Sunday, September 30, 2012

Random Sunday Thoughts.......

  • I'm in a blog funk. You may have already detected that by my last few posts. And this one.
  • I used to hate Sundays, especially Sunday nights. Not anymore.
  • Technically I missed my September cycling goal of 300 miles. But since I was only 1.09 mile short, and that was less than 1%, the computer program tells me I'm at 100%. And I'm okay with that. If I had known I would be 1.09 mile short when I rode on Thursday, I wouldn't have taken the treacherous short-cut through the park with its roots and bumps and ruts and sticks. I'm sorry, Jezebel.
  • At the baseball game Thursday night, I bought ice cream. It came in a little plastic Braves baseball helmet. I have no idea what to do with it (other than continue serving ice cream in it, which is a definite possibility), but I can't bear to part with it.
  • I wanted to post a picture of said baseball-helmet-ice-cream-holder, but I think my camera is still in the RV. And it's raining.
  • I took my camera to the football game, clipped onto my belt loop. It banged around on my leg every time I took a step (or jumped up and down and screamed), and it was in the way every time I went to the bathroom. And I never took a single photo. 
  • It may be possible to overdose on sports, but I haven't yet. I will continue gathering data for the research on this topic, though.
  • Braves win, Falcons win, Bulldogs win = happy Bragger.
  • I wish I could find a way to serve tacos for dinner without stinking up the whole house. Other than going out to eat, that is.
  • I have three well-formed novels in my head and plenty of time to write, but I can't make myself sit down and commit them to actual words. 
  •  I already know what I'm going to wear to a football game on November 24th.
  • Here lately, sleeping through the night has been cause for celebration.
  • I'm much more patient than some people think I am.
  • I had all day today to get caught up on laundry. And I didn't wash a single load. I guess tomorrow is another day. Maybe I won't have to go naked.
  • When I complained about pain in my hand to my sister-nurse, she diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome. She may be partially correct, but I realized the pain came from playing a stupid video game. My dentist has already told me to stop playing them, because that's the only time I clench my jaws and grind my teeth. What an idiot. Me, not the dentist.
  • Changing banks is the hardest, most time-consuming thing I've done lately. And I'm not 100% positive I got all the automatic electronic thingamabobs transferred. Fingers crossed.
  • I make a terrible caretaker. I am happy to do anything that needs to be done, but I don't anticipate needs very well and I don't respond well (at all?) to subtlety. 
  • It's almost past my bedtime. Good night!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Not a Morning Person After All........

I have always considered myself a morning person, but perhaps I need to refine my definition of what exactly constitutes a "morning person."

I thought I was a morning person because I don't mind getting up early, and I even enjoy getting up before I have to. What I have discovered lately, though, is that I don't really want to DO anything that early. If I can get up and spend a couple of hours (or more) drinking coffee, reading the paper, checking my Facebook, checking emails, and reading a few blogs, then yes I am indeed a morning person.

It occurred to me yesterday when I was riding my bike that even something I really, really enjoy, like cycling, is best left until later in the day. When I retired, I told myself that I would get up early, early every morning (or at least once in a while) and ride my bike before it got hot. That almost never happened.

When I'm on organized rides like BRAG, I don't have much choice about riding early, but I find I'm not at my conversational best until I've got about 12-15 miles behind me. At least an hour.

I realized yesterday that I am particularly fond of the weather at this time of year, not only because of the high, brilliantly blue skies, but also because I can wait until almost lunchtime and go for a ride without suffering from heat stroke.

In retrospect, I wasn't the morning person I thought I was all those years I was a teacher either. I was always THERE early, even at the school where teachers had to report by 6:50 AM. I was usually there by 6:30. Being there, however, didn't mean I wanted to interact with anyone. I wanted to be there before anyone else so I could check email, copy tests or other materials, plan class activities, and generally get my ducks in a row before I was forced to have conversations. I dearly loved being in a mobile classroom at the back of the school, because people didn't just wander by there and stick their heads in the door. If it was raining, they didn't even come if they HAD a reason.

Perhaps I should start my career over with this new found self-knowledge.

Never mind.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber....

I downloaded The Inn at Rose Harbor for my iPad. I didn't care much for this book, and I can't really say why. It was on the New York Times Bestseller List, and I can't really say why about that either.

I didn't find the characters fully developed; they were more one-dimensional. Maybe I'm just picky, but it seemed the author just threw enough of some literary characteristics in the book to appeal to different groups. A little mysticism (talking to the dead and having them talk back), a little religion, a little macho gruffness, a little romance a lot of romance, a cute little dog. They all had their place in the book, but they didn't FLOW with the book.

The main character, Jo Marie Rose (really? you need THREE first names? just kidding, I know one of them is her last name, and two first names are standard here in the South), has recently lost her husband and she impulsively goes out and buys a bed-and-breakfast, never having had any experience even remotely associated with owning and operating one. Yet she has time to knit, cook meals for herself and her (two) guests, adopt a dog, schedule a renovation project (or two), meet the locals, bake bread, spar with the local handyman, take copious naps, and talk to her dead husband.

Yes, I realize it's fiction and I'm supposed to ... what's the phrase? ... suspend my disbelief?

I also found a grammatical error when the author said the dog "...laid down in front of the fire..." ARRGGGGHHHH!!!!! How many editors does it take to catch that? I know I'm a boorish grammar snob, but finding an error like that in a book turns me off. Way off.

It's an easy read, but I could have derived as much pleasure from reading the four or five issues of The New Yorker Magazine that I haven't gotten around to yet. Maybe more.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Please Excuse Bragger's Absence.....

You get a break tonight...

We are at the Braves' game, and I didn't plan far enough in advance to write a real blog post.

You're welcome.

(I don't know why I always think these things are good ideas... There's no way Hubby will let us stay until the end of the game. But I want to see Chipper one more time in person.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Update on States Where I've Ridden my Bicycle...

I have a vague plan to ride my bicycle in "as many states as I can" before I either die or get too old to ride. I hope that both of those are a long way off, especially since I have so many states left.

I know, it's pitiful, right?

Before this past summer, it looked even MORE pitiful. I had covered all the states in the Southeast, and Iowa was hanging up there all by itself. At least this year I did give it some company by riding in Illinois and Wisconsin.

I had a grand plan on the way to Wisconsin that I would have Hubby stop in Kentucky just across the Indiana border and cover two states at once. I looked on the map and knew we would be traveling on U.S. Highway 41, but it looked like it had a wide shoulder (it does). Where it crossed the Ohio River, it appeared the bridge had enough extra pavement almost to be a bike lane (it isn't). I also looked on the map and found a bike path in Indiana that I could follow to the meet-up point with Hubby.

As we approached Henderson, Kentucky on U.S. 41, even BEFORE I saw the bridge, I had misgivings. U.S. 41 did indeed have a wide shoulder...along with a 70 mph speed limit. It simply wasn't safe to ride a bicycle on, no matter how much pavement there was. Then we got to the bridge, and there wasn't a quarter inch of pavement outside the travel lane. I would have been wildly unpopular with drivers crossing that bridge.

I did manage to ride in the state park in Illinois, so those miles are legitimate. There's a guy who is a friend of a friend, and he has a goal of riding in EVERY single state. I think Hawai'i is going to be his last one, and he has combined it with a cruise next January. (Yes, I've thought about going.) His rule, though, is that he has to ride 150 miles in a state for it to count.


Rules schmules. If my tire crosses the border, I'm counting it.

When we were camped on the shore of Lake Michigan and someone mentioned a ferry to Michigan, I got the bright idea to take my bike on the ferry and hop over to Michigan, ride a few miles there, and return, checking another state off my list. Then I found out the ferry A) cost $70; and B) took three hours each way. (Apparently that Lake Michigan is a BIG sucker. Just kidding, I know it is.)

When we were on the way back from Wisconsin, we stayed overnight in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and it would have been a simple matter to ride a few miles in that state and get another "sticker" on my map. In fact, I mentioned to Hubby on the way to the campground that I could get on my bike and ride back to get us some dinner, but when he saw the road we were on Hubby said, "I don't want you riding on this road." He's NEVER said that to me before!

I was bummed about missing out on Indiana, though, and frankly I had had enough of cycling for one week. So Kentucky will have to wait for another trip too.

Katydid suggested I ride one of the Amish push-cycles and count that, but I thought that would REALLY be cheating. Maybe there are rules after all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Project: UnderBlog.....

I want to tell you the latest writing adventure with which I've become associated (thanks to my BRILLIANT friend with apparently low standards over at Hooey!Critic). Our first writing assignment is due next week, and I haven't even submitted my bio. Can you say "slacker"?

Neena is such an organized person that she even created this post for us to post on our own blogs. (She knew better than to count on ME to get it done in a timely manner.)

PLEASE come visit us (at the very least), and PLEASE consider writing something for us.

I wanted to share an exciting new project with you! It is called Project: Underblog. The website is still under construction and will be launching at the beginning of October. Project: UnderBlog is a submission-based collaborative writing project honoring the smaller voices in the blogging community. With a foundation of 5-10 core bloggers to publish, promote, and engage on a monthly basis, this is ultimately a place where the majority of the content comes from submissions. Anyone can submit and share their voices and stories without consideration of their blog stats, followers, page ranks, and social media reach. 
See, it isn’t all about the numbers. There are thousands of writers within the blogging community that write with authenticity on a daily basis and, because they may not possess the numbers most writing communities want, they may not feel they are being heard. But that doesn’t diminish the value of what they have to say. Project UnderBlog is a place where bloggers are accepted based on the power of their words and not on the reach of their numbers - where they can be heard, promoted, and celebrated no matter their size. It is about celebrating the fierceness of the “underblog.”

With that in mind we would love to have you consider submitting a blog post to our project. Your words, your passion, and your voice will be celebrated and promoted across an audience that doesn’t worry about numbers! If you're interested in adding a submission please let us know! You'll have freedom to write whatever moves you (no assigned topics or themes - just powerful words!) If nothing else I'd love for you to follow on Twitter (@projunderblog) and like us on Facebook ( so we can work to build an amazing audience! Thanks for supporting this project!!! Email for more details!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some Me Time.....

After two rounds of doctors' visits today, we mercifully got home around 1:30. Hubby accompanied me on today's visits, but he was generally worthless. (I will compose a post about my experience with men and their emotional issues, but tonight it would only be snarky.)

We were walking up the street from his mother's house (her car is easier for her to get into and out of than my SUV, and besides it has a license plate designating her as disabled), and before Hubby could say anything about what we needed to do this afternoon, I said, "I'm going to ride my bike."

I was quite crabby and tense when I left on my bike, but I used the ride to push myself physically instead of breaking down emotionally. It worked wonders. I'm proud to say my fuse is a couple of millimeters longer than it was when I left home. I may still blow, but perhaps the physical exertion has helped delay it for a little while.

It was one of those picture-perfect days that must have been created specifically for cycling. (Or at least some other outdoor activity.) Beautiful blue skies, not a cloud in sight, cooler temperatures with just a hint of a chill. Perfect. I rode 36 miles and it was exhilarating. Refreshing. Restoring. Calming.

I needed that.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Good News and Bad News......

Caution: No sarcasm ahead. Deep thoughts that I can't express correctly and won't come out the way I mean them.

The bad news from last week is that my mother-in-law is going to require radiation treatments. Initially that meant going to downtown Atlanta five days a week for five to six weeks. We met with the radiologist last Wednesday, however, and my burning question for him was going to be, "Isn't there ANYBODY closer to us that can treat her?" Much to my surprise, though, the doctor beat me to it.

I think it takes an amazing person to go into a field like radiology. (I'm sure there are others on the top-10 list also.) A patient who shows up in a radiologist's office is already in dire straits. Either the radiation is being used as a last-ditch measure to control pain, or it's being used in the hope that it can prevent cancer from returning. (Please don't feel compelled to give me a medical lesson on radiology's other uses, because these are the only two pertinent to this story.) My mother-in-law isn't in a lot of pain, but when they removed the mass from the roof of her mouth (correction: they removed most OF the roof of her mouth), they discovered some nerve and bone involvement. Radiation was suggested. The people who work in that field are my new heroes.

I am a little disappointed that we won't see the doctor who is 55 miles away in Atlanta, because I really liked him. He seemed very down-to-earth, and I could sense that he was going to suggest we NOT pursue radiation for an 83-year-old (next week) woman who isn't suffering any pain. He mentioned the hardships of her traveling, the distance, the toll on the entire family. FINALLY, someone who understands our plight! (Oh my, that sounded terribly selfish, and that's NOT the way I meant it.)

I also appreciated the way he spoke to my mother-in-law. Throughout this ordeal, I've become annoyed with medical professionals who assume just because she's in a wheelchair, she can't think for herself. They ask ME their questions, and I just look at my mother-in-law. Sometimes they get the message; sometimes they don't. And don't get me started on the ones who think her hearing is impaired. Sheesh.

The radiologist sat down next to my mother-in-law, and at first he just looked at her and smiled. He was trying to formulate his question. He began, "How well are you going to tolerate...." and then he stopped. He sort of chuckled, and then he asked her, "Can you just tell me how long you're going to live?" He was being facetious, of course, but I think mother-in-law's answer directed the course of action. She said, "As long as I can," and he patted her on the hand. He made it his business to find us a clinic nearer our house that could handle her treatment, and he called and made the appointment himself. Not his resident, not a nurse, but the doctor. He put me on the phone, and when the receptionist started asking me questions, he took the phone back and told her she did NOT need to know that information right then, that we had to get the patient home. What a guy!

I asked him the purpose of the radiation, and he told me her cancer had a 50-75% chance of recurring. The radiation might cut those odds in half, so at worst we would be looking at a 37.5% chance. Maybe. What I thought of later but didn't think to ask him at the time was whether or not the benefits of the radiation treatments would outweigh the debilitating effects. We meet with the new radiologist tomorrow, and I'll ask her then.

It's a sticky situation. I want the choice about pursuing this line of treatment to be completely my mother-in-law's. But I'm not sure she feels she HAS a choice. She just goes from doctor to doctor and appointment to appointment and never complains, but I wonder at what point enough is enough.

I'm not saying this right at all. I'm afraid it sounds like I wish she would just decline treatment and let nature take its course because that would be much more convenient for me. Please believe me when I say that isn't what I mean at all. I'm worried that radiation will render her COMPLETELY unable to care for herself, and her independence is all she has left. What precious little of THAT she has left. She lives alone (at the "T" at the end of our road - I can see if her lights are on or not), but she can't drive, she can't do her own laundry, and she has to have help getting in and out of the bathtub. Yet she doesn't want anyone to come live with her either. (The only real option for that is Hubby's sister, and that would be a disaster. They do not play well together.) I wish she could come here, but we don't have a bathroom downstairs.

She gets around her own house with a motorized scooter. She can pull herself up to the sink to fix her coffee and what little she eats, and she can take herself to the bathroom. We go down there at least once a day, and I do what I can for her when she will let me, but mostly she just takes care of herself. I think some of the medical professionals think we should do more for her, but that's not what she wants.

I worry about the quality of her life if she gets too weak to take care of herself at all. I would gladly go stay down there, even at night, since it's so close and it wouldn't be like actually moving. It may come to that, and I won't mind at all.

Before his conversation with mother-in-law, I could sense the radiologist's dilemma. He finally summed it up by saying if she had another condition, like heart trouble or pneumonia or something else, he would recommend not getting the treatment at all. General frailty itself, though, does not mean the cancer shouldn't be treated. In his words, frail people are known to live a long time. He is worried, however, about the increased likelihood of a fall or some other accident associated with repeated car trips. It's a classic Catch-22.

I can talk all day long about what I would do in that situation, but until I am IN that situation, anything I say would be pure speculation. What I think today might not resemble at all what I would choose to do in the event death were staring me right in the face.

Meanwhile, life goes on. I took her to a baby shower this afternoon. Mother-in-law will be a great-great-grandmother in November, five generations of girls. (My sister-in-law is only 6 years older than I am, and she will be a great-grandmother, and that just boggles my mind. I'm not even a grandmother yet!) Hubby is going with me tomorrow, and we hope to work out an arrangement where we take turns with the radiation appointments. We might even include his sister in the pitching rotation, but that remains to be seen. I don't always trust her to be ... responsible ... enough to take care of her own mother.

I did NOT intend to end the weekend on such a downer of a post. It could be so much worse, and I'm grateful that it isn't. We will simply take things one day at a time and do whatever needs to be done. Have a good week, and I'll keep you posted. Thanks for listening!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Game Day...........

Hubby and I have very different ideas about tailgating. Color me shocked.

Here's how I prefer to tailgate:

Leave home hours before kickoff to get a prime parking space.

Set up the television and satellite outside and share the experience with other tailgaters. Pull for whoever is playing against Florida and South Carolina.

Snack all afternoon, until it's time for the real meal (pulled pork sandwiches this week).

Leave for the stadium an hour ahead of kickoff, to allow for the one-mile walk and to make sure we see all the pre-game ceremonies.

Stay for the whole game, counting off the seconds at the end. Especially if it's a close game.

Come back and celebrate with the other tailgaters.

Hubby's version:

Leave home hours before kickoff to get the preferred satellite spot.

Set up the television and satellite inside the RV with the air conditioner on, even if it IS the first day of fall and it's a nice day outside. Pull for any teams you have bets on. Switch to golf when football games aren't going your way.

Snack all afternoon, until it's time for the real meal (pulled pork sandwiches this week). Okay, so that part is the same.

Leave for the stadium as close to kickoff as possible, because the pre-game stuff can't possibly matter. Actually, it wouldn't be a tragedy to miss kickoff.

Leave the game as soon as the outcome is obvious, even if it's only halftime.

Come back to the RV and head for home as soon as traffic clears, even though your parking pass is good for the whole weekend. Except for days like today, when kickoff isn't until 7:45 PM, so spending the night only makes sense.

Not that I'm complaining. It could be worse - He could be a Florida fan. Oh wait...we would never have been together.

Go Dawgs!!!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Flashback Friday - High School Football.....

Maybe I fell in love with high school football because when I was in high school, Friday night football was ALL there was to do in our town. Seriously, we had one "restaurant" - a Dairy Queen, which is where my first job was. I made $1.50 and hour and had to wear all white. And nurses' shoes.

I was supposed to be a cheerleader my 10th grade year, but I quit before the season started. It may have been a recurring knee problem (the damn things just pop out of place for no reason at all), or it may have been a deep-seated feeling that I wasn't cheerleader material. Anyway, I marched in the bank that year, playing the glockenspiel, and my junior and senior years I was on the drill team. So Friday night football was my social life for all of high school (and for most of my friends too).

Even after high school, I couldn't get away from going to the football games. I remember hanging around one Friday night talking to Figment (my crush from high school and beyond, but boy am I glad now that he wouldn't give me the time of day), and I was probably all googly-eyed or something. He wanted to go to medical school, but he abandoned those plans in college (I'm not sure why - maybe he wasn't smart enough), and along the way he was a police officer for a while and then an EMT. (He's now a P.A., and he has treated my mother before. Horrors!) The night I was chatting with him at the ballgame, we were standing along the fence (because cool people NEVER sit down at a high school football game), and he casually mentioned that he hoped they didn't need the ambulance that night, because it wouldn't crank. I think he was trying to impress me with the fact that he and the EMT's on duty that night were BFF's or something. Whatever.

I swear it hadn't been 5 minutes since we had that conversation when the announcer came on the P.A. system and said they needed the ambulance on the field. (Looking back, I'm not sure why they had to ANNOUNCE it. A football field is pretty big, it's pretty much the center of attention, and I'm pretty sure everything had come to a screeching halt.) Figment looked at me, and I looked at him, and he took off running. Again, I think that only made him LOOK important. Unless he had a battery tucked in his pants, there wasn't a whole lot he could do.

Even after I started teaching, I was still part of Friday night football. Perhaps it made me look like a dedicated teacher, but in reality it was just an excuse. I loved the lights, the band, the cheerleaders, the cool night air, the ceremony, the tradition, the pep rallies, everything. I even wore the school colors, even though they were HIDEOUS together. (Red and gold - yuck! Only it's hard to find clothes that are truly "gold," so we usually wound up wearing red and yellow. Double yuck!! I didn't mind wearing them to school, but darned if I didn't hate having to stop at the store wearing those garish things.) I didn't just WATCH the games, though. I became COMPLETELY CAUGHT UP IN THEM. I remember at one game, early in my career, I was sitting alone because I didn't know anyone yet who wasn't smart enough to stay home on a Friday night, and there was a punt into the end zone. I screamed at the receiver, "DOWN IT!!!" Every single person in our section turned around to look at me. I wanted to say, "WHAT?????" but it was apparent they thought I was nuts for being so into a high school game.

When Sweet Girl was in high school, I attended the games to see her march in the band, and one time Hubby and I even served as chaperones to an away game. That was the only time we did that though; I thought Hubby was going to get thrown off the bus for misbehavior.

I don't have any reason to go to Friday night games right now. I'm hopeful for the future, though, because my great-nephew will be in high school next year. He's 6'3" in the 8TH GRADE, and the high school coaches are salivating for him to get there. And oh yeah, one year on his standardized tests, he missed a question. One. Question. So he's not just a jock. I can't wait to go see him play. I hope for all that's holy their colors are not red and "gold."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Only a Little Bit Forced......

If you've read my blog for a while, you have probably come across my obsession with numbers. (I think I should have been a math teacher, but Mr. College Calculus scared me away.)

I have made a wish at 11:11 since I was a teenager.

When I ride my bike, I make a wish if my computer reads 11.11 (that's miles). Or 22.22. 33.33. You get the idea. I also think it's cool when the time elapsed reads something like 1:23:45 or 2:34:56.

Yesterday I got on the website for Georgia Athletics (duh, like I don't do that a gazillion times a day), and the site has a countdown to the next football game. (I'm trying not to take issue with the fact that there are no such countdowns for gymnastics. Can you say discrimination?)

Check out the time (at that point) to kickoff for Saturday's game. I had to do a screen capture VERY quickly before it clicked down to the next second. No, I did NOT sit on the site for 30 minutes and wait for it to tick down. I don't have the patience for that.

I will be the first to admit that it takes very little to entertain me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Few More Travel Photos from Lititz, Pennsylvania...

Rather than tax my brain trying to come up with a meaningful blog post (whatever THAT is, and besides I'm now typing this post TWICE because my computer just ate it and for whatever reason the automatic save didn't work) or boring you to death with a "what I did today" post or draining my already-nearly-empty emotional tank discussing my mother-in-law's health and the resultant philosophical discussions with Hubby (but we ARE on the same page, thank goodness), I will instead include a few more pictures from my recent trip.

Just as I can't explain being enraptured with the three little Amish girls from last night's post, I am also at a loss to explain why the little town of Lititz, Pennsylvania got under my skin. It could possibly be the fact that it is home to both the Wilbur Chocolate Factory AND the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Factory. What more could a person want? And with all the Amish farms nearby, surely a glass of fresh milk wouldn't be too hard to find. 

I have an affinity for flags, and I also like taking photos that identify where I was when I took them. Check. And mate.

My pretzel was far from perfect, but you should see some of the atrocities created by my fellow travelers. Come on, people, just follow the directions! I was so hoping we would be able to bake these and then eat our own creations, but apparently health department rules forbid it. They were gracious enough, though, to allow us to PURCHASE a fresh-baked pretzel upstairs in the gift shop. Health department my foot.

These ovens were the pretzels were originally baked are very much like the pizza ovens in Italy.

Like many creations, the hard and crunchy pretzel was an accident. Originally all pretzels were of the soft variety (and I LOVE them), but someone accidentally left a batch in the oven overnight and they were baked twice. Voila!

Somewhere behind me, someone was explaining the ins and outs of the pretzel making business. I was much more interested in following this lady around, though.

I don't think this machine is actually used anymore (I hope not, since it was FULL of dust), but it does still run. She turned it on and let us see how the little metal arms performed the motions that twisted a roll of dough into a pretzel. Fascinating!

Now see, there are all kinds of problems with the composition of this photo. Never mind that I was eating a pretzel and could barely be compelled to stop chewing long enough for the picture to be taken. Katydid and I were going to take pictures of each other, but a kind lady offered to take both our picture. I wish she had backed up a little bit so you could actually see the giant pretzel behind which we are standing. That sounded ugly, and I'm not trying to be critical, really. But if Katydid had taken it, I would have asked her to do it again.

I tried to get a better shot of the front of the building, but there was a bus in my way. I mean a deluxe motor coach.

I don't know if the flags are ALWAYS out in Lititz, or if these were on display because it was the day after September 11th. Such a quaint little town; I fell in love with it.

Something about railroad tracks disappearing in the distance appeals to me. Perhaps it is my inner need to escape. Perhaps it results from my lifelong desire to hop a freight train and see where I wind up. Besides jail, I mean.

The light isn't very good, but I love this shot of the old train station. I wonder if it's still in operation...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Special Photo.......

First of all, a disclaimer:

I did not take this photo.

This picture looks like a postcard to me, one of those too-perfect images you see for sale. Or one of those things you find in a picture frame that you buy for a gift.

Second disclaimer:

I feel terribly guilty about posting this photo on my blog.

These are three little Amish girls who were selling cookies outside the farm where we browsed for quilts and other crafts. (It's where I bought my rug.) I saw them with my own eyes and spoke to them, so they are very real. (Yes, I bought some cookies I didn't need, only because I didn't think they would sell me one of the children.)

Amish people do not like to be photographed. They typically will allow photos taken from a distance, or from their backs, but not anything that shows their faces. They consider photographs to be graven images, and besides they do not like to attract attention to themselves. I didn't take the photo, but am I just as guilty (tacky?) for publishing it? I DID resist the temptation to post it on Facebook.

I was enthralled by these little girls. The perfection of their skin, the austerity of their hairstyles, the innocence of their smiles. One of the leaders of our tour took this photo, and she sent each of us a CD of images. I keep going back to this one again and again. Is it possible to be slightly in love with three little girls whose names I don't even know?

I learned a lot about the Amish in our brief stay there. I previously thought they had very little contact with the "English" (that's anyone who isn't Amish, so for just a couple of days I considered myself English), but that isn't the case. They do business with the English (obviously), and they have no qualms about visiting English doctors or using English hospitals. They are very friendly, at least the ones with whom we came in contact, and the Riehls, the family with whom we had dinner, demonstrated a marvelous sense of humor.

The Amish have their own schools, even though they pay school taxes in their respective communities. We saw some Amish children on their way to school, some riding the push-cycles I showed you yesterday, but many of them walking. Some of them were barefoot, and our guide said they prefer to go barefoot as long as possible. Such a tiny detail, but it was fascinating to see them all dressed up in their Amish clothing but barefoot.

The Amish do not believe in insurance; they take care of each other. In the case of disaster or catastrophe (major illness, barn fire, etc.), the Amish band together and take care of the injured party. They have huge sales, they come together to build a new barn themselves, whatever it takes to make life right again for whoever has experienced hardship. Our tour guide said in 2006, when the Amish school shooting took place (only about 7 miles from where we were), members of the Amish community were astounded at the outpouring of love and support from people all over the world. They apparently didn't think the rest of the world "cared about them."

The Amish do not operate automobiles (although it is permissible if an Amish person works for someone outside the faith and operating an automobile is part of the normal duties of the job), but they aren't AGAINST autos. They will accept a ride from an English person with a car if necessary, and some of them have a joint phone used by several farms, though it won't be INSIDE the house.

My favorite expression used to describe the Amish ways is that they "want to be IN this world, but not OF this world." I found myself comparing my own desires and ambitions with theirs, and I didn't think I looked favorable in comparison.

I even like the Amish view of education. They send their children to school through about the eighth grade (attending the same number of days required by public schools), making sure the youngsters can read and write. After that point, they are taught a vocation. The attitude is that if a person can read and WANTS to gain knowledge, he or she can acquire it at the local library. I was aghast at first, but then I decided that approach makes a lot more sense than imprisoning teenagers in their desks and attempting to force-feed them information and knowledge they may never use. Or need. (I think I hear the English Teachers United folks knocking on my door, demanding I surrender my membership card.)

I found the Amish people and their ways simply beautiful. If only I could be Amish with the Internet.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Some Photos......

I am a bit disappointed in my photos from the Pennsylvania/Virginia trip. Maybe it's because we were on the go, go, go so much and I didn't have time to properly "compose" them. (Truly, some of them were taken from the window of the bus. I mean the deluxe motor coach.) And as I typically do, I have mourned the shots I didn't get. I'm still mourning the fact that I did NOT photograph a tiny little girl from the trip Hubby and I took to Aruba in 2002. From this trip, I regret not getting a photograph of the CAMELS grazing on one of the Amish farms we drove by.

By the way, I am determined to go back to the Amish country of Pennsylvania and ride my bike. It just seems so appropriate.

Here is a sampling of some of the photographs. I won't bombard you with all of them in one sitting.

These guys were playing in the little square of an area called Kitchen Kettle in Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Oh yeah, I had to buy magnets and a shot glass from THAT place. The square had lots of souvenir shops, craft shops, and restaurants.

I fell in love with the colorful farms that dotted the Pennsylvania countryside. You can tell an Amish farm from an "English" one because there are no lines going into the buildings.

The Amish horses are beautiful.

We were trying to put our faces in the cut-outs, and we asked a bystander to take our picture. She couldn't see what was showing on the screen, we couldn't stand on top of each other, and the camera wasn't close enough. Epic fail, I guess. I think Frogger Blogger (bottom right) looks like she's in that old Brady Bunch opening scene.

The Dutch Apple Theater, where we saw Fiddler on the Roof. Wonderful production, wonderful food, and excellent desserts. It's all about the desserts.

Not a very good picture because it was taken from inside the bus. I wish we had had more opportunities to get off the bus and take photos of the scenery.

An Amish buggy. They have been required to put reflectors, lights, and a reflective triangle on them to make them safer when driving at night. Many roads have extra paving outside the travel lane to help accommodate the Amish buggies. Still, I was nervous when our bus (I mean deluxe motor coach) passed close to them. If a buggy has a visor-looking attachment on the top of the front of the buggy (a spoiler, if you will), it indicates the buggy belongs to a minister, a bishop, or other officer of the church.

Amish push-cycles. Our tour guide explained that pedals would allow travel considerably farther from home, so Amish people have modified bicycles to push-cycles, which afford mobility but I suppose aren't ideal for long distances.

Some of the many, many gorgeous quilts for sale.
More photos to come. Thanks for accompanying me virtually!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.........

Image from

I marvel at the ironies (or coincidences, I'm not sure what the difference is) that occur in my life. I had this book on my iPad and decided I would start it on the long bus ride to Pennsylvania. Right before I started reading the book, I had a conversation with my mother about whether or not I would accompany her on a trip to Australia in April (I won't).

Then I settled in to read the book, only to discover that it is set in a remote place off the coast of Australia. Did it change my mind about going on the trip? Almost. But not quite.

This description comes from

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

I can't tell you how gripping I found this book. It is emotionally powerful, one of those where it's difficult to condemn ANY of the characters for their behavior, no matter how conflicting and contradictory it is. 

This book has a spot on my top-ten list of favorite books ever. Possibly top-five material. I fully intend to read it again. Not only does it have a compelling plot with marvelous characters, the writing is beautiful, poignant, flowing, and thought-provoking. 

I wish I wish I wish I wish I wish I had a book club with whom to discuss this book. Please read it so we can discuss it virtually. Thank you!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

PennsylvanianTrip Day 6......

Short post before I crash.

Long ride, but I made it to the game with plenty of time to spare. I was sooooooooooooo happy to see Hubby.

Good to be home to my bed. My coffee pot. My dog. My Hubby. My computer.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pennsylvania Trip Day 5.......

The "Monk" in me feels weird referring today as Day 5 on the Pennsylvania trip, since we are now in Virginia. But I'll work through my issues on my own time.

This was another busy, busy, busy day. As our tour guide, Deanne, said yesterday, you go on vacation to the beach to rest. You don't rest (or relax, apparently) on a tour like this one.

We spent the whole day touring Williamsburg. If you're at all familiar with Williamsburg, you know they strive to keep the historical part of the town as true to the 1700's as they can. So the only way to tour Williamsburg is on foot. (I suppose you could do it on horseback, but I left my horse at home.)

We walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked some more. Oh, and we shopped and shopped and shopped and shopped.

I am not a history buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I do appreciate the history associated with Williamsburg. I'll probably be considered blasphemous for saying this, but I think Williamsburg is a little full of itself. I love the folks being in period costume all over town, but when they start talking in the present tense as if they are still IN the 1700's, I start getting a little cynical.

I know, right? Me? Cynical?

I had to laugh when one of the "craftspeople" was talking like that and an airplane could be heard overhead. I wanted to yell, "How do you explain THAT?" But of course I didn't. I thought it was clever of them to hide the cash register behind a panel of wood. Tee hee.

I am very glad we came, and I have enjoyed almost every minute. But I'm also glad to be going home tomorrow. That's what travel is all about, isn't it? I'm actually looking forward to the bus ride home tomorrow. At least I can rest.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pennsylvania Trip Day 4........

Today was a tough day. I realize that sounds horribly ungrateful, complaining about a trip I didn't even pay for. But things did not go as planned.

We were supposed to tour Hershey (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate), have lunch, and be on our way to Williamsburg.

Our tour guide for the last two days has been a local woman from Lancaster Cointy, Pennsylvania. She was very knowledgeable about the Amish and other local attractions, but her delivery was ... a little ... boring.

We went to Hershey this morning and went to the alumni center for the Milton Hershey school. The school, originally for disadvantaged boys, has a rich and fascinating history. Just not 3 hours' worth of fascination. (Please Google this school and read about it when you have time. I plan to. It trly is a blessing.) Even our own tour guide said she got "confused". I think she was being nice. All day we were looking forward to going to Chocolate World, and by the time we got there, we had exactly one hour. We did have a very nice lunch at the Hershey Hotel, a beautiful venue. Just try to imagine what the desserts were like at the Hershey Hotel.

We were about an hour late leaving Hershey, and that put us right outside Washington, DC right at 5:00. Oh. Joy. We sat in traffic for a little over an hour, and there were some hurting people by the time we got to a restroom. (For some reason no one wants to use the one on the bus.)

We finally got here about 9:30, and tomorrow is another busy day, touring Williamsburg. Hubby told me to take lots of pictures, so I'm thinking it's a place he and I need to come back to.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pennsylvania Trip Day 3.......

Wow. There's no way I can adequately narrate everything we did today. Since I can't import pictures, I'll give you just a snapshot of most of our events and describe in more detail the one thing I wasn't allowed to take photos of.

We started out by going to an Amish home where they sell quilts and other handmade crafts. They had an amazing selection of quilts, including two in the cathedral window pattern, my favorite and the one I've been working on for twenty years. One of them was $975 and one was $995. I couldn't decide which one I wanted, so I bought them both.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I bought a rug. And a Christmas ornament.

We then went to a large dairy operation, where my mother complained about the smell. Sigh.

After the dairy farm we went to a pretzel factory and a chocolate factory. Please send the rest of my clothes up here. Never mind, I'm going to have to buy larger sizes if I stay here.

Then we went to see Jonah at the Sights and Sounds Theater. After I got over the fact that it was from the Bible (I know I low, I don't know what I expected either), it was a fabulous show. But we'd been on the run and eating all day, so putting us in a darkened theater might not have been a good idea. I had to get a coffee during intermission.

The highlight of the day, though, was having dinner in an Amish home. I assumed they would split our group up, since there are 30 of us. But the Amish hold church services in their homes, so they are used to hosting large groups of people. All 30 of us ate with one family. This family is particularly capable of handling it. The husband and wife have only been married 11 months, both of them having been widowed. She had 11 children, and he had 7. They have 8 children still at home, and they have 36 grandchildren.

The Amish ask that people not take photos of their faces, so I didn't get any photos at all. They have a beautiful farm, but it was dark when we finished eating, and I didn't get any photos beforehand.

Let me see if I can possibly catalog everything they served for dinner. For starters there was fresh bread, applesauce, chow-chow, and preserves. Then salad, fresh corn, mashed potatoes, green beans, fried chicken, gravy, ham and stuffing, and buttered noodles. For dessert there was a jello-type peach pie, homemade vanilla pudding, apple pie, and brownies. I may slip right into a coma.

I want to write more about my impressions of the Amish culture based on the very limited information I've gleaned from a day and a half in Pennsylvania. But it will have to wait until I'm on a real computer.

Tomorrow is off to Hershey World and then Williamsburg. Good night!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pennsylvania Trip Day 2......

Today has been chock-full, even though we did a lot of riding again. We got to Lancaster, Pennsylvania around 1:00, and we went to a little village called Kitchen Kettle. There were lots of arts and crafts, food (of course), and lots of other shops.

We are staying at an amazing resort hotel. Each suite has two rooms, and one of the rooms has two beds. That means Katydid and I have one more bed than we need. It's a beautiful place. Tonight we went to a dinner theater production of Fiddler on the Roof that was very good. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take photos. Boo.

Speaking of photos, I have just learned that I cannot upload pictures to my blog on my iPad. Double boo. I'll just have to post the best ones after I get home.

On the agenda tomorrow is a tour of Amish farmlands, visiting a quilt and craft show (how big IS that bus and how much can I buy?), and then dinner with an Amish family tomorrow night. On the bus today we watched a DVD about the Amish culture, and I find it fascinating. The commercialism bothers me, but we'll talk about that later.

Past my bedtime - I think that's going to be a theme this week.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pennsylvania Trip Day 1.......

Not a lot to write about tonight. We left about an hour late this morning because SOMEONE didn't check her itinerary closely enough and thought the departure time was later. (I don't know her, but she's not on my best friends list.)

The bus trip was actually pretty pleasant. We stopped often enough that we didn't get bored or crazy, but not so often that we felt we would never get here. I am by far the youngest person here, but that's to be expected in a group like this one. And it's okay with me.

We are in Harrisonburg, Virginia, our planned overnight stop on the way to Pennsylvania. This is at the limit of what the driver is allowed to drive in a day. He has a GPS device on the bus (excuse me, deluxe motor coach) that alerts his employer if he goes 5 mph over the posted speed limit. I love technology.

Katydid, Frogger (Not)Blogger and I walked back to the hotel from dinner, but I'm afraid I would have to walk all the way to Pennsylvania to make up for all I ate.

I guess I COULD have taken some photos on the bus (excuse me, deluxe motor coach) today, but I didn't. I hope to do a better job tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cousin Susannah by Hazel Hucker......

Image from

I would classify this book as escapist literature, but I don't mean to imply that it doesn't have merit. It isn't a literary masterpiece, but it is certainly stellar in its genre.

Set in England in 1794, this book is the story of a young girl who finds herself in the very worst kind of trouble, at the hands (well, it wasn't exactly his HANDS) of a man above her social class. Susannah is sort of caught between social classes, not exactly a laborer and not of the upper class either. She serves as a governess for a family who treats her very kindly, almost as a member of the family.

To get out of her predicament, Susannah seduces a newly-arrived curate (I must confess a complete and thorough ignorance of the different positions in the English church), who marries her in the belief that the child is his. This makes her sound like a slut, though, and I think what actually happened was the curate practically forced himself on her, and she allowed it to happen as a WAY out of her trouble. I don't think she sought him out, because I think that would make her a different sort of person.

I know this description sounds like one of those bodice-ripping Harlequin romances (not that I have any personal familiarity with THOSE **cough cough**), but it was a step above that. While the ending was somewhat predictable, it wasn't clear HOW the characters would arrive at that ending, so there was enough intrigue to keep me reading. Even past my bedtime, and even during a football game. That's high praise right there.

If you want to indulge in something that will make you feel warm and won't wear your brain out but won't make you feel stupid for having read it either, this book is for you.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Teardrop Metric Century......

This is the second year of this bike ride, and it takes place in my hometown, so it's a sentimental favorite. It's also a favorite because it's a good ride. The route is good, the rest stops are good (really, if you have something to eat, something to drink, and somewhere to go potty, you're pretty good), and the routes are well marked. It has just enough hills to be challenging, but it's not so bad that you want to hurt somebody as soon as you get back to the beginning.

It's a little pretentious for ANY ride to call itself a metric century. A century ride is 100 miles; a metric century is 100 kilometers, which equals 62 (or more, in this case) miles. Really, I don't think it's that much more impressive to say you rode a "metric century" as opposed to "62 miles."

The "teardrop" part of the route name is more interesting. It's because the shape the route makes on a map. I think I posted a picture of it last year, but here it is again. I think it's cool-looking.

Rozmo and I did the ride together today (alas, no Katydid). There were only about 150 riders (I'm guessing here, registrations were a little over 100 last night), so it wasn't one of those where you had to worry about huge numbers of riders. We only had to worry about being last (we weren't - close, but not last). The last rest stop was only 4 miles from the end (I have to wonder why they do that), and when we got there it started POURING. I didn't mind the rain for myself so much; it had been pretty hot. But I was worried about my (new) camera and my (new) iPhone, and I wasn't on top of things enough to take a plastic bag with me. (Note to self....)

It's that time of year when we have an organized ride (or two) almost every weekend, and I like it that way. I get a big chunk of mileage in one day, and I don't have to ride by myself. Score.

Now.... GO DAWGS!

Friday, September 7, 2012


Since I have been taking my mother-in-law to so many doctors' appointments in so many different places, I have become more aware of how many places are truly handicap-accessible.

(Side note: The next person who asks if she can step up on the scale is going to get punched in the nose. #1 - Is her WEIGHT really the most important thing here? and #2 - Do you think she's sitting in that wheelchair for FUN?)

Today was particularly challenging. We went up and up and up and up and up and up and up and around and around and around and around and around and around in the parking deck looking for a handicap parking space. They were all taken, and there weren't of the UNhandicapped kind. I finally went all the way to the top floor of the parking deck, and there was no handicap parking, but there was an elevator. Theoretically. It was "out of order" and had about a six-inch step-up just to get to it anyway. So I had to wheel her down the ramp (please let me be strong enough to hold on to her, please let me be strong enough to hold on to her, please let me be strong enough to hold on to her) to the elevator there. We were on Level K. We had to go down to Level F to take the skywalk over to the hospital. There we were on the 2nd floor. But the elevator there doesn't go to the 9th floor, where we needed to be. We had to go DOWN to the 1st floor and take ANOTHER elevator up to the 9th floor.

But that wasn't even my main complaint. Some of the hospital entrances are automatic doors that I guess are triggered by movement. I love those. Some of the doors to offices and departments within the hospital, though, aren't so accommodating. And they won't even stay open. You have to somehow manage to hold the door open and push (or pull) a wheelchair through it at the same time. Arrrgggghhhh!!! It was hard enough for me; I kept imagining how difficult (impossible?) it would be for a disabled person on his or her own. Some of these places CALL themselves wheelchair-accessible, but you'd have to be superhuman to manage it alone.

From the hospital we had to go to the prosthodontist (I love typing that word). His office has handicap parking, but the "ramp" was rough concrete with some broken pieces, and it was not easy to get the wheelchair started up it. The entrance to the office was a brick (really? brick?) walkway, and then I had to wrestle with the door. The two people in the waiting room were much to busy looking at pictures on a cell phone to help the woman struggling mightily to get a wheelchair-bound elderly woman in the door. I finally had to ask my mother-in-law to hold the door so I could maneuver the wheelchair through it. When we left, that brick walkway scared me to death. It was fairly steep, and I shuddered to think what might happen if I lost my grip on the chair. We might have found mother-in-law somewhere on I-285.

I have become much more aware of which places are truly handicap-accessible and which ones appear to do the minimum just to fulfill the letter of the laws. But medical professionals? They should be ashamed.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Another Trip......

I'm leaving next Monday on another trip, and I hope to have a plethora of pictures to share. In fact, I bought a camera connection kit for my iPad (I'm not lugging the laptop, and I'll explain why in a moment) so I can upload pictures each day. I hope I hope I hope I hope. (My iPad is one of the first generation ones, so it doesn't have a camera.)

This trip is with my mother and both sisters. I know, I know, I hear you screaming "hypocrite" because I'm going on a trip with the same woman I've referred to as the She-Devil. (On her nickel, too.) Believe me, she's been called worse names. And she has earned every single one of them.

Example: At the company where she worked before starting her own business, they were putting a big fancy aquarium in their newly renovated lobby. Someone came up with the idea of buying a fish to match each employee's personality. There was a long pause, then someone said, "Where the hell are we going to get a barracuda for Carol that will fit in that tank?" So it's not just her children who think she's harsh and fearsome.

She has recently joined this traveling club at her bank, a group with whom she has made several trips. You can only be a member of this group if you have x number of dollars in your bank account. That goes against my grain (not to mention my bank account), but it's right up Mom's alley. To be fair (fairER?), Mom had a poor upbringing and a hard time with five kids and a worthless husband, even harder to feed all of us after the divorce. She got a whopping SIX DOLLARS a week for each child, and by golly that was still the amount my father was paying when I turned 18. He had started sending the checks to ME by that time, and he dutifully wrote a $24 check every month. No more, no less.

But I digress.

Mom enjoys traveling. Wait, let me restate that. Mom enjoys THINKING about traveling. She enjoys the looking forward to it, the planning it, the packing, the talking about it. She hates almost everything else about it. She once raised holy heck on a cruise ship because the LIBRARY WASN'T OPEN during its posted hours. She missed a connecting flight one other time (I thought it served her right for flying from Savannah to Atlanta to get on a plane to Tampa), and I was astounded when they didn't give her the entire airline as compensation.

Don't even get me started on the time she took Sweet Girl and my then-three-year-old nephew on a Disney cruise. She has such fond memories of that cruise, and both children were scarred for life. Sweet Girl called me crying about her Nanny's treatment of the youngster before they even got to the port.

Darn, I have digressed again. Back to THIS trip.

Even though a group is going on the trip, it can't be much fun to travel alone, so Mom talked Katydid into going with her. When Hubby and I were in Wisconsin, she called to see if I wanted to go too. I bit back my immediate response of, "Hell no," and said something almost worse, "But there's a football game that weekend." Then she told me that Frogger Blogger was going too, and I told her I would think about it. I couldn't let all three of them go off on a trip and not go myself! Besides, that would be an odd number, and it would make room assignments and seating assignments on the motor coach either difficult or crowded, so I agreed to go. Besides, I'm the one who is retired, and the other two had to use precious vacation days to make the trip.

And I AM looking forward to the trip, truly. I am grateful for the fact that I CAN go, and I'm appreciative of the fact that Mom insists on footing the bill for all of us. I'm NOT excited about riding on a bus for two days. The last time I was on a motor coach, I accompanied Sweet Girl's high school band to New York City for them to perform in Carnegie Hall. (Very cool experience.) I left a voice mail for Hubby somewhere in New Jersey along the lines of, "Just so you know, Hell is not a place. It's a bus ride." And they were good kids, truly. That's just a lot more sitting than I can handle.

This trip is to the Pennsylvania Amish Country and Williamsburg, Virginia. We are leaving early Monday morning from the bank, a little less than two hours from my house. We are going to see a dinner theater production of Fiddler on the Roof and a production of Jonah, with which I am not familiar. We are going to tour Amish farmlands and have dinner with an Amish family. (Please, please, please, please Mother, don't find fault with anything. Please.) Then we are going to my personal favorite, Hershey World. They can just leave me there. We tour Williamsburg the next day, and then make the trek home on the motor coach. When we get back at 6:00 PM on Saturday (Mom's 80th birthday), I will jump in my car and drive very fast (but not breaking the speed limit -  much) to the aforementioned football game. I probably won't make the 7:30 PM kickoff, but Hubby will be there already and I shouldn't miss too much of the game.

I just happened to have a picture of an Amish buggy handy. Sure it's a Wisconsin Amish buggy, but it fits the topic. Sort of.

Because we are traveling on a motor coach, luggage space is naturally limited. I don't like having a bunch of luggage ANYWAY, particularly when there is more than one hotel involved. Hence the reason I'm going to have to depend on my iPad instead of my laptop. It's not that bad, but it's a pain to use HTML code when I'm blogging. On a positive note, you won't have to read any lengthy posts like this one all next week. Score! I'm going to take a shoulder bag slightly larger than my usual purse that will hold my camera, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Nintendo DS. (I've got to have a variety of things to do on the bus ride, but I'll mainly read.)

I think it will be an exciting adventure. And we'll see how this one goes before I make a decision about accompanying Mom to Australia in April. Fifteen days...holy smokes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Perhaps a LITTLE Fear Might Be Good......

I have often been described as being "fearless" (and, in all honesty, I have self-billed myself that way on occasion). But of course no one is completely fearless, and while I have jumped out of airplanes, rappelled down mountainsides, and talked back to my mother while she was holding a butcher knife, I have my moments of paralyzing, heart-seizing fear. Just ask Hubby about the night I found a (very small, very dead) mouse in our washing machine. (Guess who NEVER forgot to close the lid on the washer after that?)

I've blogged before about my favorite quote of my mother's when I started skydiving.

"[Bragger,]" she said, "there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity. And I no longer know which side you're on."

Often people who learn that I am a cyclist ask me if I'm afraid of riding on the same roads used by cars. My usual response is, "Nah...I'm too dumb to be scared." It does sometimes occur to me when I'm riding and hear a car behind me that it could be my last ever conscious thought. I don't want to be morbid or dwell on it, but since I can't see the car behind me and can't gauge what the driver might be doing (texting, eating, disciplining a child, shading his or her eyes from the sun), any moment could be that one millisecond it takes for a driver to veer too far to the right and nail me. I guess one of the things that keeps me riding is that the same thing could happen to me in a car, and I refuse to be a hermit.

One of Hubby's buddies asked me a few months ago if I take anything with me when I ride. Deliberately misunderstanding him, I said in my best puzzled voice, "A cell phone?" He emphasized that he meant for protection. I didn't point out that in many states it's against the law to ride a bicycle with a pistol strapped to one's hip. Plus there's that issue of hauling all that extra weight. I knew what he meant, and I'll admit there have been times I've found myself on rural, almost deserted roads, and I've wondered what I would do if someone in a car (because I'm PRETTY sure but not absolutely certain I could outrun someone on foot) indicated an intent to harm me.

Last week I was riding, alone as usual, and a van passed me. I didn't even process it at the time, but the van pulled off the road and the driver got out, obviously approaching me. I didn't THINK I had done anything to irritate him, and we were at a stop sign, so it wasn't a case of impeding his progress, so I did what any normal, educated, thinking woman riding a bicycle by herself would do: I stopped to see what he wanted.

There was a split second between the time I realized the man wasn't just stopping on the side of the road, he was walking into my lane and toward me, and the realization that I knew him. But he didn't know me. I called him by name, said my name because I knew he would recognize Hubby's last name, and he pretended to remember me (but I'm still positive he didn't). It seems he stopped because he wanted to know about my cycling jersey. He has a landscaping business, and he was (naturally) interested to know about the fabric of the jersey because it "keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter." That's not actually true, but it does have wicking properties to help with the cooling process, so I told him the name of my favorite outdoor shop (it sells clothing and equipment FOR the outdoors, it's not LOCATED outdoors - just thought I'd clear that up, not to mention taking another opportunity to use parentheses) and where it is located.

That is just like Bo, to stop a woman he thinks he doesn't know on the side of the road. He's probably in his mid-sixties, friendly and outgoing, and absolutely harmless.

But when I stopped my bike to see what he wanted, I had no idea it was Bo. He was driving a panel van, for Pete's sake, perfect for abducting someone and throwing her in the back. (But the kid with him would have had to put down his phone and help him, I'm pretty sure of THAT.)

In that split second before I recognized Bo, shouldn't I have been just a little bit afraid? Just a teensy bit? And since I wasn't, is it possible that I'm taking the whole "I'm-too-dumb-to-be-scared" thing a little too far?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beach House Memories by Mary Alice Monroe.....

I have almost completely converted to reading solely on my iPad (or my Kindle if I'm outside in bright light). Every now and then when Hubby goes to the library, though, I tag along with him, and I feel guilty if I leave empty-handed. I mean, Hubby checks out four or five books at a time, and he is always finished with them before they are due back. The man is a voracious reader.

I went with him to the library the other day, in spite of the fact that I have about seven or eight unread books already downloaded, mainly because it was too hot to sit in the car, and this book caught my eye. I almost passed on it just because it had the word "beach" in the title. I love a good beach read, and I like reading ABOUT the beach, but I've been burned too many times by books that were proclaimed "excellent beach reads" and turned out to be major disappointments. Just because something is considered good beach reading doesn't mean it has to have a plot that is trite, writing that is adolescent, and characters straight out of a sitcom.

The main reason I DID check this one out is because it is set on Isle of Palms, an island right outside Charleston that is dear to my heart. It's where one of my high school pals has a condo, and where four of us got together and spent a magnificent weekend back in 2005. That weekend produces bittersweet memories now, as one of my friends died very unexpectedly from a heart attack just six months later. She was only 45 years old.

The main character, Olivia ("Lovie"), is from old-money and is married to the equivalent of old-money Charleston gentry. While the beginning and end of the book are contemporary, most of the book is a flashback to one summer (and part of another one) when her children were young. Lovie has always had a love/interest/passion/obsession in the island's sea turtles, and she becomes involved as a volunteer in an official study to determine the effects on the turtles if proposed development of the island comes to fruition.

I loved almost everything about this book. The characters are well developed, and they are REAL PEOPLE. We might not always agree with their decisions or the things they say, but they are as unpredictable and capricious as the real people in our lives are. There were just enough things left unanswered to make the story more intriguing but not frustrating. For example (and I don't think this will be giving anything away if any of you should decide to read this one), at the beginning of the book there is a brief mention that Lovie and her now-grown daughter, Cara, have been recently reunited after being estranged for a period of time. I was eager to find out at the end of the book what had led to the estrangement, but it is never revealed. And that's okay.

Even the "villain(s)" in the book aren't 100% detestable. Just like normal people, they have redeeming qualities even at their worst, so we are forced to tolerate them. Just like normal people.

This one had me teary-eyed, although it doesn't take much to make me weepy over a book. Even more significant, though, is the fact that I stayed up until 1:00 AM to finish it. Definitely put it on your list.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mother Nature, Please Make Up Your Mind......

It's still brutally hot here in the South. I've been trying (sort of) to get into a regular routine (that's redundant, isn't it?) of riding my bike, but it's been hard. If I am to ride, it must be done early in the morning, before it gets a chance to get hot. That means I absolutely must be on my bike by 9:00, and it has been hard to get motivated to abandon the coffee cup, the book, the iPad, the computer, and the dog to go ride my bike.

I told myself I would ride yesterday morning before Hubby went to play golf, because I thought someone needed to be nearby in case his mother needed one of us. I let the morning slip by, though, and I never got on my bike. Not to mention I felt like I had been beat about the head and shoulders with a baseball bat. I think the two consecutive nights of limited sleep caught up with me, and I gave myself permission to take yesterday as a rest day.

I told myself I would ride this morning before Hubby went to play golf (detect a pattern here?), but the skies looked dark and threatening. Mother-in-law wasn't doing as well as she was the day she came home from the hospital, so once again I thought someone needed to be nearby. And besides, the skies continued to look stormy all day long. And besides THAT, the Braves played an afternoon game.

And it never rained. Well, it rained just a LITTLE bit after dinner, but not enough to amount to anything. In fact, Gus and I had walked down to my mother-in-law's to check on her. We visited for a little bit, and then Hubby walked in. He had driven down there to pick us up because it was raining. Seriously? It's MAYBE a hundred yards from our house to hers. (I'll march it off tomorrow and get a better estimate.) He sat down for a few minutes, and by the time we got up to go home, whatever rain had been falling was completely gone. I walked home anyway, and I think Hubby was insulted that his gallantry had been thrown back in his face.

It's not so much that I think I need to justify whether or not I ride my bike. It's more the fact that we are coming into the time of year when there is an organized ride (or two) almost every weekend through the month of November, and I need to keep putting in the miles so those rides aren't so painful.

Maybe I should simply stop watching the weather reports, stop looking out the window, and just ride. The worst that could happen is I get a little wet. (Well, I guess the ABSOLUTE worst would be getting struck by lightning, but I'll try to be smarter than THAT.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Politics and Facebook.....

I'm not going to spend a lot of time and energy here debating the pros and cons of social sites like Facebook. I resisted FB for a long time, but I've actually come to enjoy using it sparingly. I have my own self-imposed rules about what I post.

  1. I try not to post more than once a day, unless something significant or important is going on.
  2. I do not post personal information.
  3. I do not post information about other people they may not want to be public knowledge.
  4. I do not post pictures of other people without their permission. Well, except for Hubby, but I think there's something about implied consent in our marriage vows.
  5. Perhaps most importantly, I do not post my political/social/religious opinions.
That last one is a biggie for me. It's not that I'm ashamed of my beliefs; I just don't think I need to hammer people over the head with them. (Forgive me if that's a mixed metaphor.) I try to approach Facebook the same way I would when I run into a friend at the grocery store: brief, light, friendly.

I tried to hint subtly to some of my FB friends a couple of weeks ago when I posted the following:

If we are truly friends, you already know my social, political, and religious views. You will NOT find them here.

Sometimes I get embarrassed FOR some people for the things they say on FB and don't care whom they might offend. I try not to take some comments personally, but if a friend or relative posts an opinion that IS personal (even if they don't know it), I can't help but be affected.

See, this trying not to be too personal is getting awkward. I could give you a couple of specific examples, but then I'd be breaking my own rules. Admittedly, I tend to include information that's a LITTLE more personal on my blog, but I feel that after all this time I have a pretty good grasp of who my readers are and what I can post. Ironically, as I wrote not long after I started blogging, the more people one includes in one's blogging circle, the less stuff it's really safe to post. Does that make sense?

I don't mean people shouldn't have the RIGHT to say whatever they want on social media sites. I wouldn't go so far as to deny them that privilege. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I try to post on FB exactly the same way I would speak to people in person. And some of these people I read on FB couldn't possibly feel comfortable saying the things they do in writing. Could they?

I'm not just talking about people whose opinions are different from mine, either. Even if I DO agree with some of the views I come across on FB, I cringe at the way the views are stated.

I got extremely sad when I read the post that was the catalyst for this blog post. It is from someone who has been a friend since high school. This person sat with my family when my step-father died. We haven't always been in contact, but we reconnected in the last few years through FB. I have tried to ignore the political rants, the angst-filled personal revelations, the adolescent emotional outbursts, the almost-daily changing of the profile picture. This one was a little much, though:

Hi I am back! I went away during the Republican Convention. I watched it. I stayed quiet. I have to say NO WAY! I do not want commentary on this status. I want you off my page and out of my life if you believe in the "vision" of the Republican Party and the Romney Ryan ticket. No hate here, no love lost, no need to be connected anymore, by the choke on your next Chic-fil-a sandwich!!

I commented on the post; I couldn't NOT comment on it. But all I said was, "Wow." I guess that could be taken in a number of ways, but I hope this person is intuitive enough to realize how damaging such statements can be.

Another friend, someone I don't know, challenged the writer of this post:

Really??? You want people who believe differently out of your life? Not the words of an open-minded person I must say. But no problem, I will honor your request.

And I found the response almost as sad as the original post:

yes Jay you need to go. you need to go and all of "those" that have your beliefs and values, sucks doesn't it?it is what i have alway gotten.. Not any more. No hate. just nothing to bind us anymore you ...... You are very toxic

I am going to "unfriend" this person, because apparently I am toxic too. It has nothing to do with whether or not I share the individual's personal beliefs; it's more a case of someone putting political beliefs ahead of relationships. Is that what our country has come to? Please, someone tell me it's just a small segment. Please tell me that.



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Women and Make-Up.....

I made the decision this morning when I was getting ready that I would NOT wear make-up to the football game. That turned out to be an excellent decision, since it would have MELTED off my face. In Hubby's words, "We were sitting right up there next to the sun." In a first for me in that stadium, folks in our section started cheering a couple of times because a cloud had drifted over the sun for a few minutes. It. Was. Hot. I drank three bloody marys (there's no good way to make that word plural, so maybe I should just drink one from now on and I feel like I should capitalize it anyway) before the game, four 20-ounce bottles of water during the game, and a Diet Dr. Pepper as soon as we got back to the RV, and I never felt the urge to go to the potty. That's how hot it was.

We have a saying that Southern women don't sweat, they glisten. Well, either I'm not Southern enough, or I'm the glisteningest fool you ever met in your life. Because boy howdy, do I sweat. Buckets. I was sweating at 7:30 this morning, just from the activity of putting my things in the RV. Not bags of bricks, mind you. My iPad and a change of clothes (boy did THAT come in handy!) and food for Gus. The hair I had just washed and dried was already frizzing. 

Anyway, back to make-up.

I guess I started wearing make-up around the time most girls do, thirteen or so. I wore it sometimes before then, when my friend Terri (who is now Terry) and I would go to the movies. We'd take make-up with us, go into the bathroom and apply it liberally, then go into a darkened theater where no one could see it. And I don't think we were ever smart enough to wash it off before our parents picked us up from the movie. Duh.

I don't consider myself a high-maintenance woman. I have always worn make-up to school, work, almost anytime I go out in a public setting, but my routine isn't elaborate or extremely time-consuming. I don't fool with eye liner, I use the easiest and cleanest foundation I can find, and while I usually put on lipstick in the morning, I rarely reapply it during the day, even when I was working.

What is the purpose of make-up? I mean obviously I realize the purpose, but why do some of us perpetuate the need to wear it? Why haven't we decided as a gender that it's ridiculous and we won't do it anymore?

My friend Amanda made the assertion once that women don't wear make-up for men, we wear it for each other. And I think there's some truth in that. Men as a rule don't even KNOW whether or not we are wearing make-up, but (some) women feel the need to compete with each other. Hubby, for example, swears he can't tell the difference between when I am wearing make-up and when I'm not. I can't figure out if that's the truth (it may be, since most of them aren't observant about those things anyway), if he's saying it because he's trying to flatter me, or if he's saying it because it's something he thinks he's SUPPOSED to say.

When I go on bike rides like BRAG, invariably I see women in the bathroom in the mornings applying full make-up. No joke. And when I see some of them at rest stops, their make-up is still fairly well in place. I hate those women. I hate them much. I really don't see the point of wearing make-up in 90-degree temperatures (and higher) on a bike ride, but whatever. I have no idea how they manage to KEEP it on either. I've never asked one of them, because I'm afraid my follow-up question would be, "Why the HELL do you do that?"

I once heard an extreme story about a woman and make-up. And it's sounding familiar to me, like maybe I've put it on this blog before, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself. (I swear I'm going to run out of material some day, and then I promise I'll stop blogging.) This woman had NEVER let her husband see her without make-up. She got up an hour early every morning so she could apply her make-up before he woke up. If he got up earlier, SHE got up earlier. The saddest part of that story is that she raised both her daughters to be the same way. I shouldn't say "saddest." That's a judgment, and I shouldn't assume I know what's better for that woman and her daughters. Still, it was strange enough that she was on a talk show of some sort because of it.

To be honest, I don't think I LOOK as different without make-up on as I FEEL. When I wear make-up I feel more confident, I smile more, and I look people in the eye more. Isn't that weird? Ironically, the best make-up I can wear IS a smile, but when my face is naked I don't feel confident enough to do that. Full disclosure here.

It reminds me of a story I read way, way back in middle school. It's kind of hokey and it's a pretty common theme, but bear with me anyway. The story was called "The Date Catcher," and it was about a girl who wasn't popular and never could get a date with any of the boys at school. Then she went into a store and saw a display of hair accessories called "Date Catchers," and after peering at the display for a while she bought one. She walked down the street holding her head up proudly and smiling because she was wearing the date catcher, and lo and behold a boy spotted her and asked her out right on the spot. (I DID say it was hokey, and I DID mention it was middle school.) She started thinking the date catcher really did work, and then a woman came running down the sidewalk telling her she had dropped something, and it turned out to be the date catcher.

Is that how make-up works for us? Not that I'm trying to catch dates or anything. I'm just curious.