Saturday, August 30, 2008

And it started with a red paper clip

I don't know how many of you have heard this story but since it's a few years old, I'm guessing many of you are probably familiar with it. It's about a guy named Kyle MacDonald who, on a whim, posted on his website that he'd trade a simple red paper clip for anything. Two young ladies took him up on it and traded it for a fish pen. This guy kept trading everything up....until, within a year, he'd managed to work that first trade all the way up to a HOUSE.

It makes me wonder if any of you out there would like to start a "trade" just to see what we end up with. If you're interested, chime in here.

If you'd like to read MacDonald's story, visit him at http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hysterical Cure for Olympic Withdrawal

Okay, the pomp and circumstance is over. I'm not a real big sports on television fan, but during the Olympics I found myself watching sports I NEVER watch, like Volleyball of all weird things. [I hated volleyball in school because I was good at serving but it bruised my hand, turning it 3 shades of purple and blue.] I admit turning the channel pretty quickly when it came to stuff like synchronized diving [that just seems strange], ping pong [no, it is NOT Table Tennis] and water polo, where it appeared okay to try and drown your opponent as long as you didn't get caught. When you did, you were sent to pout in a little square of rope in the pool....an adult time out.

Although little kid me missed seeing all those Russian weightlifters, which were fodder for childhood nightmares, a little Olympics goes a long way. I knew it had gotten to the point we'd watched too much of it when I promised myself to Google Greg Louganis. Why? Just to see if he really did resemble the fine specimen of man I remembered from back then... because I'm almost certain those pretty boys I watched on the 1o meter platform were really malnourished 12 years olds.

Then someone sent me a link to Paul Hunt and I laughed so hard, I actually went looking for more. Paul Hunt was a gymnast in the 1980s and went on to coach a women's team. Comedy and Balance Beam don't usually go hand in hand, but add a guy with a sense of humor willing to put on a girl's costume and hair bows....then comedy ensues. I know, it sounds weird. Trust me, watch it and not only will you laugh, but you might find yourself amazed at how difficult it is to pretend to be bad.

Balance Beam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaR7GfNFjkE
Uneven Bars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5OMuQT7eYE
Floor Exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JaEtgL8mcM

Friday, August 22, 2008

Now THAT's an Interesting Branch!

Always curious about those who came before me, I was recently researching a part of my family tree on Dad’s side. I came across a book written by George, a great grandson of my 5 times Great Grandfather. According to George, his own father had written to a cousin William, who lived in London, to inquire about the origins of the family name. The book simply refers to William as a respected astronomer. By the tone of George’s book, I knew this was meant to indicate that William was an educated man.

I’d always been told Dad’s family immigrated to America from England {Berkley in Gloucestershire to be precise]. In his reply to George’s father however, William advised the clan had actually originated in Holland. It wasn’t the religious persecution which had caused them to flee Holland that caught my eye. It was cousin William.

Yep, there goes my curiosity again.

I’d made a quick note of cousin William’s name so I could utilize that “Go look it up” mentality Mom ingrained in me. William was educated all right. To begin with, he was Sir William Huggins. And that “astronomer” title? His official designation was “Spectrographic Astronomy Pioneer.”

In 1856 Sir William built a private observatory at Tulse Hill in the south of London. Becoming bored with the “ordinary”, Sir William accepted a challenge which led him to discover spectrum analysis and the chemical make up of stars. Later in the same year he experimented with documenting stars with photography. But the method was a messy one, leading Sir William to develop a new technique which allowed longer exposures of light. This allowed him to render photos of celestial objects previously invisible to the naked eye, even when using the most powerful telescope. Sir William’s techniques and research revolutionized observational astronomy. He was also ahead of his time: his laboratory assistant was his wife Margaret. In fact, his findings were published conjointly with Margaret, quite a feat for a lady in those days. He was awarded many honors, both scientific and academic, and was knighted in 1897.

Ironically, for his contribution to my family tree, I was saddened to learn Sir William and Margaret were childless. Sir William is survived however by craters on both the Moon and Mars which are named after him, as well as an asteroid referred to as “Minor Planet #2635”.

Cue the little voice in my head as it smirks, “Gee, what did YOU do today to aid mankind?”

Well ironically my work facility is called the “Spectrum Sr. Citizens Center.” I’m the Director [and the entire staff], but I guess that’s as close to spectrum analysis as I’ll ever get.

I’m sure Sir William lives on in those he taught and encouraged. And maybe, just maybe, there’s some family gene that Sir William and I share. I’d say it’s called curiosity.



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Only on the Internet...

...can you sit at home, visit a live web cam of a bar in Scotland and hear an American cartoon character from South Park sing an Elton John song. Boggles the mind. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sorry

With apologies to Michael Phelps, the YouTube link completely rearranged my blog. After trying numerous ways to alter it, I had to remove ol' Michael.

Somehow I think with all his pending endorsements, he'll be just fine without me. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Going for the Gold

Well, at least this is how it looks from the front porch
at the end of the day.
Have a good week!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thanks Kid!

A lot will be said, written and discussed about swimmer Michael Phelps in the next few hours...months...years. Debates will rage on whether that win by a fingernail was fair [according to slow-motion film, it was] or if dominating a sport spurs on others to do their best or makes them sulk, which could lead to drowning. Many will point to this young man like a favorite son, as if screaming encouragement from a dry couch is equally as important as all the time he's spent practicing in the water. The Olympics aren't just a sporting competition, they are a temporary healing that unites a country. They make ordinary citizens feel as if they'd just focus their best thoughts in an athlete's direction, he/she will feel the collective love and go higher, faster, further. Many will say Michael Phelps makes them proud to be an American.

Not me. I'd say, "Thanks Michael for not making me feel ashamed to admit I'm American".

It's a tough world out there. There are many souls in the world who hear the word American and sneer. Taunt. Roll their collective eyes and sigh. Truth is, there are times I agree with them. I'm tired of Presidential elections that start 2 years in advance. Of elected officials who believe my vote gave them license to become a warped Sugar Daddy out of touch with reality, but firmly avowing he knows what's best...proving it by spending my tax dollars on his favorite project. I wish as much budget $$ was spent on improving our lives than used in finding ways to promote military officers. I truly wish there was a "Presidential Mute" button...or at least a Secret Service guy with a roll of duct tape and no qualms about using it when Bush's mouth gets ahead of his brain. I know what you're thinking...it's too easy a shot, so I'll pass.

Michael Phelps is like the poster boy for "What's still good about America". For all his Olympic glory, Phelps earned it the hard way...through self motivation and practice. You can't ask someone to do the laps for you in exchange for standing on the platform. Oh sure a politician would. Be do we really want to see them in swim suits?

Phelps may be Master of the Water, but on dry land he's polite and unassuming. His replies to inane questions are handled with a grin that says, "Are you serious?" even though his answers are humble and sincere. I guess what I like about him most is...sincerity. You get the feeling that what you see really is what you get. He doesn't trash talk other swimmers or point out their flaws. There is no Hollywood agent hovering in the background, no P.R. assistant watching his every word. Just a coach who saw in a rambunctious 11 year old kid bordering on juvenile delinquent the ability to shine when that energy was channeled. Rather than puff out his chest after a victory and proclaim himself God's gift to the swimming world, Phelps thanks that coach.

Hubby mentioned the other night his surprise that women go nuts over Phelps, who he views as a man size body topped with the head of a 12 year old in need of dental work. As the little girl who once had a picture of a speedo wearing Mark Spitz draped with 6 gold medals taped to her bedroom door, I knew what he meant. Although Spitz was an excellent athlete, he looked like someone sent out of Hollywood's Central Casting ..."in the role of Best Swimmer; tall, dark and handsome guy with mustache." But you know, that grinning kid face is the key to Phelps' charm. He's having a blast and you get the feeling he hopes you're getting a kick out of it too. Besides the amazing ability to utilize his body, Phelps embodies the America of my childhood...where anything was possible if only you tried. You didn't have to be rich or good looking. You just had to set goals and work to attain them. And when you did, your joy lit up your face with an ear to ear grin that was contagious.

Is Phelps extraordinary? Sure. Simply because he took "ordinary" to the next level.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sun x 2

This year I planted a little extra sunshine outside
my kitchen window.
Today I went outside to see who else was appreciating them.


It was a virtual traffic jam of bees, moths and June Bugs.
I ran the June bugs off...all they do is eat and destroy.


Even the moths are colorful!

Poor bees were working hard AND
dodging those hungry June bugs!

Hope your day is just as sunny. If not, I picked these just for you.


Friday, August 8, 2008

What a Day!

Today’s date is interesting for more than the mathematical 08/08/08. It’s my wedding anniversary. Having married on 08/08/80 makes today feel somehow dyslexic. Then again, that could describe our whole wedding process. The date wasn’t intentional. Another girl simply beat me to the minister so I picked the next available date. A day which would be more Comedy of Errors than holy matrimony. When I tell the story, someone always says, “You should write it down so you don’t forget!”

Trust me, I won’t forget. Ever. But with the date’s interesting configuration, today’s just as good a day as any to write it down.

I was raised in a mid-sized southern town. Although I wasn’t the type of little girl who began planning her wedding at the age of 6, I had two thoughts on the subject. I would wear Mom’s wedding dress, which in all the old black and white photos looked picture book pretty. And I would plan this event all by myself, as Mom had done. My grandmother died when Mom was 3 and she was raised by an aunt. Mom thought raising her was enough, so she paid for her own wedding.

Well, I paid my share. And I wore the dress. But the rest of my plan kind of fell apart. Why? Because the only southerner who loves a wedding more than a little girl is her Mama.

My hysterical journey begins with The Dress. Mom was married in March of 1957. Her dress boasted a round lace collar, long lace sleeves and a voluptuous skirt supported by a hoop. I kid you not. As a child, I’d ask if Scarlett O’Hara had been a bridesmaid. I tried on the dress one winter Sunday as Mom and I held our breath…me in hopes it’d fit, Mom in hopes of having a second generation take it down the aisle. It did. Them Mom became overwhelmed by Mother of the Bride syndrome, agitated by the fact that, of all days to try on such a dress, it was my parents’ anniversary. Poor Dad. Drug down the hall by weepy Mom, he tried to look impressed at the sight of his eldest in wedding attire as I looked down and muttered, “I am NOT wearing that danged hoop! And how many buttons does this thing have?!” That would be the 30. The pearl buttons ran up the back of the dress, making it impossible to don or duff solo. Had my brain been in charge instead of emotion, I would’ve contemplated that I was being married in August. But my beloved and I had met at 16, dated through high school/college and were more than ready to get married. Heart won out over head.

The day we got married, it was 102 degrees. But I digress.

The Dress ceremony began the strange Pushme-Pullyou dance between Mom and me. Since childhood, I’d planned it all out in my head. With a Mother’s heart, Mom knew a better way. I learned to compromise which, in hindsight, is actually the best way to prepare for marriage. When Mom informed me my younger sister would be Maid of Honor, I replied my best friend should handle that duty. You only have one sister, Mom reminded me cheerfully.

Yes, I muttered under my breath, the one I shared a room with who threatened to snuff me in my sleep.

Mom won. It was easier.

I’d address invitations, Mom would add to the guest list. I sat down to compose the write up for the newspaper. Mom informed me she’d already delivered one. It wasn’t until after I was married that I discovered why people believed I’d had some huge wedding; Mom’s write up included cousins I hadn’t seen in years as “honorary bridesmaids”.

Mom was there every step of the way; choosing flowers, the cake and photographer. Although politely voiced, her opinion was tantamount to law. I knew it was because she cared. At the point where the fiancé declared, “just do whatever!” out of fatigue, Dad wandered in and offered to pay for a ladder and a marriage license so we could elope. Although tempted, I jokingly reminded him we had a one story home. With a wink he replied, “See, just saved me the cost of a ladder.” This may be the moment Mom believes “the conspiracy to embarrass me” was born. I’ll get to that later.

Add to this fun me raised Baptist and the fiancé Catholic. First we talked to my minister, which took all of fifteen minutes. He asked if we loved each other, could listen & compromise and what would we do if the stork arrived before we invited it home? We answered truthfully, although I still think the last question was just his polite way of asking, “You’re not pregnant, are you?” Then we did this waltz with Father A., a priest old as Methuselah. When your future father-in-law say,”No matter what the Priest says, you stick to your guns!” it’s going to get interesting. There was 10 minutes of joint interrogation, 10 minutes solo between fiancé and priest, then it was my turn. He began kindly, but our conversation was clearly a test of my biblical knowledge. I’m happy to report I convinced Father A. that Baptists were not heathens. An hour later I politely offered, “I’ve really enjoyed our talk, but my fiancé probably thinks I got lost.”

After that, I thought it would be easy. My minister and Father A. would do the ceremony jointly. The minister’s wife was one of my vocalists and a college buddy, who owed me for years of sheltering him from undesirable female attention, was the other. We were good to go.

The phone rang the day before my wedding.

It’s a strange feeling, trying to reassure your minister that you’ll be just fine when he calls to say his Mom has died. I tried to comfort him, as he apologizes for the inconvenience of leaving me minus a minister and one vocalist. He offered to contact our Minister of Music, who was ordained and had wedding experience. I thanked him, biting back a giggle. His replacement was Rev. Romanstein. Yes, a Jewish Baptist. I thought it was a good sign our union would be blessed by the trinity of Baptist, Catholic and Jewish.

Until I contacted the organist.

My college buddy didn’t hesitate to do both songs. The organist, however, refused to cross the front of the church to switch from organ to piano for the second song. I called my buddy to request he bring his own pianist. The fiancé then called to say he wondered how we’d managed to find such a cool tux to wear in summer. It almost felt… air conditioned. That’s when he discovered the pants were ripped from crotch to mid-inseam. Someone traveled 50 miles back to where they’d been rented as my bridesmaids arrived. In an ironic twist, my wedding was 8/8, the next one was scheduled for 9/9 and yes, the last for 10/10. I never had time to get nervous. I was too busy laughing while watching them fall apart using my wedding as a test drive for their own.

To some brides, this was hysteria-ville. To me, it was hilarious. The more that went wrong, the calmer I got. I began believing getting all the nonsense out of the way now meant a long, happy married life. I only had to survive the next 24 hours.

At the Rehearsal our Wedding Director, a.k.a. Hitler, grabbed me, plunked me down in a pew and told me not to move. When I asked why, she said it was bad luck for the bride to participate. Yes, I laughed out loud. As Hitler rearranged her troops, an anxious nun scurried up and down the aisle, rosary twisting in her hands. Unbeknownst to us, Father A. had retired and Father J. was suppose to replace him. Rev. Romanstein, the Jewish Baptist, was extremely nervous. Turned out the only wedding he’d ever presided over had been his son’s. As the nun wandered up and down the aisle constantly checking the door, her prayer for Father J.’s safe arrival probably changed when she discovered why he was absent; he was 120 miles away, playing tennis. He’d simply forgotten.

For the Rehearsal Dinner I wanted casual, so we went to my fiancé‘s parent’s home. Then college buddy, who had been bemoaning that he was the last of us, without an attachment in sight, decided to get out his guitar. He had a beautiful voice and entertained an ever swelling crowd. Knowing I hated being the center of attention [I know, how un-bride like], he said, “This one’s for you.” He launched into a song he knew would make me cry as everyone oohed and ahhed. Then he looked at me rather oddly as he sang, “I wish that you could know, how much I love you.”

Oh good grief!

The wedding day was a blur, with me reassuring the bridesmaids they’d be fine and locking my suitcase to keep Sis out of it. Mom looked into the church and sighed, “Oh, there’s not that many people here.” Envisioning 15 people, I counted over 125, one of which was testing the church’s new “openness” policy. Antiquated as it seems, our church had only recently encouraged black folks to attend. So far, no one had done any “encouraging.” Until our wedding, when a 6’2” muscle bound black Sheriff’s Deputy came through the door. In uniform. The expressions were amused, anxious and well, me laughing gleefully.

The music started and so did my future father-in-law’s technical difficulties. As his only son’s Best Man, he’d insisted on wearing his military dress uniform. One he hadn’t tried on in 4 years. As the music began, the jacket chain popped. My fiancé wired his Dad back together with a paper clip while asking the clergy to walk slowly. I thought my father-in-law looked distinguished but someone in the receiving line would later ask why we had a Matre ‘d on hand.

And then Dad and I committed the ultimate wedding sin. All because neither of us likes being the center of attention.

Dad asked, “Ready?” I nodded and he took off. Literally. We went down the aisle so fast I wondered what I’d done to make him want to get rid of me. He was just nervous. But trying to keep up with his long strides on my 4” heels made me look more drunken than bridal. I can still see it. Mom rising elegantly as Mother of the Bride. Turning slowly to watch us come down the aisle. Glaring angrily when she discovered we’d already arrived. She never forgave us. To this day, mention a wedding and she’ll groan about the day Dad and I ran down the aisle.

Our reception was…odd. The photographer literally grabbed folks to pose them. Everyone stood at a respectful distance, smiling idiotically, as if we had the plague. We wanted to chat, the photographer insisted it was time to go. I resisted but lost. I had the bruise to prove it. Ignoring Mom’s suggestion to toss the bouquet to my sister, I was delighted the Flower Girl caught it. The garter toss caused a shoving contest. My college buddy caught it, but the neighbor guy who never could get a date snatched it out of his hand, waving it like a flag of availability.

My sister, who’d offered to put my watch in my suitcase earlier, had filled it to the brim with rice. While people gently tossed rice in the air, Sis grabbed the front of my dress and shoved rice down it. I have photographic proof. Our get-a-way car had been decorated but it wasn’t the car we were taking on our honeymoon. Oh no, hubby had decided it would be better to take the VW Bug, which he’d hidden. We retrieved it, stopped by his parent’s house to pick up something and found them having a party. It looked fun. They told us to get lost. Having failed to eat, we stopped at a burger place on the way out of town. As we pulled away from the drive-through, the car died. I’ll never forget the grinning redneck on my side of the car who helped push to get it started. He had a very graphic tattoo on his arm which boasted um…that um…let’s just say it had something to do with eating and cats.

The beach was our honeymoon destination. Ever tried to park on a hill at the beach? Because any time we wanted to go somewhere, hubby pushed the car and I had to pop the clutch. I’d never driven a stick before. And why, you’re wondering, would anyone want to GO out on their honeymoon? Because she who gets to the church calendar late in a huff doesn’t recall that Mother Nature will hit in the middle of said honeymoon. I actually went fishing at the crack of dawn on my honeymoon.

We survived. Our stuff wasn’t as lucky. The guy watching our home welcomed us, then suddenly fled. Seems he’d forgotten to water the 50 ferns I’d repotted. Or feed the pet raccoon who’d burrowed down in his pen to get away from the heat. At least the dog merely ran away instead of dying. He’d also decorated the car with shoe polish, which hadn’t washed off.

I married an optimist. “Well,” he said with a smile, “now that the wedding’s behind us, the worst is over. But promise me that when we’ve been married 25 years, we don’t have to renew our vows.”

I promised him that if we’d done it right the first time, why would we need to do it again?

I kept my promise. And 28 years later, I’d still marry him again. What's better, he'd let me.



My best friend and I caught...giggling as usual.

Yep, we still giggle.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Someone should feel flattered...I just don't remember who

It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, someone is about to be flattered but darned if I remember where I read this.

When I first started a blog, I feared that it would come to own me. I worried I'd feel compelled to post daily, as if doing otherwise would let down an archaic writing god who might smite me with writer's block. Mostly it's led me to many interesting blogs, several of which I visit on a daily basis. Occasionally, a comment on a blog will lead me down the yellow brick road of jumping to a new blog, where another comment sends me walking further down the cyberspace path. Somewhere along the way I read something, which the writer admitted had been "borrowed" from someone else, that seemed to assuage my guilt without using up more than my allotted share of cyberspace.

So to whomever originated the "One Word Post", I thank you. And yes, I'm going to borrow it. Borrowing sounds better than stealing...which makes the hairs on the back of writers' necks collectively stand up.

Tomorrow I'll begin "One Word Wednesdays" in which my post will be a solitary word. And you too can play along. Add your own word or feel free to try and decipher why I picked that word.

And if doesn't feel like work, perhaps on Thursday I'll tell you why.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Update for Dave

Well, I haven't seen any evidence of the bird nest hubby said Mama & Papa of the Rose Bush made, but the one in my aloe plant is now full. :)

I've never seen a bird go in or out of it. I waited a week after discovering the nest, then decided Saturday to give the plant a drink of water. I started to water and out of the corner of my eye I spied something small...and speckled and egg shaped. Yep, Mama Wren has laid 3 eggs, so I put down the watering can and backed away. I peeked yesterday afternoon, to make sure I hadn't made the nest a watery mess. She poked her head out of the dark recesses of the nest with that unmistakable challenge of, "Hey, I don't care how big you are, this is my house so get lost!"

I left her to raise her brood in peace...but if I get a chance to document without scaring anyone, I'll share it here.