Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 199 - Molly and McGee - The Barn Owls and Toni

There is a line in a song by James Taylor that says, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." It's true.  Often times couples who have been together for a long time know each other better than one knows oneself.  I've often heard of an elderly couple who die within days of each other.  The heartache is surely the reason for the living spouse or partner's death.  Its too hard to go out and meet someone who has experienced this passage of years of time and "tell" them in a few short months who you really are.


Owlet Clutch
As you know most birds are monogamous and owl that showed  up in our owl box left only after one week.  I wonder if he was looking for a mate and couldn't find one here.  But I have stumbled upon another way to watch an owl live on, click on the link and you can watch this couple too. This is Molly and McGee. They have had four clutches of owlets.  I've enjoyed watching them.  Molly is the orange splotchy ffrontace and McGee has the white frong.  They are barn owls and a couple in San Marco have put cameras in and outside of their owl box so that we can see them. They also save the videos in case you missed sometime and you can go back and fast forward through the video to see what you missed.  Most of the time, they are sleeping and scratching.  But there are times when you have to be able to grit your teeth and watch as they are "hork" up pellets of bones from the prey they ate the previous night.

Recently in the local news a city employee had defriended all her Facebook friends and got on a bike without her cell phone and disappeared.  She was depressed.  My friend is one of her friends.  Toni is her name and had been missing for two days.  This was the second time Toni had done this.  She had recently lost her partner and was devastated.  The first time, she wrote on her legs, The Pain is unbearable and Stop the pain.  It is true the pain from loss is the hardest to go through.  It isn't something you can make stop, it has to be endured like the Buddhists tell us. 

Life hands us times where we need to just stand, to endure the pain. Most of the time, we sit around and scratch and preen.  Nothing to see really.  But its nice to have a mate to do it with.  The true meaning of friendship....just being there for one another.  Toni was found disoriented and wandering aimlessly along the road by a stranger.  She is in the hospital now and my friend has been able to talk with her friend.  Hopefully Toni will know now that the secret of life is sharing the passage of time, with real friends....the ones who have been looking for her, waiting for her and praying for her.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 198 - Geocaching

Jula and I decided one day that we were going to go Geocaching.  I didn't even really know what it meant but it reminded me of when as a teenager I was at Coach Gregg's house and he gave us a scavenger hunt list.  We each had thirty minutes to go find as many items on the list and the first team back with the most items would win.  We were paired off.  I remember asking for a purple button, a blue ink pen, a spool of black thread, a yellow comb, etc. from complete strangers.  The houses that we entered were having as much fun as we did as they laughed at the particular details on the list.  Noooooo, it has to be a PURPLE button! They would have a brown button but not a purple one.  I don't even remember who my partner was from the basketball team, I just remember running from house to house trying to get as many items on the list.

Jula and I went to the website and created an account.  We realized we were at a disadvantage right away because we didn't have one of those tools that tell you your exact gps location of latitude and longitude.  But we thought we'd give it a try.  We put in our zip code and found that there were over thirty caches near where we lived!  Some of them uploaded directions.  We were excited because we were going to put something from Germany in the cache once we found it and take something from the cache.  An ever changing treasure box hidden by one and found by many.  We went searching for the first one and drove around and around and couldn't find it. 
That tool was evidently imperative to find that cache box. 

I'm going in, hope there are no snakes!

We found it, so tiny!
We decided to try another one.  We parked, found the spot listed and tried to understand the clue about the kind of tree that was different than the rest. We looked and looked and found the tree, we too didn't know what it was but that was different and found the little container. We opened it up with anticipation and found a blue stone.  That was it.  We looked at each other and said, "All of that for this little clear blue stone?"
look realllll close!

We tried it again and found the container under a bridge near our new movie theater.  It held small girly trinkets.  I guess I was looking for a sturdy box that you could see what clues were left by the many people who gave and took an item.

Geocaching is defined as a real world treasure hunt using a GPS -enabled device.  There are three rules for geocaching: 1) If you take something, leave something of equal or greater value.  2) Write about your experience in the cache log book if they have it. 3) Log onto and write about your experience.  There are twelve types of caches.  Click here to find out what they are.  Geocaching is international.  It started on May 2, 2000 when a blue switch was turned on and the twenty-four global satellites suddenly had an upgrade and hundreds of thousands of GPS receivers had their positions recorded and accurately recorded by the satellites. 

The Origins of Geocaching

Geocaching, first coined by Matt Stum on the "GPS Stash Hunt" mailing list on May 30, 2000, was the joining of two familiar words. The prefix geo, for Earth, was used to describe the global nature of the activity, but also for its use in familiar topics in gps such as geography.

Caching, from the word cache, has two different meanings, which makes it very appropriate for the activity. A french word invented in 1797, the original definition referred to a hiding place someone would use to temporarily store items. The word cache stirs up visions of pioneers, gold miners, and even pirates. Today the word is still even used in the news to describe hidden weapons locations.

The second use of cache has more recently been used in technology. Memory cache is computer storage that is used to quickly retrieve frequently used information. Your web browser, for example, stores images on disk so you don't have to retrieve the same image every time you visit similar pages.
The combination of Earth, hiding, and technology made geocaching an excellent term for the activity. However the "GPS Stash Hunt" was the original and most widely used term until Mike Teague passed the torch to Jeremy Irish in September 2000.

In the end, I almost think it is better to do this with younger kids.  But for me, the right thing to do will be to create my own and hide it across the street.  Then I can see the smiles on people's and children's faces when they discover it.  The website says, plant it and they will come.  When Gabriele, comes maybe we can put something in there from Italy!  Its free and fun, give it a try. 

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself. ~Walter Anderson 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 197 - The Prodigal Daughter....Equal Treatment is NOT Fair

My sister and I would fight like cats and dogs when we were teenagers.  To which my mother's solution was to sit us on opposite ends of the same sofa and instruct us to keep quiet for a specific period of time.  The average time was thirty to forty-five minutes and we were so mad at my mother for this punishment that in the end we had turned our disdain toward her instead of each other.  My mother would always say, "I treat you two the same."  Well my argument comes from a management point of view.  If you have a worker who works extra and does superior work and always pitches in when needed without asking and another worker who is lazy and is late and has to be told what to do, would you give a paid day off to the lazy worker who needed it for a doctor's appointment?

My mother and I differ about what is "fair."  As a family that consisted of my sister and my mother there was a constant struggle between my sister and I that was more than sibling rivalry.  What was typical was the attempt to win my mother's attention.  The manner in which we did it differed greatly.  I tried to receive her accolades by being the honor roll student, participating in extracurricular activities, and obeying her rules.  My sister on the other hand cried when she didn't get what she wanted, lied to get what she wanted and broke a lot of the same rules my mother had made sure that as the oldest I would follow. My mother will tell you that she spanked me every day until I was five years old whether I needed it or not.  I'm sure that my sister didn't receive this treatment.

I always grew up knowing that life inside that triangular relationship was not fair.  It is the sole reason why I didn't return home once I had left for college for any holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I worked full-time to support myself through college (the first time) and it was easier to stay at college and celebrate an American tradition with a different family.

My mother gave my sister and I our own phone line for Christmas when I was a junior in high school.  My senior year, it would be a typical day in which after school I would spend between four and seven hours on ONE calculus problem.  So when I used the phone to call a classmate to compare our answers to this monstrous homework assignments, my sister would hang up the phone if she felt I was taking "too" long to do my homework and she wanted to talk to a boy or a friend.  The phone jack was in the hallway between our rooms.  So when I would come out to find out why the phone had gone dead, she would grab the phone and take it into her room and turn on ACDC at the maximum volume to get me to leave the hallway.  It worked the sound was deafening and I don't particularly like hard rock anyway. She then plugged the phone back in when I left the hallway and called her boyfriends.

Mom never came home directly from work and this made for a battle because my mother told us that I was to be "in charge."  Well the problem came when my sister didn't like this arrangement and rebelled at my temporarily given authority without power.  I always tried to do the right thing. Homework first, practice my flute, cook and clean.  There were many days when mother would get home and I hadn't finished my Calculus at 10 PM at night and hadn't even STARTED my english nor my spanish.  She would ask, "Why aren't the dishes done?"  I tried to explain to her that I was still doing my homework since 3:00 PM and hadn't even eaten yet. My sister had plenty of time to do the dishes but was too busy listening to rock music but never a word was said to her.

Mom thought same treatment was fair.  She would give us both the same amount of money.  She would give us both the same rules but her implementation of the consequence of not following the rules were different.  I was the first born, so she felt she had to make an example out of me when I didn't follow the rule.  I got grounded for a week that lasted a week.  When she didn't follow the rules, she got grounded for a week which lasted for a day or maybe two. I did most of the house work and had less time but better management skills.  And its true that if you do more, you are given more to do.  This was not equal, this was not fair.

Now that over thirty years have passed, my mother has two dogs with temperaments to match her daughters.  One is the perfect angel which barks, fetches, and comes to her on her demand.  The other one doesn't.  The second one does whatever it wants and seldom listens.  And the funny thing to observe is she treats them both equally.  And the irony is as I watch, I see it still isn't fair.  The right thing to do is to be fair and hold a person accountable for their actions with consequences for not following the rules. So my issue comes from the same argument, she treats them the same until one doesn't follow the rules and then she does NOT treat them the same.  A double standard. 

I never understood the Prodigal Son parable of the Bible because the good son was not treated fairly.  He had stayed, worked hard for his father and been loyal.  His brother left, squandered his worldly inheritance and then returned, asked for forgiveness and ended up getting more than the first son!  This seems unfair because the son who left actually got more by disobeying his father.  I can relate to the good son in this story and still don't understand why the father tells the older son to rejoice because his brother has returned and has asked for forgiveness.  Where were the consequences for such immature, selfish acts that lead him to leave and stay away? Nothing.  All was forgiven.

Consequences provide incentives to the people who are following the rules to continue to do so.  They also let those who don't follow the rules know that they will eventually have to do so also or they will have to leave.  The ones who don't receive consequences grow up to live on an island.  It is the ultimate consequence in and of itself. The habitant of the island perceives it as Paradise instead of punishment.  Perhaps a perception of inequality but a fair resolution for everyone. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 196 - Momma Mia Itza Pizza

As if we didn't have enough on our plates, we're diving in head first again.  We are taking the plunge and welcoming another son into our home.  Gabriele Brentari from Italy is our new foreign exchange student coming from the mountains of Italy.   An avid snowboarder and skateboarder.  I'm excited to learn more about Italy and of his talents.  He is a creative young adult and knows how to paint and to make tie dye shirts.  This was on our  list of things to do with Jula and Felipe but it never happened because the order for the kit was canceled.  We had plan to get them in November when we were in Indiana and make them up there but the company somehow couldn't get them from Asia due to a trade issue.

I made a list of things we wanted to accomplish when Jula and Felipe came and with the exception of the tie dye shirts I think we did it all.  Gabriele has viewed the website showing all our photos of these happy times.  I'm sure we can't do as much as we did then but I'm starting a new list which will include some of the same things like the NFL, NBA, MBA (minor league) experience and visits to Tallahassee and Washington.  I think it would be good for Gabriele to go to Chicago with the rest of the group and watch the Thanksgiving Day parade which kicks off the lighting of the street lights for Christmas that the Host Rep does every year and to Illinois to visit Lincoln's birth place.  There will be new things like riding bike trails and visiting the Sugar Plantations here near our home and of course the St. Augustine montage of sites which are endless.

It has been brought to my attention that he doesn't like this photo but he gave it to me. 
He loves to video as Felipe loved to take photos so maybe he will make a film about his experience or a mini film so that I may load it onto the blog.  There will be similarities and differences.  I have told him about my grape collection or fascination which ever you prefer and how when Felipe moved here he thought he had moved to Italy.  We look forward to what we will learn about him and his country and pray that America will end this war soon.  Not only can we NOT afford it, but the world is a smaller place now and there are lives we are killing that fight our invasion just as we would fight an invasion upon our homes and local towns.  Most importantly, it is the right thing to do for harmony and peace among all nations and its people. 

Like this one better Gabriele?
When Felipe arrived until he left he could never break a bad habit that he had learned in Brazil about the English language.  He would always pronounce the e at end of a word that was to be silent. I had explained that in english this was only to make the vowel preceding it long.  Like rice, he would say "ric eeee" by pronouncing the silent e.  He went to soccer practiceeeeee.  It would drive us crazy. We know how Italians end words with "a" so I believe we will have the same issue with Gabriele only instead of an e, it will be a short a.  Luckily we have adopted some Italian words and he will be correct when he talks about pizza, bologna and meata ballas!  I'm looking forward to learning about the true Italian way of cooking and the culture.  After all, I'm halfway there with the Italian kitchen and the grapza.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 195 - Craigslist

As with all things, Craigslist can be both a positive and a negative experience.  The negative experience comes with a couple of people who make it miserable.  For example, your ad can be "flagged" at any time and it simply disappears.  One time I was GIVING away free zoo coupons and I had a terrible time.  One lady said she wanted them for her grandchildren, could she have them?  Yes, please e-mail me your address and I will mail them to you.  She didn't want me to have her address so she wasn't "sure" after all.  I explained that I lived an hour from where she lived and where the zoo was and I wasn't going to spend $40 in gas to give her the coupon as I didn't frequent that area.  So I relisted the ad and explained that I was going to try this ONE MORE TIME, and hopefully someone smart enough could get these free coupons.  Somebody flagged it and I had to list it again.  I could have just stopped and not give away free coupons for kids to have an opportunity to go to the zoo where Michael Jackson's elephant resides, but I justified my willingness to do the right thing and what a pain in the ass it was becoming by the smile on some child's face.

I set boundaries and stated if the person who wanted these free coupons, they would have to e-mail me their address and I would put them in the mail to them.  Within seconds I had 13 SMART people.  So maybe it was that with this audience, as we said in the world of printing, write it like you are writing it for the person that is stupid.  Not to demean anybody but this way there were no

Craigslist nearest your area is a great source for a couple of things.  Making money with the items that are lurking in your garage.  The author of Rich Dad Poor Dad says if it isn't making you money, its costing you money so do something and get rid of it.  There is also a category of free which people list curb alerts.  You can get some pretty good stuff for free if you are vigilant in your searches.  You can also list your stuff for free and get rid of it.  Believe me, if it's of ANY value within hours, your stuff is gone after putting it out on the curb and listing it.

This is not a good place to search for a good place to work, but odd jobs and limited income opportunities do exist on Craigslist.  I equate buying items on Craigslist like you looking at yard sales without having to go there.  If you know what you are looking for, this is a better way to find higher ticket items for reasonable prices such as furniture, electronics and used books.

The barter section is interesting too.  I read about a person who started out with a skateboard and through bartering ended up with a luxury car.  You also can look at a city to which you are planning to visit and find great vacation rentals from the locals which are the same price as hotel rooms and come with a better view and better hospitality!

Craig Newmark started craigslist in early 1995 as a way of staying on top of San Francisco’s busy arts and technology scene. Despite (or perhaps because of) the site’s determined non-commercialism, craigslist survived and even thrived in the post-dot-com days. Now 20 million people visit the site each month, viewing and self-publishing more than 17 million ads and forum posts. With characteristic modesty, Newmark continues to refer himself not as a founder but as a "customer service representative."

In this podcast, Newmark and David Weinberger, author of Everything Is Miscellaneous, discuss craigslist’s unstructured approach to managing the site’s growth and its features, and what that might mean for planning and strategizing in other areas of business. The old structures of control just don’t work. Given the steady success of craigslist, what does? taken from

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 194 - Bread

How did the band Bread chose it's name?  The story is that they were sitting together at lunch and saw a bread truck drive by and compulsively and collectively decided that was to be their group's name.  Bread's had such hits as Baby I'm a Want you and Everything I Own.  This is a classic American band and there are people who just LOOOOOOVEEE their album with the same name Bread.  I think its great when you can find a favorite artist that just appeals to you.  The right thing to do is to share our songs with our friends.  Not like Limewire where it is illegal and it doesn't pay the artists properly but if an even exchange happens between friends.  A Barter system if you will.

Like in the old days, if you harvested corn, you could trade your corn with the farmer down the road who made bread.  I recently found out that my college professor makes his own bread.  I gave him a jar of my strawberry jam and asked him to taste it on his homemade bread.  I would like to try to do this and have found a great website to show me how.  It is called the Simple Dollar, click on the words and you can see this site.  It is healthier to make your own bread than eat all the preservatives that keep it on the shelves for weeks.  A healthy grain loaf of bread can run $2.50 on sale to $5.00 per loaf.  I try to go to the bread store as in this economy its the right thing to do to save money.

We have a bread outlet and they have what they call "green line" items.  If the wrapper has a green line on it, the same healthy loaf of bread is only $1.  If it doesn't sell that day, the next day a red line is put on it and it is only 50 cents!  I go down there about once a month and get bagels, english muffins, four loaves of bread, angel food cake and buns for hotdogs and hamburgers.  $55 worth of bread for the month for only $11.75!  So yes it is worth the $44 I save to drive out of town to get my bread.

I think it may cost more for me to make my own bread than to go to the outlet store.  But what if one day I invited you over to my house and we put on the Album Bread sung by the band Bread and played the song I want to Make it With You while we made the bread?

Deliberation, n.: The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on. ~Ambrose Bierce  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 193 - Got my popcorn, my soda, going to Church!

That's right, bet you thought we were headed into a movie theater. Not so. The first time I attended this church as I affectionately own as mine was in the weeks leading up to the Presidential Election.  I was doing the "scouting" for the family.  As a coach sits in the bleachers and evaluates the potential player with his/her abilities with the needs of the upcoming season's team, I too was evaluating the potential church with his/her pastor with the needs of our family.  I felt after sitting through the first sermon in this church that I had eyed the future star player on our team.  A player who had it all, leadership, discipline, brains and compassion. The qualities of a team player.

Billy, the Pastor, had hit a Grand Slam.  Never before in my Catholic upbringing had I EVER heard words like abortion, environmental issues, health care, homosexuality and race discussed during a sermon.  Sure the hypocritical Christians all talk about these issues with one another in private but here it was discussed in the open.  Billy's message that day was to show the congregation where each candidate stood on each of these issues.  It was up to us to decide who we wanted to vote for.  He didn't particularly care who we chose, he wanted to show us the importance of KNOWING WHY we voted for who we voted for.  Billy is a big proponent of the learning process and understanding.  It was clear to me, leaving that first visit that the I wanted to recruit this church into my life.

Billy and John
PC3 was started by an ex-rocket scientist and saddle maker. John and Billy. Click here to hear the story.

I signed up the recruit (they probably signed me up but isn't that how it really is anyway, the player was recruited the Coach by showing him/her that they are worth believing in.)  Having Felipe and Jula attend this church was great.  As we left the Sunday service we would process what we had heard in church.  We discussed one good point that each of us got out of the message and this lead to other discussions.  The irony was today at church, Billy played about twenty minutes of the Toy Story 3 movie.  He talked about the good lessons and bad lessons that we saw in the film.  And as the Toy Story 3 film told the story about Andy leaving for college, Billy told the story that today, all three of his kids left for college.  An empty nest for the first time in 25 years.  His oldest one off to Graduate school and the other two off to the same college as freshmen.

We all felt his heart ache as he fought back the tears.  We know that feeling from raising our own and also when Jula and Felipe left to return to their countries.  Its different when as host families we say goodbye because the probability of seeing them ever after raising them for an entire year is null.  We do it because we want to make a difference.  We know it creates drama and makes for a great life let alone a great movie.  As Billy spoke, I whispered to Steve, "We process his sermons the same way when we leave on Sundays just as he processes the movies with his kids."

The message today was love our Christian Brothers and Sisters.  If you hate them you have really committed murder in your mind.  It is such a strong word...hate.  The bible tells us it is equal to murder.  I never knew that.  The only point I would have added to Billy's today was that we can hate the actions of our sisters and brothers and still love the person.  This story can unfold daily in our lives.  It is the right thing to do.  No drama, no comedy, no romance, just simple love of Christ displayed toward our other humans.  As I drank the soda to wash down the salt from the popcorn, I thought How Great Thou Art to allow us to attend church to hear a message more powerful than any Oscar can award while wearing flip flops and eating popcorn listening to Billy while he was wearing his jeans all for free.  I'm humbly blessed.  Thank you JC and Billy, the two greatest story tellers of all time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 192 - Guerrilla Gardners

As I planted the sunflower seeds in my great grandparents plots in the small space allotted behind their headstones, I wondered if the seeds would even grow because the ground wasn't the fertile soil that potted plants are sold in the stores.  It was a red sticky clay.  It was damp but you could summarize that it didn't have all the right nutrients to help the seeds grow to their fullest potential.  I wished I had a seed bomb.

In the 1970's, guerrilla gardeners are a group of generally anonymous gardeners who throw clay-wrapped, compost-rich balls onto unsightly vacant lots, alleyways or around sidewalks.  These seed bombs explode into bloom.  These are a more effective way to plant seeds because seeds re very light and they can be blow away by the wind or birds can eat them.  The clay balls can be launched long distances and hold the seeds together with time released nutrients blended with the clay dirt. The eco-activists in the 1970's began to turn abandoned properties into productive and attractive areas to be enjoyed.

they are easy to make, click here for a specific recipe. The Seed Bombs can be made of homemade compost, humus, green manure, and tea and coffee waste as well as natural binding materials like waste paper pulp and clay.  The compost offers the nutrients for the seeds to germinate and grow strong during their infancy, and the clay binds the seed bomb, making it hard enough not to break when it hits the ground." says Josie Jeffrey, author of Seedbombs: Going Wild With Flowers.

Better than gum balls!
Advance forty years and we new have new vending machines that distribute the small slow-releasing seed transportors.  Imagine paying fifty cents for a dirt ball!  But kids love it.  If given a choice between teeth rotting candy and a chance to beautify the neighborhood and release some childlike energy, the right thing to do would be to buy a seed bomb.  Commonstudio is a manufacturer of these new sensation and gives us the dos and don'ts:

-Launch them at the right time of the year for optimum growing conditions
-Use the right seeds in the right locations
-Don't throw them into neighbor's gardens without their consent.  and don't use them in agricultural or sensitive natural areas where they could overpower edible or native plants.

As for me, I wish I had known about these miracle dirt balls before I got the cemetery.  I would have loved to have somebody come behind me and take a digital photo, e-mail it to me and let me see what had bloomed as a result of such a great idea.  For me, I'll just have to start making my own, to throw on the vacant areas that the banks have left due to possessing the homes from people who couldn't pay their mortgages.  Maybe we could invent dirt balls to throw at the banks that would bloom into flowers of conscience.  They sure would enhance the view.

Lets fight the filth with forks and flowers. ~ Richard Reynolds, On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 191 - Integrity of the Process Ensures Validity of the Argument

I'm one who loves Spy Movies and I think there is some truth about the power that any Government can impose on it's own people instead of the use of this same power to protect its people.  I get it.  I get that the American Government has secrets from its people and probably for good reason. Just like when military men and women enlist, they have to swear to secrecy and solemnly uphold these national secrets.  And I also admire Jesse Ventura for speaking out and opening people's eyes to the possibility that these things exist.

However recently I've come across a group of young men who listen to these conspiracy theories and aren't able to distinguish reality from their own reality.  My first disclaimer here is that I'm the most non-trusting individual I know when it comes to other authorities.  I've been shafted by them, lied to by them, and been left clueless due to the knowledge that they have held from me.  That being said, it is within my power on how to process this reality.  The scary part for me is when the facts are discussed with individuals that really believe EVERYTHING they hear from ONE source, and then don't verify with a cross check of references, they can't hold a conversation without walking out on you.  This is bothersome to me.

My son has told me about  A great real-time website that knew about the black hawk operation of the capture of Osama Bin Laden as it was happening.  Once you become a member, you can click on a story and if it is important, you click the up button, if it doesn't warrant attention, you click the story down so in essence, the audience controls the message unlike the American TV stations which have been blasting which stories they deem pertinent enough to broadcast.  With so many people in the world, and so many stories to tell, why is it that we have to be made to believe that there are only thirty pertinent stories of the day in which reporters converge upon and dig to uncover and report back to us.

It has become pain-stakenly obvious that the Republicans listen to Fox so they can hear what they want to hear and the Democrats only listen to MSNBC for the same reason.  This is why I frequently listen to NPR, Huffinton Post, BBC, and yes believe it or not Al Jazeera at times.  When the foreign exchange students come to America, they realize how much of a bubble Americans live in as the reports on the nightly news only talk about the stories in which WE are involved in.  If a tragedy occurs, we report on it only to feel good about our valiant efforts to go "save" the world when a Tsunami strikes or a an Earthquake, Nuclear Meltdown and Tsunami all strike in the same place, Japan anyone?

Recently we met a young man who ONLY reads his news from the internet:  They tell the future of a small group of financial and governmental powers who are creating a New World Order.  The Denver Airport has been rebuilt 50.3 miles away from the city of Denver and they conclude it is built above a labyrinth of tunnels that are being made so that these leaders can have a "safe haven" in 12-20, 2012 the day the Mayan Calendar ends.  An Apocalypse Bunker.  They show the signs in the airport of a man in a soldier uniform piercing a white dove on the ground (symbol of peace) with his sword.  The children are wearing gas masks.  A piece of art that taken without it's entirety is ghastly and scary.  A Deathly Hallows without Harry Potter to save us all! When taken in its entirety, there are lines drawn between items that are not logical.  Like the reference to the airport being built in the shape of a swastika.  The Aries Nation would laugh at how Americans draw swastikas...

click here to see the conspiracies debunked.

Then there is the 9/11 conspiracy that after the Twin Towers were attacked, Tower 7 fell on its own.  No plane, and some say it imploded floor by floor like each floor had been prepared to be imploded by experienced dynamite imploders. This then leads the conspiracists to believe that it is all a plan of the New World Order.  After all, Gore was almost president.  But due to this weird set of voting chaos in my State of Florida, if Gore won, Bush W couldn't carry out the New World Order's plans which are hatched at the Bohemian Grove and Bilderberg every year by all the elite such as Bush H, Bush W, Jeb Bush, Clinton, Colon Powell...etc.  Now Bohemian Grove is a weird place where white men meet every year who have alot of money and power.  They are paired off in groups according to their power, business, economics, etc.  I'm not sure what happens there but like frat boys returning for their homecoming I'm sure involves alot of sex (homo and heterosexual), booze and rituals of nonsense.

I do believe the Patriot Act is chipping away at our American Freedoms as Ben Franklin warned us about.  The right thing to do is to stand up against this impingement of our freedoms.  However when the conspiracists have a conversation, and we ask them to double check with or another site and how the importance of critical thinking is needed when processing this information, they are quick to dismiss us.  It becomes a generational issue instead of a rational issue.  How is this any different from brainwashing of suicide terrorists?  or Jehovah Witnesses? Or occults?

Listen, I'm all for non-trust of authority until proven worthy.  It is after all why our forefathers from England left that little island.  But mistrust, youth of mind and mental processing, combined with narcotics, alcohol and anger are a molotov cocktail  waiting to explode. If the person spouting the facts doesn't want to have a discussion about the art of critical thinking and comments, "I don't need to critically think." then the learning has stopped.  At that point brain washing is occurring.  Here are a list of critical thinking skills that come from the second step in the process of learning: Evaluating Thinking. God help us all, and AGAIN this is NOT a generational thing as I've encountered MANY people older than myself AND younger than myself across all racial and ethnic groups that have "lost their ability to think critically" or as Grandma used to say, lost their bonkers...

1. Is the question at issue clear and unbiased? does the expression of the question do justice to the complexity of the matter at issue?

2. Is the writer's purpose clear?

3. Does the writer clarify key concepts when necessary?

4. Does the writer cite relevant evidence, experiences, and/or information essential to the issue?

5. Does the writer show a sensitivity to what he or she is assuming or taking for granted? (Insofar as those assumptions might reasonably be questioned?)

6. Does the writer develop a definite line of reasoning, explaining well how he or she is arriving at his/her conclusions?

7. Does the writer show a sensitivity to alternative points of view or lines of reasoning?  Does he or she consider and respond to objections framed from other points of view?

8. Does the writer show a sensitivity to the implications and consequences of the position he or she has taken?

The intellectual standards that we have in our home are clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logic and significance.  Once the dialogue has begun, we expect these standards and critical thinking skills to be in full force.  If one becomes frustrated with the rules of the game, the right thing to do is to continue to learn or state, "I don't know about that but I will get back to you on that one." and continue to learn not convince.  The truth does not need to be convinced no matter how far fetched it may seem.  However, as a basketball referee.....NEVER EVER take your ball and go home!  Quitters never win and Winners never quit.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 190 - Sunglasses for Brazilians

The temptation has been real and I just can't help myself.  I'm tempted to buy about 100 pairs of those sunglasses at the dollar store, pack them in a box and send them to Felipe in Brazil.  Before he came, he would e-mail me with one e-mail at a time asking...Can I buy a digital camera when I get to your home in the United States?  Yes.  (I wasn't paying for it.) Can I buy a laptop? Yes.  Can I get a Mac Laptop too?  Yes. (Again, his mother and grandparents were paying for it.) Can I buy an iPod? Yes.  An iPhone. Yes although we use Verizon and I would recommend a Droid instead.  And when he arrived he bought all of these items with the exception of the Apple Laptop and the iPhone.  In Brazil things are much more expensive than in the USA.  So for international travelers, shopping is like paying pennies at the Dollar Store with the exchange rate of the dollar and foreign currency.

We then took him to the Outlets in the nearby community and brand names like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Aeropastole, White Eagle and many more made his eyes pop out of his head.  I told him to sllllooooow down because although he thought things were cheap, we Americans were smarter shoppers.  We showed him the benefits of Ebay and Craigslist.  He was just in awe on how he could buy the same brand name shirt for $30 that he would have to pay $128 in Brazil.  When we showed him how to get it for $15-$20 he was even happier!  Then he wanted some Oakley sunglasses.  In my lifetime, I only have had one pair of Oakleys and I had to work an entire season of officiating basketball to allow myself to buy one pair.  So as soon as his family put in extra money to his account, we went to Macy's and got his sunglasses.

After six months here, we had pretty much fulfilled his entire wish list.  So in January when he oogled another pair of Oakleys, I was a bit taken back. I was brought up in a family that couldn't afford bananas as a child so to think that a child would even ask for a second pair of expensive Oakleys was repulsive.  I explained that we didn't do that in America. Children are brought up to be thankful for what they JUST got and that the right thing to do was not to ask for more when you already had enough to fill your needs, not your wants.  Greed that leads to the economic insatiable appetite for fuel, at a time in our history that most Americans were hurting financially, just didn't seem right.

He wouldn't let it rest.  He stopped whenever he saw somebody else's cool Ray-bans or Maui Janes.  I sent an e-mail to his mother and asked about this, was this ok with her?  And she said, "Yes."  I learned that in the Brazilian culture, sunglasses are like our shoes for American teenagers.  Sunglasses and inparticularly many pairs of sunglasses of various kinds gave a Brazilian young adult status.

And Jula didn't want ANY living in Florida! 

I wish I had known at that time about three websites that would have helped us in this predicament. As recently shown on the CBS Morning Show, there are now online websites that help Americans really afford glasses of all kinds.  Prescription, Bi-focals, and Sunglasses., and my personal favorite  Warby Parker is only one year young and already has exceeded its young owners expectations.  EVERY SINGLE pair of glasses is only $95 and there are two great benefits.  One is that you can upload a photo of yourself and then pick out the lens you like and see what you would look like with it on.  Then you can upload the photo to your Facebook page and get opinions about which one your friends like.  The second is their program called Buy a Pair, Give a Pair. For every pair of glasses WarbyParker sells, they donate a pair to people who live on less than $4/day through their non-profit partner The Vision Spring Foundation. These people are then in turn able to work for more money and increase their income by averages of 20%.  A circle of upward mobility.  For those of you who already on Facebook, if you go to Warby Parker's/Vision Spring's Facebook page and click "Like This," for every ten Likes, they will donate another pair of glasses.

They have won multiple awards such as the Social Capitalists Society Award, the Aspen Institute Award, the Skoll Foundation Award, the Ashoka Award, and the John McNulty Prize.  I'm now giving them the Right Thing to Do Award!

Read more about their here.

Why did we name our company Warby Parker?

We’ve always been inspired by the master wordsmith and pop culture icon, Mr. Jack Kerouac. Two of his earliest characters, recently uncovered in his personal journals, bore the names Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper. We took the best from each and made it our name.
We hope your new glasses will provide all the style you need to travel your road with class, and their price will leave you with some extra cash to use on your journey.
Kerouac inspired a generation to take a road less traveled and to see the world through a different lens.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 189 - Gettysburg...The Importance of Five Minutes..Part 1

After visiting my grandparents' graves I visited one more cemetery...The Battleground of Gettysburg.  It was sooooo large and preserved just like 1863.  I had lived in Pennsylvania all my life and never went.  It was on my bucket list of things to do and since I was at my mom's who lives only one hour from Gettysburg, I decided to go.  I knew about this great battle in which Lincoln delivered the infamous Gettysburg address but I had no idea what it really all was.  I'm not a war buff and I knew being from the North, we had already won.

I was not disappointed.  The place is just awesome!  You first get to the Welcome Center where a bronze statue of Lincoln is outside sitting on a bench.  The photo ops with Lincoln are endless.  Inside the Welcome center there is a book/gift store, a museum, a cafeteria, and a movie.  You can also buy tickets to take a bus tour and if you would like a personal tour, they will hook you up with one of the many volunteers that come daily that work off tips alone who will ride along in your car and explain the history of the sacred ground you are looking at.

I paid for my documentary ticket and bus tour ticket together to get the five dollar discount for the bundle package.  I went into the theatre and learned how big the Gettysburg battle was.  It was a three day battle July 1,2,3, 1863.  The lines were drawn in an upside down fish hook formation with the South led by General Robert E. Lee, he had surrounded the hilltop of the city of Gettysburg.  He had been pushing the Northern lines back every day so he thought he was winning.  We walked the infamous Seminary Ridge that showed how the South would advance up the hill and couldn't see the north and their horses behind the three bunkers.  They would come up over the ridge to be surprised that there were horses and men there who had been hidden by this perfect ground.  They called it that because it hid the Northern horses from the view, once they retreated a bit to the second bunker, the South realized that there were more men there than they thought.

They circled around to the edge of the flank of men and came in from the side and that regiment who had been stationed from that side had more casualties than the other regiments.  The South had surrounded eight of the nine roads leading into Gettysburg.  On the third day Picketts Charge was lead from Little Round Top, a place called Perfect Ground.  Sickle had lost that ground once but seeing that it was empty and the 20th Regiment from Maine had stayed put on the Big Round Top, Sickle went down and gathered two regiments from the bottom of the hill and brought them up. Colonel Perry's men from Erie, PA and another group.  This is where Picketts Charge occurred on the third day as the reinforcements came in from that ninth road and defeated the south.

After you view the documentary and get the foundation of what the battle of Gettysburg really was, we headed upstairs to a round platform situation in the middle of a Cyclorama.  A painting done in 1884 by a French Artist who sat and talked with the veterans of the Civil War and went out on to the battlefield with them to get their stories.  IT IS THE SAME PAINTING WITH A LITTLE RESTORATION THAT MEN AND WOMEN HAVE VIEWED FOR YEARS. And it is still in perfect condition.  Gettysburg is a hill and sitting in this raised platform, you get the sense of looking out the entire ridge and seeing the battle unfold in real time.

We then went out to the bus and our tour guide Ed Guy got on the bus.  He told us as we rode around in the bus about the end, the middle and the hook part of the fish hook.  He taught us how to tell the difference between a union cannon and a confederate cannon.  We learned about the monuments that are on Gettysburg for each state commemorating the veterans living and dead from each state.  There were 148 years where monuments and cement markers were allowed to be added to the site which totaled into 1300 total.  Now, no more are permitted to be added.  It is so beautiful the way they have preserved the ground and have over 130 cannons over all of the battlefield. The original cannons, which have been restored.

The right thing to do is to learn about this battle.  For it was on this Picketts Charge of the last day of the battle that our history could have been written a little differently.  The South had come back to reclaim Little Round Top and the North was already there.  Had the North waited five minutes, all the roads leading into Gettysburg would have been blocked by the South and the North would have lost that battle.  We could have been a Northern States of America and a Southern SA, divided forever, never to become a United States of America

I learned quite a bit that day, but as at the other cemeteries I had visited, I drove over to the Pennsylvania Memorial and looked over the 34,000 names that were engraved on the monument.  One in particular stood out to me as he had the same surname as my paternal grandparents...Hauck. John A Hauck.  I took a pencil and a piece of paper and drew over the letters.  He was in the 150th Regiment and had been a Corporal during the war.  A leader of men.  I felt a connection, not only in surname but in leadership.  This Regiment was the one that fought on Seminary Ridge just in front of McPherson's Barn.  The flank markers are still on the battlefield for EVERY SINGLE Regiment.  There is no other battle ground in the world that still has all the flank markers.

I had to go see where he fought, the sun was going down and my camera ran out of battery power, so I vowed to return again later on in the week.....(to be continued)

None of us can boast about the morality of our ancestors. The record does not show that Adam and Eve were ever married. ~Howe, Edgar Watson

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 188 - Can you hear the corn growing at night?

There's a saying that you can hear corn growing at night.  As I drove through the area in which my mother lived, I couldn't believe that the corn was over six feet tall.  The saying goes, "The corn should be at least knee high by the Fourth of July."  And here it was much more than that.  The rain had really helped the corn grow and it looked like a great crop this year.  Growing so fast, I had heard that if the conditions are right that consist of a hot humid day and a good rain at night, you could hear the corn growing at night because it was growing so fast.  I'm not sure it's true so I thought I'd Google it and check out.  The right thing to do...Trust AND Verify!

And this is what I found:  My grandfather, who has grown corn his whole life, says that that is just a myth. He says the myth came from people who would sit out in cornfields at night, the silent wind on the leaves made it sound like the stalks were growing. But you really can't hear it.

So it is not true.  But it sure does make for a good story.  But then my boyfriend's uncle wrote his weekly column and I found it funny that he mentioned this too!  His column was too good to not pass on so I'm printing it here.  Carol Vertrees is in his nineties and still writing.  His words are gems to an anniversary ring, they commemorate the time and spirit of life. Enjoy!

Vertrees   july 17
     The stillness sounds familiar.  Standing there in the  dewy farm yard watching the irrepressible sun creep over the horizon, I am caught in a wonderful time warp.
     Then I hear a dove cooing.  And I remember, heart-deep in a stream of memories, one of my favorite choir numbers:  “Morning Has Come.” The anthem has a deeper theological, eternal message, but here in the peaceful beginning of a new day, there is a message that touches me: a rural, verdant welcoming:  I am home again.
   It may be my imagination, but in that stillness, I believe that I can hear the corn growing -- it is impatient.  The fields of green seem to be alive.
  Yes, we can go home again.  There are few folks around who remember me.  Time, the relentless, unshakable master of us all, has taken most of my contemporaries.  But my family name is still remembered in this rural enclave. So I remain connected, and I am glad.
   Every time we go home, we see different pictures.  Surprises.  I remember that art experts can lift a painting and find others underneath.  That’s how it is when we go home.  We keep peeling away on the journey to our beginning and see pieces of life that have been painted over by time and events.   We need these visits to the private museum of art that traces our trip through life. In the stillness of our mental viewing, we can see ourselves, part of the artwork.
    Yes, the pictures have been changed by the march of time.  The little church and the country school are gone.  For years, they were on the stage, playing their roles.  And then, the final cue came and they are gone, but I can see it all again in my mental re-runs.
    The creek that runs past where I used to live seems awfully small -- it seems to shrink every time I go home.  But I remember that after big rains the creek muddied up and we caught catfish -- we called them yellow-bellies. That stream really is smaller, but often it is our perspectives that change as the distance between now and then stretches out.
     We stay overnight in my late brother’s home -- it is always ready for clan visitors who want to come back.  My niece lives close by, down a path through a corn field and she keeps the house in the welcoming mode.  It touches me.  Her down-home brunch was delightful. The connection remains strong.
    Remembering is open for all of us.  We need it. Remembering is not maudlin -- it is medicinal, a tonic for the soul.  If we cannot go home physically, we can travel the memory trail and find something that makes the heart beat faster. 
    In a little nearby town called Newberry the bridge to home crosses a fork of White River, usually a friendly, casual stream that seems to meander southward.  It was that way years ago on a Sunday afternoon when some of us kids from church gathered by the river where the preacher was waiting to baptize us.  He dunked us, one by one. I remember that.
   Later, I told some friends that I was afraid the preacher would hold my head under water too long. It was my kid way of dealing with the meaning of  an event that I did not really comprehend.
  On the way back from our visit, we cross the river and I  remember the dunking. I imagine that my hair is still wet.  I smile and feel renewed.  I have been back home again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 187 - Boiled Eggs and The Cemetery

As I traveled to another cemetery to visit with my Mom's Father, my maternal Grandpa, a WWII veteran, I thought to myself.  I feel so foreign in a cemetery.  I have never been to one and its not like going to the movies.  You don't take things to eat, you don't converse, and that deafening silence.  Its  reverence of respect of the forefathers that have gone before you.  My mom and my Aunt came with me and I dusted off the marker.  We joked about Grandma leaving off her first name given to her by her mother. Thelma June Heichel, yet her marker read just June Heichel.  My Aunt Cindy said, "You better not put my first name on my marker either. I just want it to read Cindy Heichel, this is my last move, I promise!"  Cindy's first name is Creola and like her mother, she didn't like her first name given to her by her mother either.  She moved alot so this was her joke.  We laughed.

Mom wanted to bring a boiled egg.  I thought, WHY?  Grandpa can't eat it?  He's dead for God's sake.  But Grandpa loved boiled eggs so this was her connection as was my day lily of the preceding days with my paternal Grandmother.

I thought of the time I had given my young husband a boiled egg in his packed dinner when he worked night shift.  He took it with him to work and commented on how he couldn't let anyone see it as it still had the Easter coloring on it.  The next week there was this awful smell and nobody could figure out what it was in the lunch room.  He had evidently hidden it in the cupboard so that nobody knew he had it and had forgotten about it!  He never did confess that it was his.  So I thought if we had brought and left the egg, would an animal come by and eat it? Or would it rot in the hot sun and leave a mess and a smell for the next person that visited to clean up?  Truth was, nobody comes to visit but my mother.  My Aunt didn't know the location of the grave until this day.

Why is it that people don't take care of their forefather's graves?  I understand moving so far away that it isn't feasible, but doing the right thing, the people that DO live close, should do this.  Put flowers out, clean off the dirt, plant flowers or just plain visit.  It does more for the living souls than the dead in the ground.  It shows a sense of connection, of grief, of respect.  If these traditions are passed down, then the children of our children will not have to search for answers.

We then went to the house on the hill and my mother had warned me that the log cabin had fallen down and the place just wasn't the same.  We drove up and Grandpa's dog pen was filled with young ring-necked pheasants.  The stream was completely dry and a pond had been made half way down the hill.  I wondered if the water had been rerouted.  That meant the waterfall was gone, what a pity.   The new owner is a lawyer and nobody was home.  I stepped up the stairs to look through the kitchen window and as I peered in the window in the front of the A-frame I saw a bed post of a bed that was sitting in what was the Grandpa's living room.  The sun reflected off the glass, so I put my hand up to my forehead and leaned in to see the kitchen.  An eye stared back at me!  A nine-point buck had been mounted along with another deer on the right wall.  The kitchen sink and cupboards completely gutted.

That is how I felt, completely gutted.  Like being robbed of my memories of sweet childhood dreams and chasing fireflies down the hill at night.  Falling and sometimes ending up rolling from the top to the bottom on our sides and slowly rolling to the right of left so that we ended up head down toward the bottom of the hill and we stopped rolling.  Our bodies couldn't roll head to toe.  I felt cheated out of tradition and seeing that things change if they are not cared for by the family that enjoyed them when they were small.

I decided not to take any photos as the prints in my mind were much better.  The smell was hot and humid and I wondered if Grandpa had left a boiled egg in the room that was once a kitchen for the deer mounted on the it would have been rotten now, symbolic of the condition of the place that was once a palace for all his grandchildren.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 186 - Stained Glass and the Wild Woman

Lynn and Mike, Great Teachers!

Rainbow VisioW
When I was visiting at my mother's house, an opportunity presented itself.  Another one of those bucket list things that I always wanted to do.  I saw a groupon offered by a company Rainbow Vision to introduce a small class of ten or so students to the art of making stained glass windows.  You can click here to see their website.  I have always wanted to do this.  I had just finished reading a book by Nicholas Sparks The Last Song (they just made the movie last year) and it told the story of a son and his sister and her boyfriend helping their father finished the stained glass window to put at the church while he was terminally ill so that he could see it before he passed.  It was a heart warming story.

I imagined the sun hitting the colors of the stained glass making dancing prisms on the wall inside the church.  There is something magical about stained glass.  I saw a story once on the making of the glass and how to get a color just right.  One might think that yellow added to the glass makes yellow but there are all sorts of secrets that Egyptians and Romans stained glass makers have had for centuries about what substance makes which color.  Then the second common problem was that some of the color changed over time with the direct sunlight hitting it.  The suns rays faded some colors and darkened others. In the eighth century, an Arab chemist known as "Gerber" recorded dozens of formulas for the production of glass in specific colors. Gerber is often known as the "father of chemistry" and he realized that the oxides of metals were the key ingredients for coloring glass.

Different color of glass

The church glass is beautiful!
Metals Used to Color Glass:

The recipe for producing colored glass usually involves the addion of a metal to the glass. This is often accomplished by adding some powdererd oxide, sulfide or other compound of that metal to the glass while it is molten. The table below lists some of the coloring agents of glass and the colors that they produce. Manganese dioxide and sodium nitrate are also listed. They are decoloring agents - materials that neutralize the coloring impact of impurities in the glass.

Metals Used to Impart Color to Glass
Cadmium Sulfide Yellow
Gold Chloride Red
Cobalt Oxide Blue-Violet
Manganese Dioxide Purple
Nickel Oxide Violet
Sulfur Yellow-Amber
Chromic Oxide Emerald Green
Uranium Oxide Fluorescent Yellow, Green
Iron Oxide Greens and Browns
Selenium Oxide Reds
Carbon Oxides Amber Brown
Antimony Oxides White
Copper Compounds Blue, Green, Red
Tin Compounds White
Lead Compounds Yellow
Manganese Dioxide A "decoloring" agent
Sodium Nitrate A "decoloring" agent 

Mike and Lynn were our instructors.  We were introduced to all the things we could make with glass: lamps, jewelry boxes, windows, kaleidoscopes, the possibilities are really endless.  For some more ideas click here: 

As I did with the pottery class, I will leave you with the photos and know that we all made the same thing.  We learned the basic three ways to cut and break glass, we used new tools and learned new words like homasote (the product on which we cut the glass), fid (we used this to flatten the foil; comes from the words "fiddlin' around"), and flux (the oil we spread on the foil before we solder it).  We were first instructed as a precaution to know where the sink and the bandaids were, after all we WERE working with glass.  As pretty as it was, it still is very dangerous, like a Beautiful wild woman.

My piece was just textured, beveled and plain glass with no color, after all it was a groupon.  So the right thing to do would be to pursue this art. It is relaxing, rewarding, colorful and most of all like life, different colors do different things over time to the glass.  God has refreshed me, drained me, livened me, and held me.  There is a season for everything and right now its all about adding color to the life of a white girl, not wild and as beautiful on the outside but just as beautiful and sharp on the inside.

The Pattern and the Solder gun in the background

The tools: Cutter, breaker, plyers, scissors, and marker

A Fid to press the foil flat

Bottle of Flux with brush

All the inside glass wrapped in copper foil strips

Solder Gun 700 degrees HOT!
Solder Gun in action
Pin pieces in place
My Finished Piece

Lynn, wrapped the outside and put the hook on it to hang from.

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