Thursday, October 30, 2008

Amistad

On Tuesday I drove down to Solomons to spend some time with Mom. She took us out for a lovely lunch, then we drove around and headed toward a nearby marina. She and Dad were serious sailors, so she didn't mind. It was incredibly windy and chilly, especially near the water.
Two, very tall masts came into view before we reached the marina. We drove down to the water's edge to check it out. Mom wasn't dressed for the blustery weather so she stayed in the car. I wasn't going to let a bit of a breeze stop me from taking some pictures!
A Baltimore Clipper out of New Haven, Connecticut was tied-up along the warf. Her name was Amistad. A chill ran up my spine remembering the story of the slave ship of the same name.
I chatted briefly with a female crew member who was reading a book. Then the skipper came up on deck. This Amistad was on her way to an event on the Eastern Shore, but ran into such strong head winds, they decided to wait out the wild weather. You don't often see white caps in a harbor! Yeah, it was one of those days when the Bay and Patuxent were practically whipped into froth. This Amistad is an 8 year old replica of the original. I probably would have chatted longer with her amiable skipper had I not feared blowing off the narrow walkway into the drink! Before I made my way back to my warm car, I snapped a few pictures of this truly gorgeous specimin. The raked/slanted masts are characteristic of boats on the Chesapeake. I particularly like the wooden rings that carry the sails up the masts. Classic Skipjacks have the same kind of rigging. If you're ever down that way (it's a straight shot down Route 4), you must stop in at the Calvert Marine Museum and just wander around the tiny little town. Solomons Island is a spit of land between the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay, so the views are spectacular -- AND -- it's usually windy for all you fellow kite-flying-types.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quit Poking Me!

Driving back home from Solomons today, I took this picture through the sun roof of our car. I drove under several huge flocks of birds, but these were taking a rest.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Baby-Boomer Conundrum

We were born following the end of World War II and a few years following the end of the Korean Conflict. When married and unmarried couples were finally reunited after months or years of separation nature took its course. BOY! did the "Greatest Generation" procreate!! None of us Boomers could have stopped this, so that's why there are so many of us. Life was simpler and full of promise in those years, so our parents kept on making little tax-deductions. As for our generation's procreation, it was effectively curtailed by two, major paradigm shifts. One was the Women's Movement which insisted that no woman needed to marry and have babies to be complete. She could find fulfillment in the corporate world, once she had battled and over-come sexual stereo-types. We started wearing pants suits and stopped wearing bras. The struggle for equal pay for equal work is not over yet, but we opened peoples' eyes to the injustice. At the same time, women fought against women in ideology wars. We lost the middle-ground. The second shift was more pandemic. Child-bearing became anti-social because of a world-wide population crisis. We took to heart the constantly repeated message that the Earth could not continue to sustain us if population growth didn't slow down. Birth control became a responsible choice to save the world. Others of us were unable to make babies because of medications given to our mothers that, much later, proved to be harmful to fetuses and genetics. Also, there was no thought given to the idea that alcohol, tobacco and caffeine consumption might harm a fetus, or anyone else for that matter. Health studies were aimed at men. Scientists didn't consider whether or not the results also applied to women, which we now know they don't. The associations between genders and generations was quite different when we were kids and young adults. Rebellion against the status quo took on new sincerity as we realized the Earth was a small, fragile planet and that our way of life was damaging it, perhaps irreparably. Forty years later, the situation is worse, but a certain amount of complacency seems to be hindering effective action. There have never been simple answers, but there ARE answers. I'm proud to say that a fellow Boomer, Al Gore, has almost single-handedly broken the back of complacency; forcing world leaders to reexamine their interests and roles in preserving our planet. I'm not looking for a pity party. Rather, I want to point out to our detractors that there are many things for which we are blamed that were/are out of our control. Baby Boomers are no better nor worse than any other generation. There are just more of us.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nan!

You sure look young for your age!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Godspeed, Betty

Another family member left this life today. She was surrounded by her family in her own home, thanks to hospice care. For the past two years, Betty made an extraordinary effort to live with AND fight the cancer that overwhelmed her today. Experimental treatments were worse than the cancer, yet she was willing to try them. I think she knew fate had already decided the outcome, but she bravely did what she could to give everyone else hope. That's quite a sacrifice. Betty's husband, my cousin David, truly adored his wife and had utmost respect for and faith in her. He once told me that she had saved his life. He had a very rough childhood. I will always be grateful that he found not only the love of his life, but a family that warmly embraced him and helped him to become the loving, caring man he is. Their daughter, Nikki, brought more richness into their lives and has a tight-knit family of her own. I'm so glad Betty got to experience the joys of grandparenting. I know she was an exceptional grandmother and leaves a marvelous legacy of love and happy memories. Betty's numerous friendships thrived for years and have been bolstering her and her family throughout her long battle. We are all left with a huge hole in our lives, but certain that we knew a genuine earth-angel.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One Year Later

This time last year, emails and phonecalls were flying between my siblings, Mom and me. We went from high hopes one day to deep despair days later. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer. No one wanted to hear the word terminal, but that was the end result within mere weeks. Every day it seemed that one of us found new research that might held Dad. Little did we know that his cancer was too far advanced to benefit from any treatment. I believe he knew for a long time that something was horribly wrong. Being the ever stoic-Norwegian-type, he kept his worries to himself. He declared pride in getting his weight down to what it had been during his Navy days sixty years ago. But, he had also shrunk several inches and his shoulders were no longer level with the horizon -- something in which he took pride and encouraged in his children. Some of us had been questioning his health for years but it wasn't our place to mention it to his face. It's one thing to live with cancer and another to deny it. Somehow Dad did both. His father died following several, debilitating strokes that left him in a dreadful nursing home -- his eyes his only means of communication. We had all watched his mother die a slow, excruciating death from metastatic breast cancer. These tragic ends must have haunted him. Wondering if the outcome could have been different had Dad sought medical attention earlier just prolongs the pain of our loss. He chose the way he would die and thought he was sparing us from witnessing the slow decline of a proud, strong man. To a degree he succeeded. A year later, I'm better able to understand and accept his decision, but I still miss him horribly.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lucky Monday the 13th!

The stock market headed back up today and we had no bills in the mail -- hurray! Then, the sunset put a nice end to the day. Hope the rest of the week goes as well or better.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Polished Rednecks

Sound like an oxymoron? I'll explain. A polished redneck is one who usually dresses and acts like a professional -- white collared vs. blue-collared. They fit in with non-redneck society until they are amongst their own. Then its a matter of anything goes. Sarah Palin seems to have unleashed the polished rednecks in American society and they are aspiring to new lows. No longer are they afraid to express outright disdain for those not like themselves. Whether it's the rifle-toting-Cheney-types or David-Duke-racist-types, they're pouring out of the woodwork to voice themselves during Palin's campaign stop. Their rancid rhetoric is broadcast far and wide because of the media's infatuation with Palin. She is a conundrum. On the one hand, McCain is desperate for the women's vote and Palin seems to appeal to the distaff side of the polished rednecks. On the other hand, her maverick talk is turning off many who understand that trying to do business that way in Washington simply won't work. The federal government is a sometimes puzzling, interdependent, and convoluted machine. Three, distinct branches make it impossible for a maverick to take the reigns in his hands alone. Of course Dick Cheney made an impressive attempt at this, but that's another story. A maverick mentality may appeal to the masses, but it won't cut cheese on Capitol Hill. I'm not saying that the status quo couldn't use some tweeking. But our government has worked well for a very long time. Politicians all too often forget that it's the bureaucrats who keep our system running. It's the department heads, managers, and secretaries who turn up day after day, year after year, administration after administration who keep the machine of government oiled and running. It's easy for someone like Governor Palin to bad-mouth Washington. I shudder to think of the fallout if she and Senator McCain make it to the White House. Not only will our financial system remain in chaos, but our already tarnished reputation in the world will plummet even further. Even worse, our integrity as a fair and caring nation will suffer. We cannot afford to have polished rednecks as ambassadors, cabinet secretaries and more. Congress would have a hell-of-a-time trying to vet them and any goodwill other nations feel for the U.S. could become unsustainable.

How To Kill A Mocking Fruit Fly

Spouse's and my retirement savings have been pummeled in recent weeks. We've lost tens of thousands yet I remain optimistic that THIS calamity will turn around. In any case, I just don't want to think about it 24/7. Fruit flies, on the other hand, are proving to be an everlasting pain in the butt! I'm not sure just which piece of fruit we brought home spawned an over-population of the little, black buggers. I've tried Heloise's suggestion of putting out bowls of apple cider vinegar mixed with dish liquid. A single fruit fly, probably the village idiot, drowned. The others continue to sweep back and forth and around my head. Dad used to be good at catching flying insects in his big hands, but I am not as gifted. I've had a little success with wet hands, but the availability of water and the over-splash don't always coincide in a convenient fashion. Rinsing out my oatmeal bowl in the kitchen sink yesterday, a fly buzzed me and landed on a cabinet next to the sink. Good source of water and no problem with over-splash! Got the cabinet, but not the fly. Then it dawned on my -- maybe they know when I'm coming because I look directly at them. This morning -- same routine, but no eye contact. GOT the little bugger! Seems they don't notice peripheral vision. Chalk one up for a not-so-dumb-blonde!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rudeness to the Nth Degree

How does a man who claims to be the right person for the job of POTUS remain any one's choice when he continues to demonstrate his inability to be civil or even polite?! John McCain is NOT "my friend." I cringed every time he used that term and the people to whom he addressed it seemed equally uncomfortable. His snideness, impatience and inconsistencies are not qualities I want to see in a president. His open disdain for Senator Obama -- at one point calling him "that one" -- was beyond ugly. I have to wonder what would have happened had Tom Brokaw allowed any back and forth between the two candidates. He was a disaster as a moderator, cutting off discussion when it might have provided just the information voters are seeking. Or -- did he see signs that a discussion might trigger out and out war between the participants? I don't know what to make of his behavior. Senator Obama did an admirable job trying to fend-off Brokaw's interruptions, but it wasn't enough. Neither candidate made use of the opportunity to truly discuss their policy ideas. Perhaps it was the way the debate was organized, but the rhetoric sounded too familiar and not at all ground-breaking. Very frustrating for everyone. When I tuned-out at 10:30, I was disappointed to say the least, and more convinced than ever that John McCain would make a dreadful POTUS!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Reason for hope. . .

The past several months have been rough for my extended family. Numerous parents of inlaws have died and we're starting to feel overwhelmed by grief. In the last two weeks alone, there have been two memorial services for loved ones.
As if by design, my piece of my late grandfather's oxalis plant suddenly bloomed in white profusion. It's delicate flowers don't last long and I've never seen so many bloom at one time before. I'd like to think it's a signal from Poppy that the family will weather these sad events together.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gratuitous Cuteness XI

This first, crisp autumn day reminded me of a similar day while visiting Patty back in Illinois. Some years ago, she took me to visit a friend's newest litter of puppies. When we arrived, Sue asked if we could help during "poop duty". Well, uh, sure. . . The puppies were old enough to take care of business outdoors and needed to be watched. Once they did the deed, she would check their "deposits" then place them in a fenced enclosure. Twelve, half yellow and half black Labradors stumbled and staggered around the yard, exploring and sniffing at everything. They loved to have their little pink bellies scratched and rubbed, but didn't stay still for long. The yellow puppy had found a branch of leaves with a red flower still attached. He carried it around for quite a while then settled in to gnaw on it. The black puppy was content gnawing on my nephews baby shoe. Mike was quite perplexed by that though unhurt. Climbing stairs on such short legs required a rigidly held tail, reassurance from humans and extreme energy and determination. By the time each had pooped and climbed the stairs, they were ready for a nap. That's when we took our leave.

Going for the "two-fer"

It didn't take me long to decide that I'll vote for Barak Obama. As a compassionate intellectual there IS no other way to go. The debate between McCain and Obama locked-in my choice. A man who refuses to make eye contact is a man I cannot trust. McCain's disdain for his opponent was evident throughout the debate. Not once did he look at Mr. Obama except for a few, brief smirking glances. Not only that, but his arguments were weak and condescending. Now for the "two-fer". . . Cindy McCain is an attractive woman who makes a nice backdrop for her dour husband. She is, of course, not running for elective office, but she seems unable to contribute more than a supportive smile and a nod of her head. A woman's perspective can be useful, but I wonder if Mrs. McCain has any. Even if she did, I'm not sure Mr. McCain would consider them. Michelle Obama is also an attractive woman, but she is no backdrop. Her enthusiastic support for her husband's campaign while trying to keep their two young daughters from falling for the hype and adulation are admirable. She is intelligent and involved and will be a real asset should her husband be elected the next POTUS. I will watch the Biden/Palin debate tonight. I'm actually looking forward to it. Each seems to provide the yin to their running mates' yang and both of them are a little off the straight and narrow, so it should be interesting.