem so we might find a solution. Most of today’s bloody news consists of “reporters” verbally carving each other up and spitting out opinion instead of fact. Humanity and truth have been pushed aside for higher ratings. Everyone complains about media coverage of…well, just about everything. No one reports the facts any more. No one is willing to dig deep to uncover the truth, put it on the table and challenge, “So John Q. Public, what are you going to do about it?” Edward R. Murrow’s sign off is probably more appropriate today than it was in his own time, “Good night. And good luck”.

Ever since that mop commercial began to air, I keep hearing that song in my head. Except instead of “Baby” I hear…”Tom Brokaw come back. And bring Uncle Walter {Cronkite} too. The truth is missing and we just can’t live without you.”

I admit it. I grew up in a NBC household. Hard as it is for some to believe, there were only three networks then. And no remotes. Just children assigned the task of changing the channel as their fathers yelled, “Don’t turn that dial so fast! You’ll break it!”

The news was on 3 times a day. There were no annoying logos at the bottom of the screen competing with that stupid ticker which has made Americans unable to focus on just one thing. No, we had “We interrupt this program for a Special Bulletin”. That voice made your heart race because those interruptions were rare. Generally reserved for earth shaking news, that simple sign made it feel as if the world had stopped revolving to hold its breath.

NBC was home to Huntley and Brinkley. Their sign off was as succinct as their reporting. “Good night David. Good night Chet.” Yet it was oddly comforting. Huntley, the older father figure, told you in no uncertain terms what would happen if Congress spent all their allowance and came back to you looking for more. This was not judgmental. It was simple fact. Brinkley might’ve been younger but he enunciated clearly, so that all the facts were obvious. Tom Brokaw was probably the last of the NBC anchors I trusted to tell me the truth. All of it. When he “retired” it felt like a close friend had died.

Whereas Huntley and Brinkley kept us factually on point, Edwin Newman ensured we were informed and grammatically correct. He wrote the book Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English? I inherited an autographed copy. It’s one of my most prized possessions. It’s not a stuffy grammatical guide, it’s insightful and witty. It ought to be mandatory reading for most of today’s “reporters”.

Garrick Utley, whom I feared would die of fatigue rather than a stray bullet, explained Vietnam to me. From Vietnam. His words often made the government angry, but that’s what happens when you tell the truth. The whole truth. He painted a realistic picture that even 12 year old me could comprehend.

I thought White House correspondent Sander Van Oaker had the coolest name. It commanded authority and respect. Just like the man. I saw him interviewed several years ago. The “reporter” snidely questioned how Van Oaker et al could’ve missed all those women in the White House visiting JFK’s bedroom. Van Oaker’s reply was illuminating. “We did see it. And it is the only time we literally turned our heads and looked the other way. We did so, not out of respect for JFK or the office of President, but out of respect for Mrs. Kennedy and the children.” Gee Reporter Guy, can you spell “integrity”? If not, see Edwin Newman.

The last reporter who captured my heart didn’t have every hair in place. In fact, he was balding. But he had, as my grandparents use to say, “a face you could trust”. Fred Francis looked you in the eye and stated what had happened. Not what he thought might have happened or what he would’ve done instead. Oh sure, I saw a twinkle in those big brown eyes once or twice at the irony of what he reported, but he never verbally crossed the line. Are you taking notes, Chris Matthews and Keith Obermann? When I read that Francis retired this year, I wanted to cry. I can’t think of anyone currently on the gazillion news networks, with you 24/7, that I'd miss if they forgot to come to work. In some cases, I’d move that annoying corner logo OVER their face.

Cue music.

So Tom please come back. Bring Edwin and Garrick too. Sandy and Fred may have gone gray, but their gray matter never stopped working.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday's Word


Which was my immediate reaction to last night's Presidential debate. I didn't last five minutes before turning the channel. Does that make me a bad American? An unconcerned voter? No, it makes me a fed up human being.

Perhaps before the next debate, someone can get out a dictionary and show McCain and Obama that debate is a two sided discussion, not an exercise in verbal finger pointing where every sentence begins, "That other guy said...".

I don't care what HE said. I want to know what YOU plan to do if you get the job.

Can you imagine going to a job interview and peppering your prospective employer with phrases like, "Well HE didn't do so well at his last job." "I understand SHE isn't everything she's cracked up to be."?

So gentlemen....can either of you tell me what type of job you'd actually do if given the opportunity?

If not, then perhaps you should look for work elsewhere.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Social Experiment

Last night my sister sent me one of those "Tag, you're it!" e-mail games. I played along because it was an interesting social experiment. On more than one level.

First you need to know that my sister is two and a half years younger than I, the dreaded First Born. It got worse when she became the Middle Child when our brother was born. Sis and I shared a room for approximately 14 years and managed to live to tell the tale. Sound strange? Not if you have all the facts. We were not the kind of sisters who were close and shared. No, we were polar opposites. I was shy, she was outgoing. I liked to read, she was a cheerleader. I wrote for the high school yearbook, she managed the Boys' Soccer team, quite a feat in the south back then when football was THE sport. She is the original Devil's say black, she says white, you say day, she says night. You get the picture. Dad use to joke that she didn't march to the beat of her own drum, she had an entirely different symphony playing. Basically, Sis hated rules....which is probably why she ended up self employed.

As we grew up, Sis came to believe that to stay in the town in which we were born and raised was somehow a sign of failure. We'd lived in that state for generations....and in our home town for at least 3 of those generations. We originated from farmers, folks who loved the land and didn't care to leave it. My Granddaddy and Dad broke that mold by both working in the furniture business. It might not have been exciting, but it was a job which raised two families...Dad's and ours. But to Sis, staying in a job which wasn't exciting was a death sentence, so when Dad died of cancer, she moved.

Two of us moved all of 22 miles from home....Sis moved all the way across the country to Washington state. I teased her that she only stopped there because she ran into the ocean. After a few years, she agreed. I think it got really cold that winter, with hell freezing over. :)

Anyway, the game she sent last night was to describe the person who'd sent the e-mail in ONE word. I could see her hitting "Send" and just daring me to choose something like argumentative, obstinate, pig-headed, stubborn or nuts. I probably surprised us both.


Of all the words that rattle around in my head, my fingers typed this word before I had a chance to ponder the question. I realize, with time and half a country between us, that Sis' stubborn streak was rooted in a determination to accomplish her goals. She didn't care if anyone thought those goals was her life and she'd live it as she damned well pleased, thank you very much. Sure, she's tried to drag me into playing defense for her at times. Like the day she informed Mom and my very religious aunt that she'd become a Buddhist. I think they believed she had shaved her head and gone to live with monks. Amid speculation that she might just go to hell for this decision, I was smart enough to stay out of it....and laugh.

And now I'll challenge you to test a few people yourself. You'll definitely be surprised at the answers, hopefully pleasantly so. Not wanting to appear to be an ego maniac, I only sent the game to four people. I know my best buddy will be the last to answer because she never was good at writing letters in a timely fashion and the Internet hasn't helped. But I love her anyway because she's real and genuine. And she always tells me the truth, whether I want to hear it or not.

I've been pondering a career change, for a variety of reasons, but I'll have to admit my ego has been a bit out of whack lately. Although Rachel will back me up about smiling like an idiot at people when we don't feel like it, some days feeling inadequate hurts, even when you know you're beating yourself up needlessly. The three words I got back were the booster shot I needed.

Mom deemed me "thoughtful", my sis-in-law finds me "imaginative" and a previous co-worker who knows about my career challenges dubbed me "sincere". That helped.

And Sis? Didn't I tell you she never plays by the rules? She asked me to describe her, but she didn't send a word for me. Maybe I'm safe.

Unless she reads this.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Good bye Weekend...

...I'll miss you.

Monday is snapping at my heels. I hope I don't snap back. :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Art of Childhood

Hubby and I were talking the other night and he was amazed I remembered some insignificant detail of my childhood. He joked that he can hardly remember the names of people he met last week and I can merrily skip down Memory Lane naming kids on the block like I saw them yesterday.

Either I had a wonderful childhood or have an extraordinary memory. I suspect it's childhood itself.

Now granted, I've always been good with names. But I think it all goes back to the fact I love to write. Words fascinate me. Names are just words....with personalities. And yet, that creative streak in me didn't just log a name and a one line mental reference note, it often filled a file on that name. Maybe that's why it's so easy for me to reach back and reclaim childhood. I would say it was the only time I was the same height as everyone, but as the smallest kid on the block, that wasn't true unless the other kid was say, in diapers. People often comment that they find it hard to believe that I actually recall my youth. Only when they demand a detail or two and I can supply ten do they believe me. And when the conversation is over I always think....

Didn't YOU have fun as a kid? If so, why can't you remember?

Sure, not everything about childhood is fun. Like vaccinations. Math tests. Eating tuna fish casserole against your will. Having the Measles, Mumps and Chicken pox all in a four month time span. [No, they didn't have vaccinations for those until AFTER my childhood]. But for the most part, I remember being a kid with the same joy and giggles that I experienced as a child. And even then, I wrote. For fun. No. Really.

Today I found a copy of a very limited edition of the "Hulote Gazette". It was pronounced Who-Lot-E. Never heard of it? That might be because it went to press once a month the summer I was eleven. Available only on Wren Street, where I lived, it was printed on onion skin typing paper. Poor Mom was our publisher...meaning she typed about a dozen copies, using carbon paper. If you don't understand what that entails, find someone older who can relate to correction fluid, before the birth of spell check. My older next door neighbor, Lisa, wanted to take credit for the idea, but I'm the one who wanted to write. So we compromised, let my little sister and her friend tag along and in the ultimate goodwill gesture, named our little neighborhood missive using the first two letters of all our last names....alphabetically. Bet you couldn't get a politician to be so diplomatic.

Sis was in advertising, which meant her first story highlighted both the furniture store our Dad managed, as well as an ad for the lemonade stand she and her buddy Martha manned. As the "World News Reporter", Martha also had a dog walking business on the side. She had the time. All she ever did was pick the three biggest headlines off the local paper, add two sentences and her stories were done. Sis wrote at least a paragraph about Dad, which might've seemed dedicated for a nine year old but I still think she was softening him up for a bigger allowance. My buddy Lisa was the "Fashion Reporter". She got all her tips from her 15 year old sister, the wannabe hippy in a well to-do family. The fashionista reportedly proclaimed that, "people should wear what they want, when they want." Lisa followed up this sage advice with a survey of 10 adults in the neighborhood. The results stated no one in favor of long skirts, 2 in favor of knee length and 8 in favor of mini skirts. I'd be willing to bet she didn't interview our mothers but the gentlemen in the neighborhood as they mowed their lawns.

That left me. The Neighborhood Reporter.

Looking at the issue I found today, it appears I was the only one truly interested in what happened in the neighborhood. There were notations like, "Mrs. S. has the prettiest yard on the block, with colorful flowers against her white brick home" and "Mr. X. fell last week and he's okay now but you should still think about him." I encouraged people not to smoke and to remember to vote. I noted the birth of a baby boy named Matthew, who would play a major role in developing my childcare skills. When Matt turned 6 months old, I babysat him and his evil two and a half year old brother twice a week until Matt entered first grade.

It wasn't the excellent reporting skills, low cost of 10 cents a copy or the scandal which made us churn out 4 whole editions. Oh yes, by-the-book-me created quite an uproar by pointing out the beauty of Mrs. S's yard. The other homeowners were already quite jealous and didn't need an eleven year old to point out the obvious. Guess that's how I learned about the power of the written word. But what made me keep going was....the power of the written word. I loved words and I had this urge that I couldn't explain to put them on paper. Even when there wasn't a teacher demanding I do so.

I enjoyed childhood because I was able to drink it in, write it down and take it with me. In an ironic twist, several years ago I entered a "Name the Children's Magazine" contest for heck of it. I knew the publisher, not just from her work as a reporter for the local paper, but as a twelve year old brat from my childhood. 300 kids and 9 adults entered names. Guess who's won? I submitted the title "imagine that!" because the magazine's premise was to get kids reading. The best part of reading includes bringing along your imagination. Okay, there was another reason. My favorite grandmother, Memaw, when met with an idea or event that amazed her, would softly drawl, "Well, imagine that!"

I went from a contest to a monthly column for three three years of volunteer work I ever did. Yep. We ALL volunteered to be a part of this project because we believed in it. Sadly the funding ran out and the magazine was put permanently to bed. But at the time, the publisher said we were both meant to be part of this process: I' d moved to the town where she'd grown up and she lived on Wren Street, almost across the street from Mrs. S. , who still plants vividly colored flowers against that white brick home. The publisher said we'd come full circle as adults. One day when I turned in my column she looked at me in amazement and said, "It doesn't matter what topic I give you, you always come up with a story from childhood that not only fits, but that children enjoy."

Maybe Wren Street was magic after all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wednesday's Word


[Okay so it's not really a word, it's an acronym...but it sums up the situation I'm dealing with.]