Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 17 - Thank you Cards

Gratitude is free and easy to give.  I'm not sure what happened from the time my kids were raised until now but I did make them write Thank You cards and tried to instill the value of this small act of gratitude.  To be a recipient of a gift is an honor and no one should take any small gift for granted.  I still write Thank You cards and I wish my kids would still write them too.  There's something to be said for old fashioned penmanship.  It's easy and free.  (Except for the stamp to mail it.)  Coach K says the best way to show someone respect is to give them your time.  When miles are between you, the time you give to sit down and write a thank you card to someone who thought enough to give you something is the least we can do, right?  Yet time and time again we are too busy to do it.

I've been in positions during employment to help others.  A few have been grateful and made a point to thank me.  I know that this begins a solid foundation of trust and loyalty in working relationships.  I'm fast to help these few individuals anyway I can as they have shown me that the help is appreciated.  When we are unemployed, these type relationships are harder to form if we don't seek them out.

John Klalik was having a rough patch in his life, his law business was failing, his girlfriend left him, his kids were estranged and he was forty pounds overweight.  During a desperate walk in the hills on New Year's Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn't have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had. He started writing Thank you notes to people in his life that did little things to make a difference.  One a day, it started with the lady who greeted him by name at the local Starbucks, the piano teacher that gave his daughter piano lessons and to his customers that paid their bills early.  One day at a time it lead to 365 thank yous that transformed in to his new book called 365 Thank Yous.

He noticed that the more he was thankful for, the more things came his way.  When he thanked his clients, more clients came.  Oprah said something similar and asked her viewers to start a gratitude journal.  This is a great way to notice the little things that make our life pleasurable and not concentrate on our woes.  Being unemployed it's easy to get to a place of bitterness and ungratefulness for our circumstances.  This is in itself a self-fulfilling downward spiral.  Anytime I'm having a slew of bad luck, my closet gets cleaned.  Bags of clothes go to the Good Will and Salvation Army during these times.  Inevitably the law of reciprocity holds true and I'm eventually right back up on my feet and able to buy new clothes or again in a position to help others financially. 

The irony sometimes is that the same people we help aren't the ones that help us and the same people that help us aren't the ones that we help in return.  It's all a big universal circle.  You've heard of the term Pay-it-forward.  This is what keeps the chain going. (Remember Chris who helped me complete the quarter set for Jula and didn't ask for anything in return?)

I truly believe that if you are in line at a grocery store and you have only one quarter in your purse, and the person in front of you needs that quarter, giving it freely will ultimately end up being more than the 25 cents when you need it.  The return gift may be in the form of a stranger helping you if your car breaks down on the road.  It may be receiving a check in the mail that you didn't expect.  It may be a gift of food from a neighbor.  It could be a gift of getting exactly what you need  just when you need it.  This happened to me.  I've seen it time and time again.  After subscribing to this theory I've been the recipient of charity many times just when I've needed it.

One time when in the store, a person behind me in line saw all my groceries and give me a $5 coupon.  She said, "You need this more than I do."  It was like getting a cash donation of five dollars.  People have given my children things I couldn't have afforded when they needed it.  At the age of forty-six I had never had anyone cook me breakfast.  By opening my doors to the foreign exchange students, I woke up on my Mother's Day to a breakfast from heaven. The beauty of having my kids from Brazil and Germany giving me the breakfast I never had even from my own children was so rewarding.  They couldn't believe that I had never had breakfast made just for me before. All I can say is Thank you not only to the kids but to their mothers for raising such wonderful young adults.

Recently I ran out of my Thank You cards. I went to a yard sale and I found not one, but twenty Thank You cards for twenty-five cents.  This was my sign from the universe to keep sending a formal signature of gratitude to those who continue random acts of kindness.  For nothing more than doing the right thing, I don't want to be the one to break the chain of good karma. I want another smiley face made out of food!....maybe someday.

Smiley Face on the right from Felipe.

Smiley Face from Jula

My first breakfast made for me on Mothers Day.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 16 - Proud to be a Duke Blue Devil Fan

The rivalry is alive and well on Tobacco Road.  So to all you UNC Tarheel fans, yeah yeah I know I've heard it all before. Duke makes you want to puke and The Dookies (another word for dog poop).  And the healthy rivalry goes on.  For ten years as a basketball official I couldn't really route for any one team.  I surely couldn't bet on any one team although I have seen and still continue to see many officials do so whether it be the ESPN dream teams or at the local race tracks. (One official I knew actually was wearing his NCAA shirt while playing poker at the race track.)  The only events that NCAA officials or anyone associated with the NCAA is allowed to place financial wagers on is Poker and Horse Racing.  The logic goes that we can only bet on games the NCAA doesn't have.

One year into my NCAA officiating career I couldn't wait to do my normal March Madness bracket predictions and show all the guys in the pool that I actually did know what I was talking about when it came to basketball.  After the first round of 32 games, I had only missed 2, not bad.  Going into the championship game I was poised to win if Duke won.  I was so excited that Duke had won that I really didn't care if I won the pool or not.  The next morning at work, the Pool Overseer called and told me I had won.  I now without realizing it was in a position I had never found myself in before.  If I accepted the $220 this would be a clear violation of my morals and obligations to the NCAA.  I hadn't really thought about winning before it really was just for sport to "show the guys" at work they weren't the only ones who knew a thing or two about basketball.

The first devil in me said, "Nobody will know if you won a little work pool of March Madness so it's not a big deal. Take the money." But the Blue Devil in me knew that ultimately I had to face myself in the mirror so doing the right thing I told the Pool Overseer to contact San Jose Catholic Middle School and donate it to the Maddie Clifton Scholarship Fund.  He was shocked!  "Wow," was all he said. I trust to this day, that is what he did.  My reward came in the form of having sanctimonious bragging rights.  I couldn't quite admit, due to my NCAA obligations that my team had won!

For those of you who don't know who Maddie Clifton is, she is the 12 year old girl who trusted her 15 year old friend and neighbor Joshua Phillips enough to go to his house after playing softball with him on a Sunday night.  She disappeared and many of my friends looked for her in dumpsters, backyards, and  back alleys to no avail.  Finally they found her body beaten, rolled up in a rug under Joshua's mattress of his waterbed. Joshua still has given no reason for his heinous crime.  How does a teenager turn from innocent child to a devil of monstrous proportions? I imagine slowly.

For me being a "Blue" Devil is the complete opposite of this portrait of a boy taken over by a "Real" devil.  I have followed Coach K and read his books on leadership.  I admire and just plain love the guy and his philosophy. Don't get me wrong, I've read what Coach K thinks about officials.  In his words, when we put on our black and white striped shirt, he expects us to be perfect.  (realistic?  hell NO!) I was blessed enough to fulfill one of my life long dreams and referee as the first female basketball official at the Bob Gibbons Tournament held at Duke, UNC and NC State every year.  I officiated the best high school boys basketball athletes in America on Coach K's court. This is where Bob Gibbons chooses his McDonalds All Americans.  Although I was always approached when entering the gym with my officials bag and told that the spectators sat some other place, it was rewarding to tell them, "I know" and walk right by them as they stared at me while I put on my uniform.  Shock and awe!

I remember driving home after the tournament and having to pull off the road on my nine-hour journey home.  I was so overcome with emotion that a dream had been fulfilled that I needed a moment to gather myself.  No one was there to witness it.  I didn't have it on video tape. (Although some parent of the losing team does and insists that the female referee didn't know what she was doing and cost their son's team the game.)  I had spent my Memorial Day Weekend volunteering to officiate this tournament, spent over $300 for food, lodging and gas, and yet being a fan of basketball first and Coach K second this meant a great deal to me.

I remembered the 12 year old boy from Arkansas who had never been inside Cameron Stadium before asked me if he could shoot a shot from half court?  He was afraid to go out on the court.  I assured him that as long as I was there he could go give it a try and nobody would say a word.  If they did, I would take care of them.  Somehow this twelve year old boy trusted me. He was so excited he ran out on Coach K's court and shot a shot from half court.  He MADE it.  I can't even make a half-court shot. It was hard to believe what I just saw. He ran over to his Dad who gave him a big hug.  As I rebounded his ball, his dad came over to me and said, "Thank you, you made his day it was his birthday and he just wanted to say that he  had been on Coach K's court."  He didn't have to say a word,  I knew how he felt.

So to all those Tarheel fans, I'll just wish you a great season.  

If we were to disrespect our competition, we would be disrespecting ourselves. 
- Coach Kryzewski, Leading with the Heart

To find out more about Maddie Clifton click on the link below:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 15 - The Front Porch

There is a daughter and father company that just started in the area called Front Porch Pickins'. It is a company that contracts with local farmers and every other week brings fresh produce to your doorstep.  How good is that?  I got my first delivery last night and I love it!  For twenty dollars I received FRESH: 5 oranges, 4 kiwi, 5 apples, arugula lettuce, fresh parsley, fresh clover, 3 huge yellow onions, 2 huge tomatoes, 5 cloves of fresh garlic and a pint of mushrooms.  I unpacked the produce and and I bit into one of the apples.  It  was one of the freshest apples I have had since my childhood.  Its true what they say that from the garden to the table is really the best way to eat food.  I like the fact that I save money not having to drive to the store and that I'm doing the right thing by supporting the local farmers.  Its a seasonal delivery so there will be a variety of different produce every week.  It's like having a birthday every other week. The owners also ask you to tell them if you have any requests so your packages are specialized for you. They named their company Front Porch Pickins'  because the produce is picked fresh and left on your front porch. Like the neighbors of the Walton family used to do.

Good Night John Boy, Nite Mary Ellen, Nite Grandpa, Good Night Jim Bob....remember the Waltons?  We all loved this show growing up and it seemed to make an impression on us.  One of the best things I loved about that show was the front porch.  The front porch represents the "old America."  The wrap around porches are my favorite.  One of my grandmother's houses had a front porch and I remember one particular year the night before Easter sitting with my grandparents, my mother, my sister and my aunts and cousins on the swing on the front porch.  I was six years old and my Grandfather was trying to convince me that there really was an Easter Bunny.  The night before sayin' "Nite Grandpa," I had seen a HUGE shadow on the wall that looked like a bunny. Scared the beJesus out of me.  Easter Bunnies weren't that big.  So rather than worry about it, I had convinced myself that there was no such thing as the Easter Bunny.

We said our Good Nights and went to bed looking forward to searching for the colored eggs in the morning and waking up to our Easter Baskets.  Grandpa was really a big kid so he couldn't wait to tickle your nose or scratch your forehead to wake you up.  You on the other hand would hit yourself in the face thinking it was a fly or something and he would laugh like Santa Claus.  That loud laugh would roar through the house and was so contagious that you wanted to drop whatever you were doing to go run and see what he was laughing about. I would spring out of bed (or many times from the sofa that Grandma had made especially for me) to make sure I wasn't missin' something only to be stared at by Grandpa and realize I was what he was laughing about. Grandpa wanted me to come out on the front porch.

He said laughingly, "Happy Easter! The Easter Bunny is outside and he has hidden the colored eggs in the front yard for you."  He was foolin' me and I knew it but I would go along with it as to not disappoint him.  So in my pajamas, Grandpa held my hand and we went out on the front porch.  I rubbed my eyes because I couldn't believe what I saw....not only were the eggs everywhere in the grass out front, there was a brown bunny rabbit in the middle of them.  From the front porch I became a believer, there really was an Easter Bunny and I was seeing it with my own eyes. Grandpa smiled and went inside while I just sat on the swing staring at the real Easter Bunny in amazement.  I couldn't wait to wake up my cousins and my mom and tell them the great news!  Grandpa came back out and I noticed in his hand was a carrot from Grandma's garden. He threw it in the yard near the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny hopped over to the carrot and sat there long enough for everyone else to gather to watch the Easter Bunny eat Grandpa's fresh pickins' from the front porch.

“The difference of a single day is perceptible. Vegetables can only be tasted in perfection, gathered the same day.”
John Pintard (1759-1844)

**4 updates if you've been keeping up with my blogs:  I'm sending the quarters to Jula today (Mission Accomplished - Collection complete), we're sending some wildflower honey to our Moms , the doctors called for the appointment for the you-know-what and we are planning our Utah trip to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon ...stay tuned, great photos to come.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 14 - Fear and the Trash

Those of you who know me know that I'm pretty bold and up for a good debate most of the time.  So those of you who are light-hearted, this blog might not be for you.  This is all about those coke reward points we throw in the trash or in the recycling bin.  It all started when my son came to live with me again at the age of nineteen when our foreign exchange students were here.  We were talking with him about how we had taken Felipe and Jula to Universal Studios and Disney.  He had been there when he was younger so I didn't think this would make him feel like we were doing more for our exchange students than we did for him.  He said, "Mom, but I wasn't tall enough to ride all the rides!"  Seems funny when you are looking up to your 6' 3'' son and he's telling you he wasn't tall enough seven years ago!

I then came up with a clever plan to start saving Coca-Cola reward points because I could cash in 1000 points and get him a free ticket to Universal Studios.  You with me so far?  Ok, it started with receiving the caps from friends and family, then progressed to picking them up off the ground at school, then pulling along side of the road to pick them off the highway, then to digging through the trash on campus, and finally to a weekly perusing of the neighbors recycle bins on recycle day.  Anyone who collects these reward points knows that you can only enter 120 points per week.  So in order for me to get the 1000 points it took over 2 months worth of collecting and entering the codes.  Each cap is worth three points so I needed a minimum of forty caps a week to maximize the effort.

For six months, I rode my bicycle at 7 AM in the morning and expanded my route to ensure my maximum 120 points and learned quite a bit about my neighbors.  If nobody is home, I stop, unscrew the caps, place them in my plastic bag and be on with my business.  If somebody is outside, I stop and ask them if it is OK to take them and most of the time they say no problem.  I have obtained enough points for my sons ticket and I still collect the reward points.  First because it is great exercise in the morning to ride the 4 mile route and secondly because I have since discovered that I could do the right thing and turn these points into donations to various non-profit groups.

I've also discovered that me doing the right thing isn't always appreciated by my neighbors. Now remember I had been doing this for six months and nobody knew, it wasn't until recently that anyone had been outside. Since I have shared my story with my neighbors at different points along the route, this is what has happened: 1) Some neighbors who used to use the recycle bin, started putting them in white trash bags inside the recycle bin, 2) Some neighbors stopped putting the coke bottles in the bins and took them to work so that I couldn't get them. 3) Some neighbors took the caps off  and threw them into the trash.  4) Some neighbors started drinking Pepsi after I talked with them. (you can't make this stuff up) 5) Some neighbors starting putting their trash in black garbage bags. 6) Some neighbors have power struggles over who wears the pants in the family and took it out on me. 

Let me explain the last one....I stopped at one of my neighbors and asked the husband if I could take his coke reward points every week.  He said yes and to make sure the papers were put back in the bin if they fell out when I lifted them to get the points.  No problem I responded.  The next week I went back and the wife was waiting for me.  She had the door open and was just sitting there. I smiled and waved and said your husband said I could have your coke reward points to which she SCREAMED at me, "I WILL NOT HAVE YOU LOOKING THROUGH MY TRASH."  I calmly assured her I wasn't looking through her trash and that I was collecting these for a non-profit agency.  She again SCREAMED at me, "I don't care what you are using them for."  I pleaded with her, I asked your husband already and he said it would be no problem.  She started coming at me and raising her hand and SCREAMED, "I OVERRULED HIM!"  Well God Save the Queen but we're not in Britain  (I was afraid to tell with my head!)

I thought to myself, what could she possibly have in her recycling bin that she would be afraid for me to see?  Or for that matter, what does she have in her trash?  Trash is public domain so if we don't want anyone going through our trash and fear what would happen if they would, then we shouldn't be putting it in our trash to begin with.  That is what shredders are for. So I did the right thing and left empty-handed and wrote her a note of apology emphasizing she was so ANGRY and what ever I did to make her so ANGRY, I was sorry for and this wasn't my intent.  I explained that I wasn't digging through her trash as trash day is Monday and I don't even go by her house on Monday.

Here's the other thing I don't get, what is the big deal?  Trash is going to be put in a landfill anyway. We put things out in the trash early so that if someone does want them, they can get them.  I hate to fill up the landfill with items that can be recycled.  The coke rewards aren't going to be used if they are recycled so I thought I was doing a good thing.  The irony is that Coca-Cola's motto is Have a coke and a smile.  I just wondered has she really been drinking the coke?  She sure wasn't smiling.

Above is a photo of a coke bottle made from RECYCLED computer motherboards.  We call it the MOBO Coke.  Even Coca-Cola isn't afraid to recycle!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 13 - Honey

Have you ever traveled on a back road to go "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's House?" Its different than traveling on the highway where mindlessness takes over.  Your mind is engaged as each landmark tells you how far you have gone and another tells you how far you have to go until you reach your destination. On the way to Gainesville is such a landmark.  It was only after stumbling across an article about this landmark that I realized how special it was.

It looks like an old worn out 4' x 6' shack near the edge of the curve.  Nothing more, nothing less.  What appears to be worn and tattered is actually very much alive.  It is a box with shelves loaded with canned goods and honey.  Now I'm not talking about aluminum cans, I'm talking about canned tomatoes and canned jelly that are actually in the glass Bell Jars.  Up north it was a necessity to can your food during the autumn to survive the long harsh snowy winters.  So to see it in the south is a bit of an oddity.  The amazing part is not only that it is forty-three years old but that the honey and goods have stood there all this time unmanned.  Yes, that's right, no person to help you make your choice as if to say  they-are-all-good-so-just-pick-one!

So the first time you pull up to buy honey (rumored to be the best honey ever), it is a bit of a surprise to look around to find no one to pay.  There is just a tiny box with a slot to put your money in.  The newspaper reporter had asked the owner the question we all wanted to know.  "So don't you worry that someone is going to steal your honey?"  His answer was that after forty-three years he still believes in the good of people.  Some people have left more than the $4.75 a jar and some have left less.  But overall, it averages out.  As I stopped to buy my first jar of honey, I was surprised to find wildflower honey.  Everybody knows about the orange blossom honey that can run up to $12.99 in the stores and flea markets.  I like the orange blossom but I'm not crazy about it so I bought the wildflower honey out of curiosity.  I did the right thing and I put my $5 bill in the slot and drove off.  It feels weird, like you're getting away with something because there is no human contact but the truth is I had just paid him a quarter more than the actual price because I didn't have change.

So in a nutshell, its really about trust.  For forty-three years the beekeeper has trusted two things.  1) That the customers won't rip him off and 2) That they will keep coming back.  They say that Trust = time + experience.  So I'd say that the beekeeper has the time and experience to validate his trust in people.  Isn't that like life for all of us?  We've been both blessed and burned.  Sometimes the sting from being burned from a friend hurts the same as if it were by a bee but in the end, it all averages out.  If we stick with our friends like the beekeeper long enough we too can gather the honey of loyalty.  I know one thing for sure, I'm going back to get some more wildflower honey....I'm crazy about it!

Hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers. ~ Robert Green

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 12 - State of the Union and Choice

The Headline today in Huffington Post is "Our Destiny Remains Our Choice."  According to Webster, destiny is defined as a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power of energy.  So the rhetorical question here is how can one create one's own destiny?  If destiny by definition is predetermined then how can we create it?  Let's look at create in Webster....1: to bring into existence <God created the heaven and the earth — Genesis 1:1(Authorized Version) 2: to produce or bring about by a course of action or behavior.  So it is my belief that we have many predetermined events that we can bring into existence in our lives via choice.  Its the choices we make that bring into existence one of these destinies.  There is no complete opposite of choice even to do nothing is still a choice.  

President Obama is asking us to support a choice of innovation, change, and technology.  A choice that will bring out the American destiny of leading the world again in education and technology and a more financially stable State of the Union.  Jobs, Jobs, and more Jobs.  That's the key isn't it? Technology is exciting.  I recently attended a technology conference in Orlando and filled out a survey for a chance to win an Ipad.  The survey asked three questions. 1) What is the biggest challenge for education training today? 2) What do you find frustrating about your learning environments? and 3) How can your learning environment be improved?  In summary my answers conveyed the friction between Baby Boomers and  Gen-Yers.

As a Gen Xer, I'm caught in the middle.  I see both sides. The Baby Boomers want to talk to you face to face.  The Gen-Yers prefer instant messaging and would rather communicate without eye contact.  I prefer voice mail that automatically generates an audio .mp3 file that is sent to my email.  The Baby Boomers want to do it their way because its been done that way forever. (Why that's the way we've always done it.)  The learning environment can be improved by discussing this white elephant in the room before the actual curriculum. By discussing these differences we learn to accept each others style and see the good in both while challenging our own style of learning.

Inevitably, some will say, "Don't tell me what to do, I have thirty years experience." To which we reply, "No you don't, you have one year experience thirty times."   There isn't, hasn't been and won't be any growth if we don't want to change for the better.  How can our State of the Union be better is we continue to do the same thing for thirty more years? Didn't Einstein define this as insanity?

I have a Computer Science teacher who is a PhD.  I had heard about his technophobia, but couldn't believe he still wanted us to print out our homework and hand it in. So in class I raised my hand and asked him if he would open the website class discussion board. He is a technology teacher so he would be hip right?  No, his age is holding him back. He responded, "I don't have a cell phone, a computer laptop, an iphone, an ipad, who needs all this technology?  It's a waste of money."  After pleading a second and third time, I said, "I'll show you how to do it."  And to his credit, and assurance from my classmates that he wouldn't have to do any extra work, and it was just a tool for us to help each other online and it wasn't for him anyway, he did it.  

Now take my professor on one hand and then my high school educated mother on another.  Mom and I  discovered Skype-a free internet program that allows us to talk to one another while seeing each other. It feels like a straight-out-of-the-Star-Trek-episode.  So at an undisclosed age (but the same age as my professor with the PhD) she figured out how to use it and now communicates via Skype.  What a difference technology has made in her life.  Her choice to embrace technology has improved her State of the Union tremendously. It has increased mine as well.  

So since being laid off I've chosen to return to school to get my second degree.  My first was a BS in Communications thirty years ago, this is an AS in Computer Science.  As a result of balancing my new and more fiscal budget, my choices produced a destiny of a scholarship that will pay for my education.  I was also able to attend the technology conference for free.  And because of my cumulative choices, I won a free Ipad. I wouldn't have created this destiny had I not chosen to go back to school, and not chosen to go to the technology conference.  Doing the right thing sometimes means making better choices and stepping out of our comfort zone.

I still don't know what my destiny holds for the future, I just know that the choices that I'm making now solidify a better destiny than the current State of My Union.

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.~William Jennings Bryan

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 11- Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Yesterday we were greeted with thirty robins in the backyard taking turns drinking from the bird bath. We installed a bird cam yesterday and were anxious to see the photos that this camera had taken of the robins.  I began to think....birds are like families.  I bet if The Robins were coming for dinner, you would love and dread it at the same time. So many family members to feed but so many good times to be had!  The day got better, we noticed a new bird that was with the robins that we didn't recognize.  Being the avid bird watchers we are we hurried to take a photo.  Ugh, the camera was in the car! I missed it.  This new bird was brown and black with a white streak along its eyes.  We consulted our bird book and narrowed it down to some sort of sparrow. Determined it would come back I got the camera out of the car.

We filled the bird baths and took the birdcam down and downloaded the photos to see what shots we got.  Wow this birdcam thing was great.  We discovered that the raccoon the night before had been drinking from the bird bath too.  We cleared the memory and put the birdcam back.

 Soon the robins came back with some Carolina Chickadees, and a Titmouse.  Then the Yellow Rumped and Cape May Warbler Families came with their bird bodyguard, the Blue Jay to guard their Walton-size family of thirty. As the Warblers came, I saw it again!  That new bird. It was in the palm tree eating seeds. I grabbed the camera and got some shots of this new bird as it peaked through the palms. 

I noticed the Carolina Wren digging on the ground for bugs along with a Black and White Warbler. The Carolina Wrens have to be my favorite as they are fearless.  The first family built a nest in our wreath on the front door.  This family had five baby birds and raised them on the front door so we could watch them through our front door peep hole.  We were happy they were there but sad that the babies chose to fly for the first time when we were away for the weekend.  They have since repeatedly built nests in the garage (in one day how do they do that?)  If birds can build nests with a beak made of hair, pine needles and twigs, why can't we build a nest with ten fingers on two different hands?  I want to invite the Wren family over for dinner.  They could cook the dinner, make the bowls and clean up before I could get up from the table.

I finally got the photo of this new bird with the camera as I noticed another pair of bird of equal excitement. Two Cedar Wax Wings came into the magnolia tree. They never come into the yard but I guess they had heard the Robin Family was having a party so they came without invitation.  I love these birds and just couldn't believe they finally came.  I quickly snapped the photos of the wax wings as the Crows descended to temporarily scare the robins away to get a drink.  Word about the party quickly got out, and the Red-bellied Woodpecker showed up with the Morning Ground Doves.  The Regular Ground Doves brought the American Gold Finches.  And you know the party was in full force when the Cardinals arrived.  All in all, there were 16 different kinds of birds to share their beauty in diversity.  There were over 90 birds who stopped at one time or another yesterday. 

Content with knowing the fifteen birds, I looked on and in our book of Florida Birds to identify the sixteenth.  I looked up Henslow, Lincoln's, Clay-Colored Sparrows.  Close but not quite.  I finally found it.  It's always like finding the golden treasure on a deep sea drive.  It was a White-Throated Sparrow.  The spot of yellow beside it's beak was even there! WOW what a beautiful bird.  And we would have never seen it if it hadn't decided to join the Robins and come to our backyard for a drink.  The faith the White-Throated Sparrow had in its friends is something for us to learn from.  If we trust our friends who are part of a family bigger than themseves and follow them, they won't let us down.  Oh, the pure joy to be a part of the sum that is bigger than its whole.  They are not going to let their own family down so we have to have faith in them too.  Sometimes doing the right thing is to have blind faith. Its OK to be a little vulnerable when we are in need.  God will help us when we need to follow others to help ourselves.  The birds never go without food.  If God takes care of the birds, he will feed us and take care of us too.

Matthew 6:34
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 10 - Potato Soup

What is it about returning home as an adult that we want the same food we had as a child?  There is comfort in the special spared ribs that my family cooks with Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.  There's solace in the lasagna my Mom makes as well as her mashed potatoes.  I guess there is a feeling of just not having to worry any more about the fears of adult life.  You don't fail when you eat a big bowl of pinto beans and corn bread.  You always are your best when you are at home eating Mom's potato soup.  So every other year when I return home, Mom always asks me what I want her to cook for me.  We make the menu ahead of time and I use my airplane napkin to wipe away the drool from my mouth as I think about my favorite, potato soup on the flight or the drive there.

Last year, Mom and her infinite wisdom decided to cook it differently.  A way that she had just discovered. She didn't realize what a huge emotional traumatic experience this would be for her daughter.  The first night when we arrived, we ate the potato soup.  This is the tradition.  But it had shrimp in it~What the....?  It was delicious, don't get me wrong, but don't mess with the potato soup memory.  My childhood is ruined forever if we don't eat the same recipe of potato soup that I have been used to eating for over forty years.  She did it again the next night when the ribs were a little dry.  I inquired about this and she said, "Oh they are not ribs dear, they are pork chops."  Ok WTF.  We were going to have to have a little talk.

She justified her change of recipe of the potato soup because it was better and she thought I would like it. The truth is, I liked the old way because it was more of a broth type soup and my  mom would drop egg in it while it boiled and this made egg noodles.  The creamy soup with shrimp was just so different.  I have driven 13 hours to her house while visions of potato soup and lasagna danced in my head like sugar plums.  So to arrive with anticipation only to be surprised by this new try-it-you'll-like-it mentality deeply bothered me.

I had to dig deep within myself to find the reason why.  Family recipes are tradition.  It is not the food, its the memories that come with the food.  I guess that's why cupcakes mean so much to me.  Even though my Dad left me at the age of two, I do have slight memories of him icing cupcakes with me.  Potato soup with the egg drop noodles remind me of all those days that it snowed and it was freezing outside.  No matter how cold it got, or how bad things got financially, we could always afford and have a dinner where we sat together as a family to eat potato soup.  Some people drink Southern Comfort, I can sip potato soup for comfort.

One day I was coming home on the school bus at the age of twelve.  Everyone on the bus all of a sudden stood up to see something really out of the ordinary.  My stop was next and I couldn't get to the front of the bus because they were all standing up. They parted ways to let me through and I saw what they were all staring at.  There was this trailer which had the roof peeled back from the top and curled like the you curl the top of a sardine can back with the key.  Wow, how awful someones house was open like a dollhouse with no roof.  Oh My, that was MY HOME.  I ran from the bus and into my house, and the feeling was surreal.  It was snowing inside my house, there was NO ROOF IN MY BEDROOM. We had to literally throw stuff out the window to keep it from getting wet and load it on to a semi trailer to save it.  We moved into the house of the woman who worked with my mother for two months.

After the two months passed, we moved back into a new house, all on our own, Mom served potato soup.  All was well again.  So with all this cold weather up north and even down south, it reminds me of the times we ate potato soup.  So I decided this week to make my Mom's NEW potato soup recipe.  I wanted to do the right thing and see if I could try to step out of my comfort zone and learn to like this new creamy shrimp soup.  I made it and it was awesome!  I text my kids the photo of the soup and told them next time they came home, I was going to make them this new Kick Ass Potato Soup!  I hope I'm not causing them any emotional trauma, if I am, I'll give them Mom's recipe.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 9 - Hairs who I am

Yesterday I went to the salon and got my hair done.  Or as we say in our family folklore, got my hair did. What is it about hair that defines us?  We all have those photos from our earlier school days and are horrified when our parents bring them out to show our new date the first time over to meet the family.  If it really defined us, then we should by definition only have one hair style our entire lives.  Or it could define our different stages of life as we mature.  In some cases, it just defines our mood at the time we are sitting in front of our secret confidante aka our hairdresser. 

Hair is such a defining trait of any adolescent.  It's a statement.  One of my friend's daughters would use koolaid to dye her hair as she wanted to be eco-friendly. She had purple, blue, red, and pink hair at different points of her high school years.  This was her way of saying to the world, this is me, if you don't like it, then you are stupid because you have chosen to judge me on the outside.  Taking the time to know me on the inside, you would see that I'm worth getting to know.  Hairs who I am, take me or leave me.  It's an easy way for teenagers to separate the fake" friends" from the real friends.

My sons went through this self-identity stage too.  I went along with the phase and found it quite enlightening.  Brandon one day cut off all the sides of his hair with the clippers and put the Extreme Strong Hold gel on his hair and went to school for a month with a Wild Wild Mohawk.  With boys I think it's different in that there is another dimension to the mix.  In addition to the immediate separation of real vs fake people aspect, the girls love them with these wild hair expressions.  This is what they think.  It at least gives them the attention they are screaming in silence to receive.

I've seen boys with afros, corn rows, mohawks, dreds, etc.  I've seen girls with gothic black, red, blue, pink, purple and green hair.  Girls seem to like the color more than the guys.  I like color too.  I'm a natural brunette but with mother nature sprinkling graydust in my hair, until I have an all gray head of hair, I'm going down fightin'.  I had my usual platinum blonde dye of the roots yesterday but added one strip of auburn only on the left side for a little sumpin' sumpin'.  It looks great. I'm anxious to see how my teenager classmates respond.  At the age of forty-six I still would like to respond to all the naysayers that condemn me for looking "too young for my age".  I still don't understand what that means.  But I'll do the right thing and walk away knowing that I feel great because I got my hair did.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 8 - Invisible Mary

Yesterday I went for my annual physical.  I know that as my body ages (notice I didn't say I aged, my body ages) that this event becomes more of a life surviving and dreaded event. My doctor and I are approximately the same age so subsequently we compare notes each year.  It started with the need for new glasses.  We refused to get bifocals for a couple of years and both came to the realization that if we wanted to continue to read and see the food we ea, that we both got bifocals.  Then when we compared the fact that we weren't happy with the glasses overall, we both got LASIK the same year.  The next year we compared notes and had the same stories.

It is the same routine every year.  Mary meets me at the door, weighs me, takes my height measurements and escorts me to my room and exchanges pleasantries as she takes my blood pressure.  Over the years we have told each other about our kids.  My children go to this doctors office too.  She knows my sons and always asks about them.  She shares with me the story about her son being in Iraq.  She showed signs of fear and then the next year he was home and she was happier than I'd ever seen her.  I noticed this particular year that her body showed signs of aging.  Stress does that to our bodies.  The next year she explained her son had returned to Iraq.  She was worried and counting the days for his return.

So yesterday when I was in the shower getting ready to drive the sixty minute drive to get my annual physical, I looked forward to catching up with Mary and her family.  I prepared my list of physical ailments to discuss with the doctor.  I needed to do the right thing and schedule a colonoscopy. If Oprah did it then I knew I could too.  But the real test was to see if my doctor had done it too.  I just wanted to do it like Oprah though as she had a protein shake in a wine glass after the drugs wore off, that's what I was going to do.

I arrived at the doctors and as I registered  there was a piece of paper on the counter with Mary's face on it.  WHAT?  I couldn't believe my own eyes.  I couldn't explain my grief, Mary had died on Thursday, this was the following Friday and they had her memorial poem from the funeral printed on a book marker. I was called into the room by Melissa.  She was nice enough but it just wasn't the same and I broke down crying.  I couldn't explain my sorrow, I just knew I had lost a big part of my life even though I only saw her for five minutes a year.  It was surreal.

She had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in November, fought it with chemo and was responding well and had a heart attack.  Two and half months and that was it.  Mary worked in a doctors office and life had delivered her the most cruel irony of all.  It doesn't matter if you work in the industry, you have an aging body that fails us eventually too.  How is it that people who are in our lives for only a moment can have such a profound effect on us?  I think it has to do with their kindness.  Five minutes of kindness changes us.  So if we do the right thing and give others, even strangers, five minutes of kindness on a regular basis, we are making a difference.  I didn't realize how important Mary had become to my routine.  She was invisible and seamless in her job.

If Mary was gone, I guess the mortality of myself hit me like a brick. My blood pressure was high this year due to the extreme grief I felt. After confirming my doctor had had his colonoscopy too, I  will get mine scheduled too.  Only this year I wasn't doing it because my doctor did, or for Oprah or for Mary, I was doing it for me and all the people who were in my life who think that I'm invisible.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 7 - Quarters

I collect grapes.  My high school mascot was a grape. You have probably have seen its cousin on the Fruit of the Loom commercials.  Our mascot was actually a huge machine called a grapepicker. It goes down the rows of grapes and shakes the grapes lose from the vines.  It was voted in 1981 as the Second Most Unusual Mascot in the country after the Cranberry Cranberries.  Since the actual machine couldn't be cartooned for wearing, we just use the grape cluster costume.  So for some reason I feel a connection to my childhood through grapes.  They have to be nice looking not just ANY grape.  And I'm fruit-specific as the reporter who interviewed me for this rare collection said.  I can't have anything on it other than the grapes.  No apples, no oranges, just grapes.

As I was being interviewed for the story in the News Journal of Daytona Beach, my daughter Jula started counting the grape collection.  I was proud of the collection and I remember my son Cassius at the age of 12 started counting YEARS ago and stopped at fifty.  After Jula got to 300, I yelled STOP.  It was an epiphany.  I had no idea that my collection had grown to this huge number.  I have them displayed nicely in the kitchen. Every grape item has its place and it doesn't LOOK like there are over 300 grape items in the house.  I guess 300 was an OVER-THE-TOP number that I wasn't ready to do Cinderella-Mirror-Mirror-on-the-wall -check. Only in this case it wasn't for beauty, it was for sanity.  Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the sanest of them all?  I knew the answer.  It wasn't me. I asked the reporter to just say, "over 240" instead of the 300 to make me feel better.

Many of my friends and boyfriend have given  these grapes to me, so in my defense, I didn't buy or accumulate all of these on my own.  Isn't that how it starts though?  One by one, we start a collection and without realizing it the next day it is out of control.  Sort of like clutter in the house.  One day the napkin is left on the sofa and next thing you know the laundry room looks like a closet with a washer and dryer in it instead of a laundry room.

People collect different things for personal reasons.  Disney memorabilia, baseball cards, birdhouses, cow stuff for the kitchen, roosters, Beanie Babies, etc.  So with this American cultural pressure it wasn't Jula's fault that while her year in America, she started collecting the fifty state quarters.  She wanted to get all 50 before she left the United States.  When she left she had gotten 38, twelve short of the goal.  So my self-imposed job since she has returned to Germany,  has been to help her complete her collection by finding the remaining twelve.  As of last week I had gotten the eleven and only the state of Illinois was left to find.  After posting a listing on Craigslist, someone e-mailed me from INDIANA.  How he found the listing in Florida was beyond me but he did.  He had the Illinois quarter and is sending the quarter to me in the mail.

The really amazing part of the story is that he is sending it to me for free.  No request for a stamp in return, not a request for a quarter in return, but only for me to pay-it-forward.  So the collection will be complete for Jula and will stop at 50 unless we adopt Puerto Rico into the union.  Thank God! And thanks to Chris for doing the right thing as I will pay it forward and blog about it when I do.  Jula, for Grapes Sake, don't start collecting anything else, you're still the Fairest-one-of-all!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 6 - WOO

WOO - is a new term I've adopted into my vocabulary and seems to describe many situations in our lives.  If you've ever worked in a large corporation, you know that when we use the restroom, we are NEVER the only one in there.  The department next to my cubicle seemed to adopt me and they let me in on their term of WOO.  Window Of Opportunity.  They used this acronym to describe the general time of day that you could use the restroom in COMPLETE privacy to do your business.  You know what I mean.  So we joked about, I've got to go now or I'll miss my WOO.

My girlfriend Lisa, from high school came to visit me for Thanksgiving from Guam.  I explained the term to her and she has since adopted WOO into her vocabulary too.  It's such a great word to describe when you need to be prepared or do something at just the right time, at just the right place, to do just the right thing you may need or want to do.

Lisa and I have been friends for thirty years.  We seem to have a lot of things in common.  We had one sibling who was very very different from us.  We were raised in a single parent household.  Our dads had pretty much abandoned us. And we were able to compete with the boys in calculus and knew how to use our brain that seemed to surprise a lot of our male teachers and male classmates.  One time in Calculus, Mr. Rhodes was not very nice to me and I just felt so disrespected that I had to excuse myself from the room.   I went outside to sit in the hallway to gather myself together.  Lisa came out and sat with me and gave me the-boys-are-idiots-pep talk and explained that the bottom line was that when we left this small town and its mentality, we would go on to bigger and better things.  These same people who shunned us, would still be living in this small town thirty years later and wouldn't have lives that would even be close to the experiences we would have and the moments we would create for ourselves. [She was right]

The next day, I came to school and she presented me with The Good Egg Award, which I still have today.  She wrote on yellow construction paper shaped like an oval egg.  Because I had been the better person and gathered myself together and returned to class head-held-high I could go on with life knowing that sometimes high school teachers and peers are mean and that doesn't mean that we have to be a lesser individual for it.  Over the years, our times of despair and triumph have been shared.  When I  was going through my divorce, Lisa flew in from Germany.  Recently Lisa has some trials of her own and as I reached for words of comfort, I sent an e-mail that was returned with what I felt words that were uncharacteristic of my friend. I quickly sent an apology and tried to climb my way out of the hole I had buried myself in, to which she replied, "BJ, no you didn't offend me and i sincerely sorry if i said that in a rude way. You've always been there for me, even when you aren't there physically, I carry a bit of BJ with me at all times.  No worries.   As for me, i'll stop trying to reply to email at 5am before work..."

So there she is again, trying to comfort me in her darkest hours.  I cried yesterday to have such a good friend that loves me for just who I am.  Nothing more, Nothing less. She knows my history, she knows my bad points and loves me just the same.  So I would be remiss if I didn't use this WOO to tell her, "Lisa you are the sister I've never had and the friend I always will have.  I carry a little bit of Lisa with me at all times too. I love you."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 5 - Oprah in Australia

Shrimp on the Barbie cooked by Curtis the Australian Chef that was on the Apprentice! If you've been watching Oprah, she has outdone herself by taking her entire audience along with 198 Harpo employees to Australia.  Everything they say is bigger and better in Australia.  You've heard the commercials, Foster Beer that is served in an aluminum barrel.  Now that's a Knife Mate!! Day 2 consisted of traveling to Uluru to see the six mile red rock that juts out of the land for no apparent reason other than to say, I'm here!

It reminded me of when we traveled to the Grand Canyon last year.  You can see the pictures, the videos and the documentaries, but NOTHING describes the awesome canvas that God paints for us.  We don't have to go to Australia to get this same WOW factor.  We have natural wonders right here in America.  So for those of us who want to be like Gayle and Oprah, we have to make the time to go to our national parks.  It's simply the right thing to do for a number of reasons.  1.  It's our land and its very economical to visit.  No airfare for international travel, and tents are cheaper than hotels.  2.  We only are on this earth for a limited number of days, so when actually IS a good time?  So it's now or never.

After getting divorced over three years ago, I decided that after working for 20 something years, one, two and sometimes three jobs, that I was going to create a bucket list. The kids, my husband and the dog were always first. But I had to do the right thing for me. I wasn't getting any younger.

A bucket know, the things you want to do before you kick the bucket.  So I went on a hot air balloon ride and celebrated the landing with champagne, cheese and crackers.  I went to the Grand Canyon and dreamed of being able to paint.  We hosted not one but two foreign exchange students.  We went to the Blue Ridge Mountains and stayed in a log cabin for a week.  (Really roughin' it with a jacuzzi an all on the back porch.)  We saw the Whiffenpoofs sing acapella in concert in a tiny church in Savannah.  We climbed the tallest lighthouse in Ponce Inlet, Florida.  We saw over 300 manatees at once at Blue Springs.  We fed blue scrub jays by hand in Deland, Florida.  We went to the top of the Arch in St. Louis. We visited the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, along with the US Post Office, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam and World War II Memorial.  I visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Martin Luther King Center, and Coca Cola Museum in at Atlanta.  I ate beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, jumbalaya on Bourbon Street, and breakfast at Mothers. Most of these things were free or very reasonably priced.

I made time for me because I deserved it.  Nobody may understand this but it didn't matter.  Sometimes as mothers and women we have to put ourselves first.  So this year, I'm continuing the bucket list and plan to visit Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the Capital Reefs in Utah.  In a perfect world, I'd get to see a Duke vs North Carolina game at Duke...still wishing.

Although Australians may not understand my wish for watching basketball, they may not need to.  Their daily life is beauty in motion. The recipients of being at the end of God's paint brush. The aborigines of Uluru don't speak English but invited Oprah and the other sisters to a sacred ceremony only for women.  It had never been filmed before. They danced to the light of fire when all was dark and celebrated their sisterhood.  They painted  their bare chests like the indigenous men do but with a sense of modesty.  The women danced naked for their sisters, not pornographic, but acceptance of self. In darkness, the red rock of Uluru was hidden.  The Uluru women were sharing the moment with the American sisters and carrying the night torch as if saying ..."I'm here."

But what's right for you?  Do you dream of going somewhere, doing something, experiencing something, or just having that "moment"?  What are you waiting for, be like the red rock of it and say, "I'm here."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 4 - First day of the Semester

Last semester was a bear.  I only had 2 classes (six credits) but it was the hardest semester I've taken.  As I've found out in computer programming, you MUST be perfect.  The code MUST be perfect.  No extra space, no comma instead of a period, no lack of a space, no lowercase letter at the beginning of a variable and never ever EVER end a command without a semi-colon.

So imagine my surprise last semester when I began finding not one, but a few mistakes in the textbook I was using.  So I asked my professor to open a discussion board on our classroom website.  I posted what I thought was paramount information for those of us who were learning something WRONG.  This would save my classmates time as not only did I spend 20 extra hours a week of my life checking, double-checking, and triple-checking that I had typed my code EXACTLY like the book, I had to figure out ON MY OWN that it wasn't my code, it was actually the book.  I ended the semester spending an average of 40-50 hours a week learning, unlearning and editing the code.

Thus begun a LONG semester that ended in a 10 page error-data sheet compiled between myself and the publisher for a brand new book.  I called them and originally they just thought I was another stupid uninformed student that didn't know what she was doing.  Item after item in every chapter convinced them otherwise.  Fellow classmates saw the validity in my frustration and my professor had lively debates in class using civil oratory skills.  My point was that any education expert knows that Education 101 is "get it right the first time". Studies have shown that when we learn something wrong the first time, and then relearn it right, our mind recalls it wrong first, and then sometimes remembers it right and sometimes we don't.  My professor's point was that after intimately entangling my mind with computer code that I would learn it better and wouldn't forget it.  We still respectfully disagree.

After this 3 credit course took an average of 50 hours a week due to this inaccurate textbook, I did learn the code and my frustration level never lowered.  However, I believe good comes out of every problem or more politically correct....situation.  But never did I expect this....I start the new semester today with renewed hope and faith in people.  The people who work for the publisher had decided that I had basically edited this new book and gave them my edits for free. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I received a UPS delivery on a holiday to do the right thing. Companies would do well to recognize that it's the people that create relationships and are key to its success.  I had only asked for one thing, a complimentary copy of the next edition.  No credit, just to make it right that the book I had now wasn't.  I received an American Express Gift Card for $250.  Perfect.

~ The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention. ~Richard Moss

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 3-Martin Luther King Jr

Stand, Just Stand is a great gospel song.  Sometimes we can't do anything but just stand.  The most recent event of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona is an example that comes to mind.  A mentally ill person mindlessly shoots and wounds adults and kills 6 people including a 9 year old child.  The helplessness one feels when a tragedy happens is numbing.  Stand.

There are other times where just doing something is the right thing to do.   These times usually involve our freedom of speech.  When our foreign exchange student came from Brazil, he was 17 and had taken 12 years of school and was to be a senior at our local high school.  He asked me before coming if he was going to be a senior and I assured him he would.  When I was in high school around the early 80's we had six foreign exchange students and all of them were seniors.  I had met the secretary of our local high school when turning in the paperwork for him and she remembered her foreign exchange student from the 60's and they were seniors.  So the day when we took him to register, imagine our surprise and his horror when they put him in the eleventh grade.  He was crying and sad.  I apologized and told him we would fight this with everything we could.  We didn't have money for a lawyer, so we fought with our voice.

We met with the guidance counselor.  He said that one of the reasons that the foreign exchange students couldn't be seniors is that it would affect the rankings of the American students.  (At the graduation, we found out that his son was the Valedictorian.) He said he didn't have time to transfer all the credits to the American School System because each country was different.  We thought that was part of his job but I guess we were mistaken. I suggested then that he exempt Felipe and the other students from the standings and alleviate this obstacle. No word came from him, silence.

Eventually, after Jula, my other foreign exchange student from Germany went to him, He said he would talk to the Principal who ultimately had the final say.  Silence. We called our district school board representative who said to WAIT.  (This is August)  We learned through this experience that WAIT is another form of silence.  [DON'T EVER WAIT- Push ahead and find somebody else who WILL help].  We wrote to the School Board Superintendent. Silence. He had his Assistant Superintendent call us.  Silence. She asked her secretary call us.  She called and we told her our concern.  This violated every single civil right of Felipe that is protected under the constitution.  Even illegal immigrants are REQUIRED by school districts to be tested to receive "proper placement".  We explained that this policy of not allowing foreign exchange students to be seniors just because they were foreign exchange students was illegal.  We received a letter from the Assistant the next week that said simply, "We are sorry, this is our policy."  (We felt like we had taken our car to the shop to get it  fixed and they gave it back and said, "We're sorry, your car is broke.") Basically Silence.

In the meantime Felipe was the model "American" student.  He joined the ROTC, received the Cadette of the Month Award, played for the High School soccer team, got straight A's, attended school every day ( never missed because of sickness or health) and volunteered at school and at local social agencies.  Finally we waited long enough.  We attended the November School Board meeting knowing that once the public and school board found out about this injustice, Felipe would be able to join the commencement exercises to at least feel the American experience of the pomp and circumstance. 

We attended and Felipe spoke at this meeting. Silence. The Superintendent didn't really care, he was leaving in six months.  The irony: he was leaving to go to Egypt to teach "foreign" students while simultaneously & adamantly opposing the policy to allow foreign exchange students getting a diploma in America.  He felt this would allow Felipe to be "eligible" to receive aid to attend an American college.  Illegal immigrants could do this but in our local Florida county, kids who came here legally and spoke better English than some of our fellow citizens were not allowed to be seniors and participate in the graduation ceremony.  Silence.

We called our local ACLU to which we were members.  Silence. (We have not renewed our membership.) We contacted local lawyers and explained the situation but that we didn't have any money for lawyers fees.  Silence.  We wrote to 60 minutes, and 20/20. Silence.

In January, after waiting with no word, we called the newspaper.  Silence.  We kept calling and finally got to the new Editor since the paper was bought by another company. Surely coming from a bigger city, he would think this newsworthy.  He passed it to the local editor who sent a "local" county reporter for a "national" story. Why wouldn't anyone be outraged by this injustice?  This is how we felt. 

This is how we feel about ANY injustice.  I'm sure this is EXACTLY how Martin Luther King, Jr and for all the people he eloquently spoke felt.  Martin Luther King, Jr had one quote that resonates with me to this day.  Silence constitutes consent.  Sometimes doing the right thing means speaking out against injustice.  Any and all injustice.

The eight foreign exchange students last year got to participate in the graduation ceremony as a result of our voice and with the help of the guidance counselor (on the right).  Short of hiring a lawyer, I feel like our American public school system failed Felipe as we told him that Americans always make it right. Sometimes it takes longer than expected.

I do believe if we had money to fight this in the courts, we would have won.    In this case we didn't. I felt defeated because we did the right thing, went through all the proper channels and didn't provide the opportunity given to my fellow foreign exchange students twenty-five years ago.  He received a blank piece of paper in his envelope that day.  So this blog just represents another way to use my voice.  Today, with Dr. King .....I'll just stand.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 2 - Blood - Full Cycle

I haven't been feeling well lately and I think it is because I gave blood 4 days ago.  I have given over 5 gallons in my lifetime so it's not the blood giving in general, it's because I hadn't done it in over 2 years.  I had moved and didn't know where the nearest blood donor center was located.  I had read in the paper that during the month of January, if  you gave blood at the local blood donor center, you could receive a free $20 gift card to Red Lobster, Olive Garden, or Bahama Breeze.

My boyfriend and I went and attempted to give blood.  I say attempted because they had just added a new question to the list of do you or have you ever......It asked if you ever had been out of the country from a particular year to another particular year.  My boyfriend was in Turkey serving his country as an officer in the US Air Force....for him....the right thing to do.  Now due to this, he can never ever EVER donate blood again.  Although for the last 24 years since this time, he has been donating blood.  It is such a shame that Mad Cow Disease has affected anyone that has breathed the air in Europe during this time.  I hope Mad Cow Disease doesn't EVER happen in the United States as we'd have no blood donors.

Giving blood is such an easy thing to do.  Answering their questionnaires is actually more time consuming and painful than the actual drawing of the blood.  I had given blood for 10 years or so and in 2001 I had an ectopic pregnancy.  I nearly bled to death as I was rushed to the emergency room and prepped for surgery to stop the bleeding.  I was only 36, too young to die. I hadn't seen my kids graduate yet, I hadn't seen my grandchildren who weren't born yet.  I had lost 3.5 pints of blood internally before they started surgery.  If it weren't for others who had been thoughtful enough to do the right thing, I wouldn't be here today writing this blog.  I wouldn't have seen my kids graduate. (Still don't have grandchildren...YET!)

Charles Drew was an African American who invented this technology.  Drew created a central location for the blood collection process where donors could go to give blood. He made sure all blood plasma was tested before it was shipped out. He ensured that only skilled personnel handled blood plasma to avoid the possibility of contamination. Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  There are many other African Americans who we have to thank.  I'll discuss them in Black History month.  Today however, I'd like to say I'm sorry to Charles Drew.    I'm sorry because when Charles Drew was in a car accident, he was taken to the hospital and could not get the blood he had lost due to his injuries replaced because of his injury.  Contrary to Urban Legend that he died because he couldn't get a blood transfusion because he was black, the truth is that his injury was so bad he couldn't be saved.  The irony of the tragedy saddens me.

Dr. John Ford was another doctor traveling in the car with him near Burlington, NC. He said, "He had a superior vena caval syndrome—blood was blocked getting back to his heart from his brain and upper extremities. To give him a transfusion would have killed him sooner."

The people at that hospital did do the right thing.  People at the local Blood Center also did the right thing.  Although the newspaper was in error that the gift card could be given the entire month of January.  The promotion had ended 7 days prior to us coming.  Not only did they honor this misprint, they also gave a card to my boyfriend who attempted to give his blood.  So to be sick from not having enough iron and vitamins prior to donating, is nothing compared to not being able to give or receive this gift of life from the liquid of our bodies that shares the same color inside every, crimson, scarlet.

Blood is that fragile scarlet tree we carry within us.  ~Osbert Sitwell

Saturday, January 15, 2011

365 Days of Inspiration

Today I start my first blog post to find others like me who believe in just doing the right thing.  The photo was was taken in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and the floral arrangement was made by the birth mother of my first daughter, Jula.  Let me explain.  I have 2 sons and never had the fortune of having a daughter.  I instead "borrowed one" from Germany for a year.  I also borrowed a son from Brazil....Felipe.  At the end of their foreign exchange, we were blessed with the fortune to meet Jula's parents (Birgit & Michael) and Felipe's mother (Alessandra) and we all vacationed in the mountains.  What beautiful views the mountains displayed for our visitors from Germany and Brazil.  Birgit and I had walked that morning and she collected different parts of nature that ended up in this photo on the porch. 

The first thing we did right listed in this blog is opened our home to a child from another country.  To have the privilege to share our home with young adults was beyond what we would have imagined.  One of the many things we did was taken them to Washington DC.  At close to 50, I had never been there as an American.  We found out that many Americans have not been to our capitol.  As we toured the monuments we came upon sayings that our founding father wrote centuries ago that are so profound, they are pertinent today....The one that caught my eye was from Thomas Jefferson....I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions.  But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truth discovered, and manners and opinions change. With the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.  What coat are you wearing today?