Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Scenic Route

I hate Interstate 95. I am going from Florida to Pennsylvania and back. I hope to take two days each way. And the most direct route is the most dreaded (by me) on the planet. I would rather drive anywhere else than DC, Wilmington and Baltimore (in that order). Honestly. So I am trying to come up with alternative routes that won't take me too far out of the way or through too many small towns on too many small highways. I actually don't mind adding miles to my trip if the scenery is worth it. And I do like going through small towns as long as they aren't Waldo (Fla). Google it if ya don't believe me. But (there is always a but), since I am driving with my dear daughter, I don't want to be too far from civilization, rescue, anonymity. Also, there are only so many hours she is willing to withstand in a carseat, even if playing with cousins is the major bribe for going.
That said, I am going to try something new. Go where I haven't gone before. I am going to minimize interstate driving. Not at the expense of a speed limit of 45, but I am sticking to smaller highways, smaller towns. I am going to look for some fruit stands and farmers markets. I still look back fondly on the groves of pecan trees in late summer along US41 in south Georgia, cotton bolls literally littering the road-side, and the southern mansions with manicured lawns. There is really nothing like it. So I am going to try to find that kind of fun further north.
Oh, and here is the kicker...(are you ready for it?)...there will be nothing (and no-one) named Magellan, Tom-Tom, or Garmin in my car. No GPS. Just good old triple-A road maps, maybe an atlas, printed directions, and even a Gazetteer. Hopelessly old fashioned? Perhaps. However, I have found that it is really hard to have an experience when that little voice is nagging you to take a right in 200 yards. It is not all about the destination, people. Sometimes it is good to look around, decide on the spur of the moment to take that road less travelled, and even to get lost. I have gotten lost before, and it doesn't scare me. You meet some of the nicest people and see the prettiest sights getting lost. And it feels like an adventure again instead of just a long commute.
I figure I am adding about two hours of driving time. Balance that against the wait times in DC traffic jams, and the difficulty of actually finding the McDonalds in Virginia (those freaks don't believe in tourist-friendly advertisement), and I might come out ahead. If I am lucky, I may find a fried chicken or catfish place for dinner that will be worth revisiting. If I am unlucky, I will merely find another way not to go. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 20, 2009


I haven't blogged in a couple days, and I had this rant on my mind, but now I have forgotten what I was going to have a tirade about. Aint getting old grand? Actually, maybe that is why all my relatives were more mellow and happy the older they got! They simply forgot what they were all upset over. I do realize that not everybody gets nicer as they age, some turn into curmudgeons and other odious persons. So it could be worse. I think I am a lot more mellow than I used to be, but it could just be experience doing its work. I have been through a lot and it has taught me patience. It is fun to teach my daughter about things, too. I was teaching her about driving, today, not that she will be ready for it for a while. I was explaining that we drive on the right and sit on the left-hand side of the car. That we stay right except to pass. I am honest, too. i confessed that I speed, and that sometimes I tailgate, but that it isn't correct to do that. I remember when I was a girl that my grandmother would give me impromptu driving lessons. i remember really paying attention and taking it to heart. I cannot remember anything else she really taught me, so either her instruction was exceptional in its rarity or in its content. I try to remember that my daughter is just a sponge for information now. I think people forget that kids are always learning. It is not always apparent, even to themselves. My daughter will get home from school and complain that they "only teach me things I already KNOW!" I remember hating reviews when I was a kid, too, and finally realizing much later that I learn and retain things much faster than my peers, and that I could daydream or draw during the obligatory review sessions because I simply didn't need it. So she says that she hasn't learned anything in Kindergarten, except that she is now suddenly reading books, adding, subtracting, and knows what part of a bug its "thorax" is! I know her education is better than mine was. I will have to see if I can help her retain her skills over the approaching summer. Travel will give us some unique opportunities to learn map-reading (she already has compass directions understood), history, and distance. As well as meet a ton of relatives. I see why parents and educators get so excited over 'potential' of the mind to learn. It is amazing. It is not completely understood. But it is worthy of study. i think about aging and one thing I see is a slow reverse of elasticity of the brain and the ability to learn. I see the decline, and I can see that there are ways to reverse it. Just like muscle training for seniors, learning new things, exploring new points of view, and acquiring new skills are vital for a full life. I will be doing my part!

Monday, March 16, 2009

March sunburn

What is it about March and me getting sunburns?!? I should know better! I know the sun gets stronger and I need to be thinking ahead and putting on sunscreen. It just feels so benign, though. The sun was hot, but I didn't actually sweat much on my walk. I didn't think I would be out as long as I was. I thought my walk would be shady. The list of excuses goes on, but the fact is, I ignored my white flesh and the bright intensity from the sky and subjected the former to the latter mercilessly. .
I did it last year about this time at my mom's pool. I guess because it is officially winter, I still have my mind in winter mode (sun is weak, weak sun is good, make us some Vitamin D). For all practical purposes winter is GONE from Florida. Spring has sprung, and it is looking like an early start to a miserable summer. As much as my friend Jo loathes long winters in West Virginia, I want to cry every year when winter is really,finally gone because that means the humid heat will start up again soon. I was spoiled the last two years by extended cool well into spring, but I have little hope for it this year. Plus I saw three (3) black racers (snakes) on my walk! At least my daughter didn't get burned at all.
I did get some gardening going this past week. I have to remember to water everything because the spring dry spell is already here. I have a geranium, some blue eyes, little white violets, and a good crop of milkweed going. I am trying to prepare for some monarch butterflies. I also saw some blackberry flowers, so I know they are coming soon. I really miss having a bunch of wild berries in my freezer. I actually want to build up some flower beds in the sunny parts of my yard. At least I should do something to try to transform its barren look.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gijon and Bilbao

Back to my travels...The first stop on the second cruise after leaving the port of Lisbon was a place on the northern, Asturian coast of Spain, named Gijon. It is pronounced much like a donkey's bray (or if you speak spanish, you may try their phonetic Xixon (accent on second syllable)). Our tour also took us into Oveido on a Sunday. Many shops were closed, as I expected, but a few were opening up. Our first point on the tour was an ancient Roman structure (about the size of a small barn) that had served several uses over its thousand years. It was up on a hillside overlooking the city and the view it commanded was just grand! The weather was cool and breezy, and it was perfect for a morning hike. My poor mother was about three fourths the way up, and realizing that she was going to have a hard time going down and debated whether it would be best to start right away. I am glad she persevered and got to see it. The structure itself was used as a summer house by conquering Romans, a troups barracks, a storage house, and finally as a national historical site. It is amazing how long some things last, if preserved even a little. We had to hike back down the hill, and my mom convinced the tour guide that a cab was essential, not just for herself but also another. The bus driver was not very cooperative, and my mom may not have hiked at all if he hadn't insisted she get off the bus, but it worked out well in spite of it all. The next spot for the tour was Oveido where we got to see many local Roman Catholics filing in to their church service. I am sure they loved (heavy sarcasm) a bunch of American tourists getting in the way and gawking at their buildings. Right after noon, there was an impromptu celebration parade of drumming and flute playing groups dressed up in traditional costumes. I don't think it was planned, but an amazing coincidence. There were several of these groups, some only eight members, some as large as 50. They marched through their streets (most of which were pedestrian only) playing and carrying their banners. I think the best description might be that they were clubs organized by heritage? It was amazing to watch and the music was lively. There were also a number of public statues to look at, and mimic. Our favorite was the 'travellers' since they, laden with luggage, looked so much like our own experience. However, another statue deserves a mention - the double butts. How funny that statue looked in this very conservative town! There was also a 400 year old University. Think about that next time you visit our own schools.

I need to mention how clean these cities were, especially Bilbao. Bilbao was a fairly large city and it had NO dirt or trash anywhere. There were no homeless people, no beggars. Everyone was well dressed and proper. There were sidewalk cafe's filled with customers. There were high-rise buildings all around with excellent public transportation busses and trams. It was like an urban utopia, and I did wonder what it cost them. Do they have to pay high taxes to support the cleanliness? Do they lock up all their unsavories somewhere, or just take them someplace else? I saw young people and old, but no one who was really old. It was a little bit creepy in that respect. One of the four Guggenheim museums is located in Bilbao, and it was impressive in a modern way. Near it was a unique playground for kids of all ages. There was a snack stand and restroom (free!). There was a giant ropes structure on which you could climb, and I was so glad I had taken my daughter. We played for an hour on this playground. There were also really strange variations of traditional playground equipment, and there were mound of texturized semi-spheres in the ground on which you could sit or jump. Older kids were playing there too, jumping from sphere to sphere. In front of the museum is a giant statue of a puppy that is a 3-D flower bed, covered with the pinks, yellows, reds and greens of blooms and leaves. At the gift shop, we purchase a tshirt souvenier with the flower puppy, and the cashier said, "Grathiath" in perfect kings' spanish lisp. I marvelled that such an advanced society still spoke spanish like thick-tongued five-year-olds. People are amazing. My daughter and mother did very well on this tour, and it was amazing to see such places that I never would have guessed were there.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


The red wine seemed to do the trick. I am feeling better, but my larynx is shot, and I am resting it by whispering. While ailing, it fell upon my daughter to entertain herself, and what better way than to play doctor to mommy. First, I needed shots, then it seems I broke my arm and required Xrays and casting. Since she has gone through these actions in real life recently, she has first-hand knowledge of medical procedures, and enjoyed being the perpetrator rather than the victim. I didn't mind. I know that is how her experiences are assimilated into her knowledge bank - by talking about them, re-enacting them from all angles, and drawing about them. I am amazed by her creativity. Cast material? Fun-fur scarves! Stryker saw? Flower-shaped clothing tag! Her hands had to serve as the X-ray cross-hairs, but she imitated the hummmmclick most accurately with voice alone. She was a gentle, compassionate attendant which means she either was treated with appropriate respect, herself or that she wanted to treat me with tenderness, based on who I was. Either way, I was proud of her. Her littlest pet shop montage was also recruited for assimilation. Pretty kitty broke her paw and required the whole LPS staff to attend at the ER, the office, and Xray. She reproduced every step with great attention to detail. She found a stool for her patient to sit upon, a plate that was the X-ray negatives, the correct number of nurses required to give an IV, and a hospital bed. Playing broken arm has given her so much awareness and language about her real experience that she has come through it all very little worse for the wear.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

thinking about God again...

Is it my feverish brain that dwells on the immense complexity of God, religion and spirituality? Naw, I have been rolling these marbles around in my head for a while now. I am trying to define what I believe, and I am trying to decide whether it is important to pray - to whom and how? I am not Christian or Jewish. I certainly am not Muslim. I do not believe Islam is a religion of peace (just read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali if you want an honest view). I am not Buddhist, and certainly not Hindu. There are truths to be gleaned from each of these religious views, but I am far from accepting any of them as a whole parcel. I do not believe any rights to religion should trump basic human rights. Just because the Koran says you can beat your wife does not make it okay. And yet...I cannot look around me at nature and believe that it was all some cosmic accident, that the Earth just came about by chance. I cannot contemplate the depths of space, the rate of expansion of the universe (just enough to keep the whole thing from collapse), the inter-atomic forces that define gravity and electrical charge, and the fantastically complex biology of my human child without thinking that there must be God, somewhere, in all these details.
What I do resent is the insertion of God into anything we cannot explain by science alone. The Jehovah's Witnesses are very cunning in some of their tracts to appear to 'prove' that a scientific explanation of the evolution of Earth is inadequate. For example, they point to the fossil record as 'incomplete' proof of Darwinian theory. There are too many gaps and jumps between species. Never do they discuss the process of fossilization and how capricious it is. Why did life 'suddenly' appear in the fossil record. And their answer is, of course, God. They insert God at every point. God made the DNA, God made the individual species separate, God made the dinosaurs and God took them out so we could be here. What this placement of God in all these holes does is to cheapen the wonder, the amazing creation and yes, evolution. There is no evidence that God made these things, just a lack of scientific knowledge of how these things come about. That does not mean that there will never be scientific knowledge, just that our current understand is not yet complete. Jehovah's witnesses would have you believe there is no Darwinian natural selection, no evolution at all. If so, did God make methycillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus? Why would God do that to us if God loves people so much?!? Did God make Ebola virus? People didn't do it. These things evolved from existing strains. To deny any evolution is to deny reason, rationality, and evidence. Why are 90% of South Africa's elephants NOW born without the ability to grow tusks? Because there is evolutionary pressure (granted, this pressure is created by humans, but so are many pressures) to not carry around thousands of dollars worth of ivory on their bodies.
So I do believe in evolution. I realize it does not answer all the questions of how we got here, but there really is no other way to explain why Down's syndrome occurs, why there are pathogenic bacteria and viruses. If God really is a loving, personal God, God would take away these bad things. And don't get me started on Satan...I don't believe in the devil.
So to recap: I believe in God because of the miracle of our existence, yet I believe in evolution as the origin of species, I believe that only God can create (that may be the best definition - Creator), and I believe that God cannot lie. If there are any satans or devils out there, it is just people, lying to save their butts. I also think God is Love, and therefore is in all of us.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

sicky and fishy

Uggh, I am sick. Fever. Gunk in nose. Headache. Tired.
Soooooooooo Tired.
Red wine is good for a cold, right?
Well, we will just see, shall we...
Red, red wine
Sing it how you like it.

We went fishing today, the daughter and I and some of her classmates. how cool and Florida-y is that? Kindergarteners get to go fishing for their field trip. They got to 'pet' some fish, too: bream, bass, catfish, gar and a big sucker fish (plecostomas). Then they got to fish for bass and catfish. It was a bit much for my group, handling hooks and cane poles, trying to be patient, losing the bait repeatedly, sitting in the hot sun. But I really enjoyed it, and I thank the fates for leaving me in this town of opportunities. I wouldn't have stayed here of my own volition, but since I am here, I try to make the best of it. And despite its traffic irritations, despite its fickle university student population, and despite its income disparities, its a pretty decent place to live.
Now, back to that resting...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New Blog

Not that I have to do everything everyone else does, but sometimes it is a good idea, it makes sense, and there is no good reason not to do so. I am copying the fact that I am shutting down one blog and starting another. The old blog is not me anymore, or rather the name is out-dated. Other blogs seem to have cohesive themes, direction, goals. I cannot promise that. This blog is meant to be a hodge-podge of sorting out mental garbage, funny things my kid did, enchanting memories, and travel diaries. It is meant to help me sort out the facts of turning forty, changing careers, being a mom, and my currently directionless existence. I may mention God and my beliefs. I may wax sophomoric about how much I like hiking and travelling. I am just hoping to condense my thoughts, capture them like the panic-fluttering birds that they are, net them with language, and calm their frantic flapping. Its like meditating, only you (dear reader) get to visit. Come along, have fun, and comment if you like!