Sunday, September 28, 2008

Did I just see what I think I saw?

In the country you see lots of things city folks don't. Deer. Raccoons. Foxes. Owls. Coyotes. You get the picture. I'm used to lots of birds zipping around out here; Blue birds, Cardinals, Black Capped Chickadees, Doves and my buddy the Mockingbird. Today we added a "where the heck did YOU come from?" bird.

A white pigeon. He's taken up residence on top of hubby's archery shop. I know, it's probably female but this little voice in my head said, "By George, I think that's a pigeon!".

So....meet George.
Loves having his picture taken. Kept trying to turn his head so I'd get his good side.
Then again, maybe he was just keeping an eye on me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oh the irony

Yesterday I paid off my car. After four years, no more car payments. Hallelujah! Now maybe I can afford gas without giving up something else.

Yesterday I drove past 3 gas stations. All of them were out of gas.

So here I sit at home, waiting for the games to stop. Oil companies raised prices prior to Hurricane Ike because they just KNEW those oil rigs were going to get destroyed. Then they'd have to rebuild and we, of course, would have to pay. Except that didn't happen. In what oil companies viewed as a preparatory move, they raised the prices first. A week after the storm, the rigs were ready to go with no damage.

But the damage had been done. By the oil companies.

They fueled, pun intended, the panic buying that many folks did just prior to the hurricane. Rather than reassuring folks, they tried to scare people by reminding them those rigs comprise 20% of the fuel we use, meaning prices would rise. So people ran to fill up every vehicle they owned, including the lawnmower, prior to the storm. Stations were caught off guard and ran out. I live in an area where threat of hurricane isn't unusual. Most of us follow a protocol which doesn't include hording anything. We merely stock the essentials, ensuring there's enough for the next family. As the "warning" of CEOs egged on a blind panic some stations, in order to not be the eye of a riot, limited people to 10 gallon purchases. Therefore the fat cats with the huge profit margins got fatter. The poor local station owner, who merely makes a nickle a gallon in profit, got frustrated AND yelled at. And the people got angry...and stupid.

When will people learn to focus their anger in the right direction?

And so I sit, temporarily grounded. Why? Because I won't be a panicked consumer who ultimately aids and abets CEOs...men who should be ashamed to brag about their profits while everyone else is tightening their belts to the point of asphyxiation. I'm no math whiz, but I know statistics work both ways. That "scary" 20% translates into "Hey, we get 80% of our fuel elsewhere." I have enough fuel to get to work on Monday, when everything will probably return to normal, such as it is. The price itself has already fallen. I'm sure the tankers are just around the corner, ready to resupply.

But as I sit, I wonder. What happened to all those wise adults who promised, [back in the 70s when I was a kid who couldn't drive], that they would come up with a plan which wouldn't make us dependent on oil. Especially foreign oil. Adults who would ensure that when I was old enough to drive, there would be no lines at the pumps where you could only buy gas on the day your tag number matched whether it was odd or even number day. So what happened? Things improved momentarily and life went on, without a real plan. And where are those wise folks now, the ones who were going to ensure my future without an oil dependency?

Dead. Or in Washington, D.C., still making empty promises.

Life goes on. I have to wonder though, will there be an electric car...or a horse and buggy in my future?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is Jurassic Park missing a critter?

If you are anti-hunting or a card carrying PETA member, you might want to stop reading now.

Alligators have fast become a nuisance in our state. Without natural predators, they've multiplied to an estimated 100,000-200,000 along the coast alone. The biggest problem is how extremely bold and aggressive they've become over the past few years. Since I live near a lake system filled with them, it's not unusual to hear of a gator snacking on someone's small dog who got too close to the water's edge. Usually they stay away from humans but last year a gentleman swimming where he had for years lost an arm to an aggressive alligator who attacked him, unprovoked.

This year S.C. passed a law allowing for a special month long hunt for alligators. For a $10 fee, a hunter's name could be put into a draw for one of only 250 tags to be issued. Modeled on preexisting programs in Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, the state was divided into five zones. A hunter may only hunt in the area assigned to him therefore such limits aid in maintaining nature's balance. To ensure that not every yahoo with a boat and a gun can head for the swamp, there are extensive rules about how a gator must be captured. If that doesn't sink in, the fact there is an additional $100 fee if you're chosen usually weeds out those without scruples.

Hubby drew one of the tags. He is the type of hunter I respect because he doesn't shoot at something just because it's there. He passes on as many shots as he takes. Six feet tall and built like a grizzly bear, he can tiptoe through the woods so quietly it's scary. His grandpa claimed they're part Blackfoot Indian. He may not have been kidding. Hubby has a respect for the outdoors that many claim, but don't practice. I hear as many stories about what he saw in the woods as what he aimed a bow or gun towards. You know a guy is quiet when a fox will sit beside him on the ground and not know he's human until he whispered "Boo".

I'm not going to tell you about the hunt or the ensuing aftermath because [a] he tells it better [b] I was safely sitting at home at the time and [c] because I really just want you to see what's out there in the world. The gator wasn't taken in the back of some black water swamp but about 200 yards from the lake house my mother-in-law once owned. Where we swam, fished, took boat rides. Where little kids played and people use to toss out toys for their dogs to retrieve. Most water activities are now done in the daytime because at night, if you shine a flashlight on the water you can see the red glow of gator eyes...often dozens at a time.

Let's just say this Jurassic giant tried to climb into the boat, chomped on the boat leaving teeth marks and a broken light in his wake and generally illustrated how tough and determined an ancient species has to be to last for eons.

This is 12 feet and 700 pounds of amazement. That's not fat around his jaws, that's muscle. And the boat has the scars to prove it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

It is said that the most powerful of the five senses is smell. More memories are conjured up, sent racing to the forefront, by something as simple as a single aroma. Wisteria reminds me of childhood and spring. Cinnamon or fir trees mean Christmas. A specific aftershave reminds me of first dates with hubby. Sure, not all smells are created equal. Sulfur isn't just the smell of rotten eggs. It reminds me of time spent in a Science class I hated, one where the teacher sounded like a female drill instructor and my lab partner was a squeamish boy who made ME dissect the frog.

If Smell is the most powerful sense, Hearing has to be next. Well, at least for a girl. Scientific studies have been done which document women are moved emotionally by what they hear. It's true. Otherwise why would I be content to sit and listen to Sean Connery or James Earl Jones read the phone book? I've made an interesting discovery this past year, thanks to the Internet and a variety of blogs. I've found the voices of those that write. Voices I can actually hear when reading their words. Those sounds bring me back again and again.

At first I thought it was just the chance to visit countries I may never see, to glimpse their backyard without leaving mine. That's not just cowardice or safety issues talking, it's a lack of funding. And true, it was often simple curiosity...checking in with people whose environment is different than mine. After all, you wouldn't catch me in a raft on raging waters unless you shot me with a tranquilizer dart and strapped me down. I thought of Matthew U. yesterday when I watched "The River Wild". Heart literally in throat as Meryl Streep bounced her way through those rapids I realized that Matt's words can be like that river. Sometimes they come in a rush, pushing me to think outside the box I live in. Whether political in tone or planting ABBA earworms in my brain, there is definitely a rush there. His words define "courage of one's convictions". It's a helluva ride, plus I don't have to worry about falling out of the boat.

It's funny really. I never set out to fall in with a group of writers and poets. But when you find people who love words, you can't help yourself. First there was Shug, who I owe an enormous debt of gratitude for expanding my horizons... without emptying my wallet. Shug's words have taken me places I'd never even dreamed of visiting and stayed with me long after reading. To this day I cannot get the poem "The Man Whose Last Kiss Was Me" out of my head because it made me feel so many different emotions. But it is his sly sense of humor which draws me back daily. Perhaps I should write him a thank you note while trying to figure out how to pull off that American tour.

This in turn led me further down the Scottish road to Rachel, who should be elevated to Queen of Tourism for her ability to describe what I want to see. Although she might sometimes view herself as a Doubting Thomas, I see Rachel as strong when fear and doubt want to win. Questioning, pushing ahead...her ability to say in 24 words what I can't do until I reach 500 astounds me. Her book is both a tribute to that ability and proof that women can use less than half a day to get their point across. Her poetry is a reminder that emotions make us human, connect us. Poetry is not the exclusive property of Academics to dissect in their ivory towers while lecturing that most of us are too heathen to understand. Thanks Rachel for those "Power to the People" moments.

My journey then added a new daily stop: the United Kingdom. In Dave King's words I hear wisdom. Not because he is older, because I've witnessed first hand that older doesn't always equal wiser. But in Dave's case, it does. Not only is he unafraid to share what he sees while traveling the corridors of his imagination, he is brave enough to share memories as well. Not all memories are goodness and light. But they are real and he wisely points this out time and again. Never again will I see a sandcastle and not think of him. For the record Dave, as a kid I didn't build sandcastles with a bucket and shovel. No, I picked up wet sand and dribbled it into sandy architecture, building one layer upon another. Sort of how you do with words.

And then there's Ken Armstrong, whose profile photo sums it up nicely; in his words I hear a heartwarming, genuine smile. Ken's blog is the playground where you can laugh, yet know where to hide from the bully when he comes bounding through. His words can send you swinging toward the sky with giddy excitement or slipping down the slide while wondering how hard the landing might be. His is the blog which makes me glad to own a sense of humor to save me from my often serious self.

The Internet can also aid and abet. I was actually able to listen to Ken speak on a radio program and to hear Shug read his poetry on air. Okay, so maybe that's cheating a little. But I can tell you this. If you'd played the clips without labeling who was who, I'd still have known the difference. Not because one is Irish and the other Scottish [yes, I'll admit I can hear the difference]. It's because there is the pure joy one finds mostly in children in Ken's voice and I swear when Shug speaks, I can see a twinkle in his eye.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fish Tales

This one's for Ken, who was impressed that hubby fished with a bow and arrow. Yeah, I know. Past tense. But after a few birthdays, it's harder to stand up in a boat all night without your knees complaining and your back groaning. Then again, when you fall out of a tree stand because your buddy claimed to fix it but forgot to....well, that's another story.

This is an older photo but one of my favorites. Hubby and his partner, he of the tree stand fiasco, won the State Bowfishing Tournament that year and were lining up the catfish in order of size. The guys thought the fish looked like they were grinning.

Me? I think maybe they were singing the blues.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caution: Work in Progress

That's me. A work in progress. I suspect I'll never progress to the point of finished...well, unless you count an appointment with the Grim Reaper when I'm say...100.

I've never been a slave to fashion. But I decided today's cool weather is an opportunity to at least head towards autumn with a change of scenery here. I'm guessing by Saturday afternoon, I'll have fashioned a page closer to what I've envisioned. For now, it's a piece of this and a tweak of color over there. I hope you'll bear with me and enjoy the finished product.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Haunting Photo

[NOTE: evidently Snopes doesn't like one to directly link their photos and it was replaced. To see the photo in question, please go to http://www.snopes.com/photos/people/kevincarter.asp]

Have you ever seen a photo and not been able to erase the image from your mind? I saw one today which made me run the gamut from horror to rage.

I get a weekly e-mail update from Snopes. com, which is a site dedicated to putting Internet myths in their place. It also offers reliable information on the latest virus/worm/trojan or whatever other evil a bored geek can render to cyberspace.

Today's edition included the story of free lance photographer Kevin Carter, who in 1994 snapped a Pulitzer prize winning photo of a starving child in South Africa. The girl, who was a toddler, was trying to crawl a mile to the nearest U.N. feeding station. Someone had their eye on her, but it was most definitely not a guardian angel. Three months later, citing depression compounded by being rewarded for the photo, Carter committed suicide. The story also notes he'd had many other problems from financial to drug use, but supposedly the fallout from the photo was his personal final straw.

I know the role of a photojournalist is to simply document. But does there come a time when you trade your role as "observer" for that of a human being who gives a damn? Has society become so jaded that doing one's job takes precedent over doing the right thing? I hope not. It doesn't in my world. The story noted that Carter actually sat there for 20 minutes, looking for the best angle to illustrate the "tragic story" of famine. He took his shot, walked away and had himself a good cry.

He walked away. How?

Looking at that child I don't see a photo op. I don't see someone who has given up and is awaiting death. I don't see the result of too much politics and zero compassion. I see a child who, although looking close to death, is TRYING to live. I'd have picked that child up and carried her if I had to in order to help her reach her goal. I'd like to think I'd never ignore a person's suffering because it interfered with my job.

Ironic, isn't it, that a child with nothing believed life was worth living while a man who resided in the richest country in the world found his life hopeless?

Could you have taken this photo, then simply walked away?

Deep down I hope she made it... and that the damn bird got hit by a U.N. jeep delivering more aid.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Can Get There From Here

I understand men process information differently than the female of the species. This isn't just my opinion...it's been scientifically proven. Men have the ability to compartmentalize their thoughts into single categories: work, sports, movies, etc.. Apparently they prefer the direct approach of one thought simply leading to the next one in a similar line of thinking.


Must be nice.


A woman's thought process consists of tendrils interwoven in such a way that we start at Point A. but end up several moments later at Point Q.. We believe the ability to mentally link a myriad of things through a series of connections is perfectly normal. Unfortunately this super hero capability baffles men, who have a hard time keeping up as we merrily skip from one topic to the next. Come on ladies. You know we do it. How many times have you started talking about…say dinner, only to finally arrive at conversation’s end noting that all the money spent on those manned missions to the Moon could’ve been used elsewhere?


I offer that to explain this. While driving to work this morning, I heard the DJ joke about our state's college football rivals. In less than two minutes, I'd jumped from college football to one of my favorite wedding presents. Gentlemen, put on your seat belts. I'm about to illustrate how what you perceive as schizophrenia makes perfect sense to us.


We begin at football. In the south it's a big sport and legendary rivalries span decades. Locally that rivalry is between the University of South Carolina and Clemson. I attended USC, home of the Fighting Gamecocks. [I digress only long enough to explain that "Fighting Gamecock" was the nickname of Revolutionary War Gen. Thomas Sumter]. My friend Richard attended Clemson University, whose mascot is the Tiger. I always found that odd as Clemson was originally an agricultural institute.


From football my mind turned to reflect that logically, Richard and I should never have been friends. Our only link was the family next door. She was my best friend and Richard was her evil brother's friend. The brother was extremely smart but socially inept. Richard had enough charm for them both. Two years older than me, he saw something in my shy self which made him leap to my defense when Evil Brother's teasing became unbearable. When Richard went off to college, he asked if I'd write him...so he'd get mail.


Mail sends my brain to letters filled with Richard's bawdy sense of humor. It was his way of gently pushing me out of my comfort zone into the real world. We corresponded until I graduated from college. I addressed his letters to the "Cow College" and he sent mine to the "Chicken Coop". I listened to him rant and rave about proffessors, bemoan the female of the species, then roar the first time he had sex. I offered encouragement when he put off Dental School for a year to work for a pharmaceutical company where he made lots of money. With that money he purchased a blue Camaro. My reward was the first ride. Little did I know he was throwing in the bonus of taking me along as he tested it in the quarter mile to see how fast she'd go. I was praised for not squealing like a girl. It's hard to squeal when speed unexpectedly lodges your heart in your throat. He wrote and I listened. Letters explaining why the girl he thought was "the one" turned out to be scum. How earning all that money legally peddling drugs made him reconsider his career choice...out of guilt. Wining and dining folks at the doctor's office helped Richard discover his social consciousness. Dental school was replaced with Med. School.


In every letter Richard would say, "Sugar, I'm glad I have you to talk to." Only in the south can a man address a woman as "Sugar" and it be seen as a term of endearment rather than a sexual harassment lawsuit in the making. My Dad was the only other person who ever called me that, but he shortened it to "Shug". Richard's visits home became fewer, but he always left me with a gentle squeeze while whispering in my ear, "See you later, Sugar."


Richard's career choice leads to the memory that he sent his regrets when I got married because he was in Medical School. I won't lie. I was disappointed. He still hadn't met the right girl and I wanted to show him that "Happily Ever After" was possible. The day before my wedding a messenger arrived with a package. I recognized the handwriting on the card before I read the words. Richard had written, "Sugar, sorry I'm going to miss your big day, but I'm with you in spirit. I picked something so no matter how long you're married, you'll aways think of me." The box was from the department store where my china pattern was registered. I opened the box and burst out laughing.


Richard had bought me the Sugar dish.


Which is how, gentlemen, this morning's talk of college rivals led me to remember the sweetest gift I've ever received.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Here's Your Change

This morning I heard a news anchor cheerfully announce that it was exactly eight weeks to the Presidential election. My reaction was swift.

I'll never make it.

It's bad enough that candidates start running for office two years before the office is even open. Or that no one with a good idea is embraced if they're on the wrong political "team". Supposedly "We the People" are being represented. Sadly, we weren't given team jerseys, so we're only good once every four years when the team needs many mascots.

This morning's snippet of equal opportunity candidate bashing made me snap. One claims to be a "maverick", the other snipes that the maverick stole his word. Gee, I didn't know the word "change" belonged to one person. I wonder if the cashier who handed me back some money yesterday knew she was suppose to get permission before saying, "Here's your change. Have a good day!"?

I have a very simple suggestion for how both candidates can illustrate the word change....besides remembering you're trying to convince me that YOU should be the guy [or gal] with your finger on the red button which can change the world. I am an intelligent, well read adult human being with a functioning brain. This means I know the office for which you are mud slinging is not on a playground but one of immense power. However, I'm not so sure you know that. I have two words for both teams.

Grow up.

This is not a personality contest. No. Really. Running for President is not the same as being elected Miss America. And frankly, right now both of you are losing points for style and presentation. Sniping and mud slinging are not talents. They are annoying attempts to cover what you haven't figured out yet. How about concentrate on your viewpoint instead of putting so much effort into what the other guy is doing wrong. See above paragraph: I have a brain and I actually use it to figure out stuff. With your current attitudes, neither of you will win Miss Congeniality. I suppose I should just be grateful that a swim suit competition hasn't been added to the "how low can you go while claiming to be morally superior?"

Mom documented in my baby book that I actually sat and watched a political convention at the age of five. Sure, we had three whole networks back then and Dad was in charge of what we watched. But Mom noted my great enthusiasm when John Kennedy appeared on screen, at which point I supposedly said,"There he is. Now on with the show!"

I'm beginning to think my interest in politics peaked at age five.

The way women in my family age, I've got another fifty years of this campaign stuff to endure. So I'd appreciate it if you candidates would get your acts together, tell me what YOU think, what your plan is to fix what is wrong and perhaps occasionally inquire what I perceive as my day-to-day needs. Yes candidates, there is a world outside of D.C....the one which funds your playground temper tantrums. So how about show me what you're really made of and stop making me feel like the kid in "The Emperor's New Clothes" who is constantly on the verge of pointing out that you're naked. Loudly. With enthusiasm.

In the meantime, kindly stay away from red buttons. And if you remain confused and grumpy, then the cashier is getting my vote.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

This Week's Odds & Ends

This has been an odd week. The only consistency was that each day brought something different to the usual routine. Not all good, not all bad. So I ramble on.

Labor Day is not considered an actual holiday if you don't have to report to work, but feel the need to do the laundry anyway.

Just because you place single serve portions on a tray for the convenience of your seniors and to ensure everyone is served, doesn't mean they won't take more than one. :) I have some little old ladies who could out eat truck drivers.

Men are the stubbornest species. Exhibit A: Hubby didn't just throw back out this time, he herniated a disc. Exhibit B: A woman in such a condition would use her head and stay off her feet, ice down the back and let nature take it's course. Exhibit C: Hubby went the ice route....until he got bored, then hobbled out back to his archery shop because "it's my busiest season."

I completed my CERT {Community Emergency Response Team} training with my seniors on Wednesday. The Paramedic was shocked by some of their questions. While illustrating how to stop a severe leg wound by applying pressure to the femoral artery in the groin, the Paramedic stopped to answer a question. One of the men asked, with a straight face, "What if the guy took Viagra just before the disaster hit?" After recovering from shock himself, the Paramedic replied slowly, "Well...I'm guessing the blood flow has been um...diverted so you wouldn't need to apply as much pressure." Seems we taught the Paramedic that just because you're older doesn't make you dead or without a sense of humor.

You can't teach common sense....even if you pretty it up in a seminar and call it "Customer Service techniques." In this 3 hour course I learned [a] I didn't need to be there [b] I'm a lot more patient than my co-workers [c] I wasted 3 hours [d] my Supervisor didn't believe any of this applied to her; I had two questions to ask her...she answered the first, then turned her back as I was phrasing the second.

Friday really is the best day of the week because you get to go home.

Unfortunately this is Saturday. The good news is Tropical Storm Hanna threw a little rain in our direction and moved on. The bad news is I'm back doing laundry. Hope your weekend is more fulfilling...or at least fun.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Just Tell Me

I have a fairly eclectic taste in music, so there's no telling what CD I last left playing in the car. When I got in this morning, it appears I was in a "nothing loud" mood on Friday as I'd headed into the long weekend. So as I rolled down the driveway this morning on my way to work, Michael Buble began to croon, "Call me irresponsible. Call me unreliable. Throw in undependable too."

Yeah, I wish. Amongst my family and friends, the only part of that song they hear in relation to little ol' me is "Call me".

I am way too dependable for my own good.

There is a good side and a bad side to being the level headed person people turn to for help. The down side is when no one has time to listen to me. Some days that's annoying. Contrary to popular belief, I am only human. Most of the time I just shake it off. I do have a patient husband and my best friend from college who do take time to listen. I try not to take advantage of it.

I suppose the good side should seem obvious but at moments it feels like a curse. Need a shoulder to cry on? Had a bad day and want to tell someone what a $*#! your boss is? Need to rant about high gas prices and low pay? Can't finish your political discussion without drawing in someone on the opposite side? Call me.

Oh, I don't actually offer. They find me. Maybe I should learn to hum "Hide me".

For the most part, I don't mind. Too many people today are more familiar with talking than listening. I've always been a listener. Not an eavesdropper mind you. But I pay attention to people. Once they notice, they talk more. For someone who writes, this translates into a plethora of stories to be entertained...and often moved.

My seniors often share the best tales. I tease them that they're not called "The Greatest Generation" without reason. One of the groups which meets at the Center consists of British ladies who married American service men. I've heard about the horrors of WWII... from both sides of the pond. I've also heard about it from "the enemy", a lovely Japanese woman I once worked with. She'd gotten a job on the American base because she could make more money for her family. Unfortunately for her culturally, she fell in love with a G.I. and wanted to marry him. Her father chased her around the kitchen with a butcher knife, intent on killing her, then himself, for the shame she was bringing on the family by marrying "the enemy". Her brother stepped in, took the knife and told her to run. She didn't speak to her father for 40 years.

They have so many stories, my folks. Alex and his little brother were Russian orphans, sent to the States to live with family. But they were split up, with the baby sent to live with the "poor" uncle while Alex lived with the "rich" one. Unable to stand having more than his brother, Alex went to live with the poor uncle. Then there's Herbie, from Louisiana, who rode the Streetcar named Desire to work. Leona once told me about seeing "some skinny, not very attractive guy singing at a local dance. I couldn't believe he went on to become famous!" The skinny guy was Frank Sinatra.

You can't make up stuff like that.

Maybe my CD player felt sorry for me this morning and wanted to ease me into my work week, which no doubt will be filled with lots of things for me to do for others. As I rolled into my parking spot at work, a guitar began to strum gently as Andre Bocelli laughed softly, then whispered, "Besame". I smiled, sitting in the car long enough to listen to the whole song. As I walked to the door with a spring in my step, I suddenly realized what he'd been singing.

Kiss me.

Again with the commands. At least this demand for attention was a pleasant one.