Friday, June 27, 2008

Not much time... but happy thoughts!

I don't have much time right now but have been thinking happy thoughts thanks to ButterBeeHappy.com. I found this little website from another blog, can't remember which one, but I bookmarked it awhile ago and set up my account last weekend. (See my happy thoughts on my Bee Happy widget - scroll down the sidebar on the left.) It's a great way to remember all the positive things in your life, especially when things get really hectic...

Like now, for instance! My first college course in almost 20 years is proving to be a challenge and I am as rusty as an old Chevy. (Speaking of rusty old Chevys, check out these pictures on Sunniviews I captured a few weekends ago when my husband and I went for a drive. It's the antique car graveyard!)

My class is a 15 week English course compressed into 5 summer weeks. Class is held 3 times a week (Mon-Tues-Wed from 6 to 9 pm) and each one represents a week. It's very overwhelming but I can do it, I CAN DO IT!! Even if I have to spend hours relearning basic sentence structure like subordinating conjunctions, subject compliments and passive transformations! (Quite honestly, I really don't remember learning these in the first place...)

I just keep remembering this picture (at top) that helps release all my anxiety and fills me with peace. This was taken at the Koka Booth Aphitheatre at an event that our organization held this past weekend. The cool rain, that ended just before the concert, brought in a gorgeous mist that enhanced the setting sun. Fabulous! And, luckily, I can use those weekend working hours as flex time this week for more studying! Hurray! And I'm so happy that my craft room is squeaky clean (for the most part) so I have a great place to spread out and get some homework done.

I read a quote recently that went something like "The more we have to do, the more efficient we become." Too true!

P.S. My daughter spent some time with her Nana (my mom) earlier this week. Check out this post on my mom's blog - what fun they had together!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to School at 36!

Ok, I have a confession to make... I did not graduate from college. Not only did I not graduate, I never even really started. As soon as I set foot outside the doors of the hallowed halls of high school, I had made up my mind to start living as an adult - to make it in the world and pursue life as a genuine working stiff. Now that I look back on it, I'm reminded of that Monster.com commercial of the little kids who share their dreams of the future... "When I grow up I want to file all day, I want to claw my way up to middle management, I want to be paid less for the same job. i want to be forced into early retirement."

I have to say that I've been more lucky than others who might share my same circumstances. I suppose I was at the right place at the right time, the stars were in alignment for most of my working career, and/or fate has smiled on me kindly. I have a great job, I love my coworkers, love the work, love the mission - but several months ago, my boss looked me right in the eye and said, "You're not going any further than this without that little piece of paper." (Really, he was not being mean, he was (is) a good friend of my husbands and was giving me friendly advice.)

Truth be told, I'd been wrestling with this issue for many years. For awhile I thought my path was to show the world that one could be quite successful without a degree (gasp!), like some of these infamous folks: Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Lance Armstrong, Thomas Edison. (For real! Lookee here!) And, perhaps I would have continued that way except for a few revelations that occurred all at about the same time.

First was my boss' advice. Second was my contemplation about being a writer and the fact that I'd most likely be laughed out of a publisher's office without some kind of formal education. Next was a dinner we had at a friends house and a discussion with a 55-year-old woman who was pursuing a master's degree in an area completely unrelated to anything she'd ever done before or any education that she'd ever had before. I was awed that someone so much older than me was making such a dramatic change in her life.

One of the last revelations was a sermon from our minister about
pleasure versus meaning. For instance, there are many things that are pleasurable, such as gazing at a stained glass window, but without meaning, the delight fades fast. So what was my meaning? What was my focus? Making jewelry, painting flower pots, gardening? I needed a direction, a goal.

The final revelation and perhaps the basic truth - I was scared. I was afraid of the results of a placement test after my miserable performance on the high school SAT's. I was afraid of the enormous cost. I was afraid of going back to school "at my age" and being in a room with tittering 20-year-olds. I was intimidated beyond comprehension. I found reason after reason for not even considering it.

But I finally came to a point where I had the courage to face all of it - I finally let go of all my fears in great rivers of meditation and the faith that God would take care of everything. Was I still nervous? Oh, yes, and just about turned around to go back right home on the day I had to take the dang placement test. And even though I stunk at the math segment of the test (not unexpected), I sailed through the rest... 97 in reading, 99 in writing! I cannot even tell you how thrilled I was after the aforementioned SAT scores. Honestly, I just about burst into tears standing right there in the testing room with the teens accompanied by their mothers (who were my age!)

So, I figure it will take about 8-10 years for this to all be finalized. Just about the time my daughter graduates from high school - won't that be a novelty? But, I'm kinda glad it worked out this way. I hope it will be a shining example to my daughter that it's never to late to pursue a new path in life. She will probably understand more about the college experience than others, having a mom going through it during her formative years.

I still don't know how I'm going to manage with working full-time at a pretty demanding career, a daughter with a packed social calendar, a home, bills, laundry, etc. But I'm blessed with an incredibly supportive husband and family, and I know we'll all be A-ok.

My first class starts tomorrow night. Stay tuned! I'll probably have lots of fun things to say about it...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Irresistable Pets... that drive me crazy!

Don't get me wrong, I love my pets. They are a huge part of our little world. Our dog, Dasher, is the such a mild-mannered, sweet and intelligent creature. Our 2 cats, Pumpkin and Paprika are one-of-a-kind: funny, devoted and loving.

But... dang if those animals don't drive me crazy sometimes!

It was a Sunday morning and I purposely woke up early to have a little me-time. To sit in the quiet of early dawn, enjoy my coffee and do a little journal writing. Dasher and Pumpkin followed me out to the kitchen and went straight to the back door so that I could let them out, which I did. I went back to making the coffee. Dasher finished his little morning business and wanted back in. I let him in..., Pumpkin didn't follow. No problem - I made myself comfortable on the chair and waited for the coffee.

But then I hear Paprika, who is usually out all night, at the front door mewing to come back in. I go to get her and Dasher follows - he wants out the front door to see whats going on just as Paprika comes in. I let him out, pour a cup of coffee and get comfortable on the chair.

Then I hear Pumpkin at the back door and notice that Paprika is sitting by the hallway door, which I kept closed so as not to disturb the sleeping kids from their wild pillow-fighting, ice-cream eating, movie-watching sleepover. So I let Pumpkin in the back door and Paprika down the hallway just as Dasher wants back in the front door. Good grief. I refresh my coffee and have a seat. Again.

But then, Pumpkin decides she wants down the hallway, too. So, I get up to open the door. Dasher follows. Apparently he wanted to be down the hallway this whole time! Hallway door is closed. I settle in. Again.

I'm enjoying my coffee and writing away whe
n I decide that a crunchy granola bar would be very tasty, so I open one. The animals hear the crinkle of the wrapper and come racing down the hallway in a pack (I should note that the hallway door is a bi-fold which they can open by themselves from the inside.) Dasher sniffs and is not interested in granola, he'd rather chase squirrels, which he decides to do at that exact moment and goes to stand by the back door. Pumpkin and Paprika, while not necessarily interested in granola, decide that I might pull out something more interesting, so one plops down at my feet while the other settles on the side of the armchair and waits. I get back up to let Dasher outside and Paprika decides that's a fine idea as well, so she follows. Pumpkin decides that she wants to be nowhere else except sitting right down in the folds of my journal. Good grief!

But what would I do without my little sweeties to make life interesting! I did finally get everyone settled and had a very relaxing morning before the household awoke and our busy day began.

See more pictures of Dasher on this post from last year: "Ode to my Dog"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

There was an interesting event that happened here in North Carolina recently. On June 1, a forest fire was started by a strike of lightening on the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, about 150 miles from where we live. Over a period of about 2 weeks, it spread - burning almost 40,000 acres. I don't think I would have even heard about this wildfire, except that the wind shifted and blew the smoke inland to our counties.

I was taking out the trash one night and I noticed a strange, acrid smell in the air. I actually thought we might have had a gas
leak and started sniffing around. I couldn't detect anything and when I went out front, the smell was still there - and was hanging around the next morning.

It wasn't until I got to work and heard the news that the strange smell and morning "fog" was actually the smoke from the wildfire. The amazing thing was it was so thick, even 150 miles away! It filled the warehouse, burned your nose, made your eyes water. The horizon had a sickening sort of orange hue. It reminded me of an excerpt from Dr. Suess' "The Lorax" book:

"'I am the Lorax,' he coughed and he whiffed.

He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
'Once-ler! You're making such smogulous smoke!

My poor Swomme-Swans... why, they can't sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.'"

Here are some pictures I pulled from our local news on this story:










This all reminded me of a firefighter training slow-burn that we went to last year at a house out in the country. Our neighbor used to be on the force and is now a volunteer. He provided hot dogs and burgers to all the new trainees and invited us to come watch. It was really fascinating and I got some great pictures, like the one above. (See more of these shots on Sunniviews...)

I don't think it's often that we have wildfires as big as this one in North Carolina. Of course, I was pretty worried about the wildlife in the forest, but a press release from the refuge website indicates that a majority of the wildlife will have escaped the fire. Their survival instincts will lead them to thinner air, so that's a relief! And I'm sure that the fine folks on the refuge will do their best to help all the displaced animals return to a normal existence.

Today we have rain and that should help the firefighting efforts. Hopefully, they will be able to quell the blaze. Big news for a small town!

P.S. You may also be interested in my dad's piece on the wildfire while he was traveling this week...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Crazy Hair Day

I am in love with Crazy Hair Day. I'm in love with any day involving "Crazy" and I wish that adults would embark on a few Crazy-Day celebrations of our own. You know, "we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy." Words to live by - thank you Seal!

A few weeks ago, my daughter's school held a Spirit
Week. Every day the kids dressed in something different - there was Hawaiian Day, School Colors Day, Pajama Day. One of them was Crazy Hair Day.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, they also had Crazy Hair Day and we decided to do a Pippi Longstocking style with the braids sticking straight out (secured by a wire hanger fitted to the head like a headband.) Even though I love this crazy hair style and think it's totally adorable and funny, I was a little anxious about making the suggestion again. Third grade is tough and kids can be so cruel to each other, I didn't want to make my daughter a target for any more playground harassment than is already found. I already have a mountain of guilt from kindergarten Book Character Day when I came up with the brilliant idea of putting together a Babushka's Doll costume (our favorite book at the time), which, again, was totally cute-adorable-unique-creative, but so different from the hordes of princesses roaming the school, that the 5th graders made some sneering comments about it and my poor, sweet, baby of a Babushka's Doll wouldn't smile all day long and looked like she was just about to cry. Ok - rip my heart out and hang it up to dry - I was not about to subject her to THAT again. (Needless to say, for First Grade Book Character Day, she decided on a more mainstream Angelina Ballerina costume.)

So, when she brought up the Pippi Braids, I wasn't so sure. I think I said "are you sure?" about a million times (okay maybe just five or six) but she was positive. So, we pulled a hanger out of the closet and went to work. Oh my goodness, how fabulous they turned out. She made them even more outrageous by asking for a little spiral. They were gre
at!

But, walking into school was a different story, so I decided to go with her just in case we
encountered any hecklers along the way. Luckily the teachers and kids embraced her with big smiles and exclamations of delight. I could tell her anxiety was easing away and when we arrived at her classroom, her fabulous teacher grinned, patted her on the head and said "Oh, Maddie, you're just like me." That was enough to send her soaring to a plateau of complete confidence and I knew she'd be fine.

Honestly, though, I have to give credit where credit is due for the Pippi Longstocking braid style. It all started abut 15 years ago in Key West where a few of my former fellow Hog's Breath waitresses and I decided to have a "Braidstock" night where we braided the hair of all the patrons in addition to our own. The Larry Baeder Band was playing that night and Larry showed up with his long hair in two graceful braids sticking straight out from his head. If he only knew that his hairstyle would be an inspiration to young girls on the Crazy Hair Day of elementary schools everywhere! Thank you Larry!

May the crazy braid live on!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Following Ants

We recently made a visit to the Historic Oak View County Park in Raleigh. What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon! There is a beautiful garden, cotton field, peach orchard and lake just a short walk through cool, refreshing trees.

We stopped to sit by the water and have a little snack. As we enjoyed the fabulous weather, a very hardworking ant stopped by and started dragging a bit of a Dorito back to his little ant home. It was quite fascinating and were lucky to catch him on video:
video

See more pictures of our fun day at Sunniviews!