Thursday, December 29, 2005

Randomness of the Past 10 Days

I've been "asked" to blog tonight. Suppose I have something to say. Like how it pained me today to spend $60 on bras - four bras, no less. I really think the bra makers have worked out some sort of conspiracy with retailers. Women need them to keep the "girls" controlled and they are usually over priced. Retailers have a captive audience (no pun intended).

I was also in a hunt for slacks while at the mall. To my horror, the dryer has been shrinking my clothing, particularity noticeable around the waist area. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the over-indulgence of the holiday stretch between Halloween and New Year's - yes, I have a few more gatherings this week, then on Monday, it's back to belly dance class and the gym! I know in a month I can shed the extra pounds, but I'm heading to Philadelphia next week for work and need something presentable and warm.

While listening to a National Public Radio (NPR) report last week, particular wording by the broadcaster caught my attention. She said something to the effect of, "a man who was convicted of inappropriately touching a little girl in a park." Enlighten me, is there ever an "appropriate" time when a man touches a girl in a park?

While on the topic of stupid things being said recently, last week at our Christmas, er, "Holiday" party, I was sitting at the table with most of the African-American folks from the office. I recently learned that one our co-workers was born and lived in Ghana. I asked everyone, "Hey! Do you know that so-and-so is from Africa?"

One of my co-workers, who can be very sassy and direct, replied, "Well duh! Can't you tell by looking at him that he's from Africa?"

Of course, my fascination wasn't the color of his skin, but that he lived in Ghana and shared some of his experiences and traditions with me. I thought it was an appropriate time to share with the other co-workers, but they already knew, I think...

And the most recent random interlude was on my flight between Atlanta and Buffalo last Friday. When I travel, I'm the passenger who has the book out and open while radiating vibes saying, "don't talk to me." The young man sitting next to me couldn't read the signs. He introduced himself after settling in and we discovered that we went to the same high school - almost decades apart - and he was a friend of my brother-in-law. How random is that?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Journey to Buffalo



My trip home for Christmas was nice. It's always nice to go home for the holidays. The travel itself was much better than last year's - no snow storms, no Comair Computer Snafus, no sitting stranded in an airport (oh, but I do have an intentional four hour layover today!). Anyway...

A day was spent at Lizzy's day spa and salon for a facial, eyebrow wax (ouch!) and new hair color (yeah, that's me, on the right. Lizzy is a miracle worker, but couldn't do anything about the little bulge under my chin - I need to take care of that. And do you think I was able to recreate that hair style the next morning? NO! But maybe with a little practice, I'll get somewhat close).

Also spent some brief time with my friend Annette and the rest was with my immediate family.

"Why is there a photo of a doll?" you may ask. Well, recall the post about the BK's King? There are a few things that spook me when I go home. One is that bathroom window where the peeping tom peered through. The other are two, life-size dolls who once lived with my grandma and my Mom adopted/inherited them. In order to head up to my bedroom, I had to pass this one every night - and no matter if the area around it was lit or dim, shivers always ran up my spine and I quickly made my way up the stairs. It must be the stoic, plastic face.

Men Bond, Women Gossip

I'm reading Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" (and yes, the movie release has encouraged me to finally read it). My eyes were open to the fact that many geisha were sold (first half of the 20th century, maybe even later) by their parents or relatives when they were little girls. This is blatant slavery.

But then, there is a bit of sisterly bonding involved. Almost like young, American women pledging to a sorority and vowing to become "family" for life. The girls rushing are put through tests to demonstrate their loyalty to their big sister and sorority. A novice geisha was dependent upon learning from and pleasing her adoptive big sister, with hopes of becoming a successful geisha.

Reading this has sparked my awareness of relationships women have with one another. In my experiences, it seems across the board that women can be outright catty and plain to mean to one another - with usually a man on the other end being the ignition. I've never had a tolerance for these types of games or personalities, which is probably why I didn't have many female friends growing up. But maybe this is all a means of survival - survival of what, I'm not sure of.

Being around boys and men while growing up, I've noticed that they don't seem to concern themselves in these petty ways. Maybe they are better able to conceal their insecurities.

I'm curious how other women around the world "survive" under their respective conditions. Maybe there is a story to be told - or maybe it has been told...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Random Thoughts So Close to Christmas...

Winter coats are like time capsules. I'm heading to Buffalo for the Christmas holiday today and put on my wool peacoat. Reaching into the pockets, I found a bunch of "dead" (used) tissues, a handful of business cards from my previous job and a well-worn London map from my February visit. This ignited memories of clever pubtenders; a rainy, sunny and snowy day (typical London, I'm told) and a VIP tour of the Tower of London during the Keys Ceremony.

I'm sitting in the Jacksonville International Airport terminal, waiting for my flight. I drove three hours to take advantage of a VIP ticket home. After observing the passengers, I've decided that holiday travel belongs to the amateurs. Those people who don't heed TSA's advisory not to wrap presents and to take off coats, shoes, belts and anything else with bling. There is shock in their tone and facial expression when security needs to open the carefully wrapped gift or ask them to take off their shoes after setting off the alarm.

The holidays is also a time when it's acceptable to travel like "The Grapes of Wrath," luggage loaded to capacity. When one needs to sit on the luggage in order to zip it, hoping that TSA doesn't decide to randomly select that bag for a search because certainly, everything will not be neatly returned to its proper place. And it's acceptable to load yourself down with carry-on luggage - pushing the bar on "one small, personal item and one small carry one." Again - bags bulge and little, gray-haired ladies are dragging bags which could easily double as their sleeping capsule. I have a rule - during the holidays and always when I travel - never to bring more than I can carry or lift by myself. I'm guessing the little, gray-haired ladies will need assistance in lifting their bags into the overhead bin, because certainly, the bags weigh twice their weight.

Today is a milestone in air travel. Scissors of four inches or less are permitted on planes, along with tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers fewer than seven inches. I heard disappointment in a screener's voice after he spotted a pair of scissors in a passenger's bag. "Oh! I think these scissors are only three inches long."

Speaking of peacoats - a flock of young, Navy servicemen just walked by. Innocence still adorns their faces, must be new recruits, home for the holidays.

The one consistency in airports is, no, not TSA screeners. No, I've traveled too much to know that every airport is different in how many times the boarding pass and ID are reviewed, what needs to go in a bin and what doesn't and what needs to be taken off and what needs to stay on. The one consistency is Starbucks. Which is probably why they are so globally successful. No matter where in the world, when you order a venti-whipped-cream-topped-chino-something, you know it's going to be good.

Guess there is another consistency: women passengers don't know how to flush the toilet. It's not that difficult to grab the handle and flush. And how do the sinks and floors get so wet? I haven't been in a men's room so I don't know if the guys have this same issue...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why Is It...

...that dirty laundry seems to weigh more than clean laundry? Is it a scientific or psychological phenomenon? Hmm....

Chapter from Bridget Jones

I sometimes feel as though I'm living a chapter from Bridget Jones's Diary (book or movie version, doesn't matter). For some reason, I have an unstoppable ability to be a complete idiot when interacting with a particular someone. When I come up with something clever to say or write, it comes out all jumbled, as though the butterflies in the pit of my stomach have intentionally bumbled the words, playing tricks on me to see how ridiculous they can make me sound. Or worse yet, nothing comes out at all. It seems it's been this way since day one of meeting him.

Is there some sort of chemical reaction or magnetic friction that causes this phenomenon?

That's My Boy!

One of my favorite guys greeted me at the mailbox this afternoon and to my delight, he was named one of "Time Magazine's" Persons of the Year. No, not Bill Gates (although, I'm grateful for Mr. Gates). Bono. He's got it right: practicing and preaching to live a more involved life.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Every Dog Has Its Day

For those of you who love animals, especially dogs, please vote for Cleopatra (named so because she was born in Cairo, Georgia) as the "Cutest Face" in the Dog Show USA contest. Nope, she's not mine, but my boss's :). Click here to vote. And if you do have a dog, you can find information on entering your photogenic pooch here, too.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The King and Not I

I don't think I'm alone when I say how creepy and scary the recent Burger King television ad campaign is. The King is spooky enough - but to have him peek his head into bedrooms, well, it's just a bit disturbing.

Maybe it's me. I'm terrified of unshaded windows which stems from a family incident when I was a kid. One summer night my Mom discovered a peeping Tom and since then, I've had window issues (note: wonder if there is a specific term for this phobia?)

Or, maybe I'm frightened of the King because I'm a product of 1980s scary movies staring Freddy Kruger, Jason and later, Chuckie. These characters all have masks with little to no facial expressions. I see a parallel to the King. His head is plastic, including his hair and crown, and wears an overly broad smile that is just bizarre.

I spent a couple of years after high school working at a Burger King - making burgers and everything associated with working at a 24-hour BK. When the "Big Fish" sandwich was introduced as a new product, I drew and wrote up a commercial (it did NOT include any spooky characters) . I showed it to my boss, with hopes that he would send it to the corporate office and I would be whisked away to work in the corporation's marketing department. Instead, I got a, "that's nice." And that was it.

I would link to a picture of the King (for those of you who don't know what he looks like) but I couldn't' find it on the Burger King website. Maybe they agree he's overly creepy, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's Lonely NOT Being a Lemming

All 120+ girls in my sixth grade class sang on stage during our promotion to junior high. Everyone except me.

True, by that age I knew I couldn't carry a tune (I discovered that during my short run in the church choir), but that wasn't the reason. I just had no interest in getting up on stage and singing.

When promotion evening came and the performance segment, all of the girls and a handful of boys left their seats for the stage. I sat practically alone among the empty folding chairs. I felt slightly out of place, not comprehending why all of the girls wanted to sing, but realized, they did it because they did not want to miss out and be left out. Miss out and left out of what, I don't know. All I knew was that I was not going to give into peer pressure and do something I didn't want to do, which was perform that night.

There was a time in my life when I didn't care what people thought of me. I did things for me, despite everyone else doing them. I didn't, and still don't, concern myself with missing out on something. I had the ability of being a "stealth leader" - being able to make things happen without anyone knowing it's me.

After a period of losing this part of myself, I'm slowly finding it again. The ability to stand alone and stand up for what I believe in. And sometimes, it's lonely.

[Definition of a lemming.]

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Spending Time in Seaside


Not all movies filmed in Florida are B-horror flicks. In the perfectly planned community of Seaside, Fla, "The Truman Show",starring Jim Carey was filmed.



I found the perfection of the town to be a bit too perfect. Green space was meticulously manicured and perfectly green. Homes coordinate each other in pastel shades, lining perfectly symmetrical brick streets.



As I spent more time in the area I noticed that the community's authenticity shines through its eclectic mix of art, boutiques and dining. Enjoy the images

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Florida and "B" Movies

I'm beginning to see a pattern with Florida State Parks and bad horror movies (by the way, does the "B" for B-rated movies come from "bad?"). Last month I visited Wakulla Springs State Park where "Creature from the Black Lagoon" was filmed. Today I visited Eden Gardens State Park in Point Washington, Fla. The home itself has an impressive collection of Louis XVI furniture, once belonging to a timber family and most recently, Lois Maxon - a descendant of royalty and former employee of some New York City-based newspaper (the guide couldn't tell me much more).

The 1972 horror flick "Frogs" was filmed here. 1972 was prior to groovy animation and film manipulation so the film producers held a casting call for frogs (well, not really, they accepted all frogs). The frogs' agents were compensated .05 per frog. Don't know if this was prior to Kermit the Frog or maybe he had already made it big by 1972, but I'm pretty sure he didn't make a cameo in this one.

Hitching to a Falling Star

It's 10 PM CST and I wonder, how much better can life be? I'm sitting on the balcony of my 11th floor hotel room, overlooking the white-sandy beaches of the Beaches of South Walton, glass of merlot in hand, listening to the roll of the Emerald-green waters and watching the Geminids meteor shower. I can wish on all the shooting stars, right?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Most Unusual Place

I wear art, not jewelry. My adornments are found at festivals, off-beat shops, flea markets and last week, the car rental counter. Approaching the counter, the clerk stared at my neck. She said she was noticing my necklace. I replied, "thanks, but I hope it's because you like it and not because it's odd."

Raising her index finger, she told me to, "hold that thought" and disappeared into the back. She returned with a little black bag, pulled out a little plastic bag with silver and chips of glass beads. She poured the bag onto the counter so I could see how similar it was to mine.

Turns out, her sister in Cartagena, Columbia, designs and creates the jewelry. Helena (the clerk) said it's something called, "kortz." (I Googled it but couldn't find anything on it). Her sister adorns these beads on denim jeans, skirts and jackets. The price was right and I couldn't resist making a purchase. Helena is making a trip early next year to bring back more and will let me know when she returns. Anyone interested?

Mango Inn ~ Lake Worth, Fla



Whimsy dots the interior and exterior of the Mango Inn. Definitely a place I would return to.

Read the story associated with these images.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

"Kashi" and I reminisce about Japan following our sushi class.

Read the story associated with this photo.

Sushi 101 - Sushi Chef Jenn

Here I am with maki, sushi, sashimi and hand roll - and yes, I MADE it myself.

Read the story associated with this photo.

Sushi 101 - The Final Product

Sushi by Sushi Chef Jenn.

Read the story to learn why I have a photo of sushi on my blog.

My Ever Changing Mood

The period between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day is a time when singletons are reminded of their single status in society. Driving to the airport last Friday, multiple radio stations playing Christmas tunes and the streets draped in green, red and gold reminded me of my stature in society - a singleton. Destined to live a life alone, with no children nor husband/boyfriend to share it. *sigh*

And my mood changed upon landing in Ft. Lauderdale. Not only was the sun welcoming into its radiant arms but the temperature was about 30 degrees warmer than Tallahassee. Luck was on my side as my economy car rental was upgraded to a black, 2006 Mustang (two-day rental for $44 - not too bad!). My friend Penny had a 1960-something car in high school and I never understood her attachment to the vehicle until I got behind the wheel and put on the gas up I-95 - feeling the giddy-up of the engine - but the power and control.

A morning of Christmas shopping was followed by a much-needed pedicure and manicure at a random strip-mall. For 28 bucks, I got the pampering I needed - who needs those stuffy, upscale, overpriced spas?

I treated myself to a stay at Lake Worth's Mango Inn Bed & Breakfast where I immediately nestled into the bed and snuggled under the down duvet (note: down equals heaven) for a brief nap. The evening was spent with Kathy and her family: husband Matt-A, and parents Carol and Dan and a (literal) boat-load of sushi and sashimi at Boca Raton's Bluefin Sushi Thai Grill.

And the next day - what I've been waited months for - "Sushi 101" at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Guests at the B&B seemed a bit envious of the day's plans and asked me about it this morning. Kathy, Carol and I had an awesome time - learning how to make a California roll, a rainbow roll and hand roll. No matter how the pieces turned out, they were still tasty. We spent the early afternoon walking the gardens, evoking memories of last year's trip to Japan.

The rest of the day was consumed with shopping, including dropping some dough at the Festival Flea Market (I'm a flea market-junkie and this one is pretty good - I especially like the encouragement of eating a "pickle-on-a-stick" while shopping) and other places - to complete the Christmas shopping. The evening wrapped up with dinner Cuban-style at Don Ramon Restaurant in West Palm Beach. Thankfully, this Cuban cuisine is NOTHING like what I was fed in Havana two years ago. The mojo chicken and rice pudding rock! I enjoyed spending time with Kathy's family (and her, too). They are good souls.

Stepping out of the airport, I was welcomed home by the kiss of cool, Tallahassee air and realized my fantasy weekend was over.

Enjoy some of my images of the weekend:
Sushi 101 - The Final Product
Sushi 101 - Sushi Chef Jenn
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Mango Inn ~ Lake Worth, Fla

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Do Real Men Write Notes?

Do they? I realize that note writing is a lost art, almost obliterated by the onset and convenience of the Internet. Especially the art of writing thank you notes.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my (postal) mailbox today to find a hand written note from my friend's husband (well, he's a friend, too). It was a PROPER thank you for cooking and hosting Thanksgiving dinner last week. And, it was more than a sentence or two, actually, a few paragraphs. Now, don't think he's a girlie-man; he served a tour in Vietnam and is a successful handyman.

Am I the only one who's impressed?

You're Overdue in Cleaning Your Laundry When...

...You need to scrape to the bottom of your lingerie drawer to pull out your "granny panties." It's not that I wear thongs or g-strings (or are those the same?), but I believe in practical and comfortable with a dash of fun. God, hope no one from work reads this today...

Monday, November 28, 2005

And So the Mood Changed

A day beginning dreary, sluggish and gray turned, like the afternoon sun, drying Heaven's teardrops off the leaves and grass. It was a good hair day.

It's Going to be a Bad Hair Day

I thought summer was supposed to be over by November, especially the end of November. It's pouring rain, humid and I have a 6 hour HR workshop to sit through today - it is definitely going to be a bad hair day. Or, maybe it's a reflection of my mood.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

St Marks Wildlife Refuge


Friday was a tranquil trip to St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and Wakulla Springs State Park. It certainly was a beautiful day, in many ways. The photos are from St. Marks.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Birth of a New Life

Upon kissing him goodbye, I walked back to my apartment, half-looking over my shoulder to see him get into the car. I didn't wait to see him drive off. I knew he was leaving, gone. I carried a bittersweet mix of sadness, contentment and relief up the stairs, shut and locked the door to return to the haven of my world.

Naively reaching for bait of empty promises, over the years I continued giving bits of my private self, my inner thoughts and feelings; bits of my soul. I find it difficult to share these with others, but I believed he was different. I trusted wrongly and regrettably, I ignored myself. I was stupid. I followed my heart when I should have followed my head. I hoped - but hope is for suckers.

It took my falling into a black hole, restlessness for more out of my life, maybe even a mid-life crisis, to realize the error of my ways. To realize that everyone else but me was right. I HATE being wrong (stubbornness, trait of a Taurus). Starting a new life has helped, but I still needed my closure.

The first day of his visit was good, it was Thanksgiving, but later that evening, it all clicked. There's no love. The next day, I didn't say much. I didn't want to invest any more of myself, I couldn't bare to do it. I let barriers encompass me, it's safer. Maybe he noticed, maybe he didn't.

And finally, I felt that every bit of my soul that I had given him has been reclaimed. He didn't give it back, somewhere, I found it. Despite still loving him, I found the strength to close the door.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Julianna Baggott: A Somebody


Yesterday, Tallahassee author Julianna Baggott, aka N.E. Bode, presented a workshop at the downtown library. I only caught the tail end, as I thought it was geared to young (under 18) authors. Step by step, she and the audience worked out an outline for a novel. Afterwards, she signed books - which make the perfect holiday gift! The library also hosted their annual book sale.

Full Circle for the Mandala










Yesterday was the final day of the sacred sand mandala at the Mary Brogan Museum. Since I had dutifully witnessed the daily progress of this creation to bring about peace, I needed to be there when it was dismantled. As you can see by the images, it was the largest crowd I've seen all week and I didn't have a very good spot, but, I was there.

All of the monks gathered around the mandala donning gold and red caps and then the mechanical, eerie chanting began. The chanting was broken by up by a drum, symbols and pipes. The intensity of the ceremony drowned out the roars of the dinosaur exhibit.

After three cycles of this, the eldest monk walked around the mandala, then reached out to push the sand into the center, creating a cross. All that hard work that I'd witnessed throughout the week, transformed, melded. Once he was done, the younger monks continued to chant and brushed the sand into a pile in the center. It was a a grayish-blue color with hints of yellow. Small bags of the sand were then distributed to everyone who wanted some - to either place around the exterior of the home to bless it or to sit on the mantle (mine's sitting on my shelf, next to my stone Buddha head).

Following the ceremony, the monks were to take the sand to Lake Ella and disperse it into the water, return it to the universe and bless the area. And who said there's not much happening in Tallahassee?

[Click here to view Day 1]
[Click here to view Day 2]
[Click here to view Day 3]
[Click here to view Day 4]
[Click here to view Day 5]

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Almost Done


Yesterday, I brought a couple of colleagues with me to see the Buddhist monks work on their masterpiece. We walked from the office through Tallahassee's downtown to the Mary Brogan - it was a sunny, crisp fall day - a day made for walking. I'm glad we walked - not only for the exercise benefit but better able to see more of the town's nooks.

And on this day, we were among the largest group of spectators to the process that I've seen this week. Maybe word has spread throughout town. I'm glad more people were there - I was starting to feel like a stalker!

This afternoon, the vibrant mandala will be dismantled and dispersed at Lake Ella. The monks then return to the museum to bless the women participating in Goddess night (nope - I'm not participating in that, although, if I had planned better, I would have considered it).

[click here to see Day 1]
[click here to see Day 2]
[click here to see Day 3]
[click here to see Day 4]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Food for the Soul


Day four of the visiting Buddhist monks' brief time at Tallahassee's Mary Brogan Museum. Mother Nature finally blew in autumn temperatures and I enjoyed my trip downtown to see the progress my new-found friends have made. They are coming along quite well, making headway in completing the mandala. In speaking with their translator, they haven't had much time to get out and explore the community but they did get to the coast and saw alligators. Their next stop is Miami - I hope they're prepared for the wildlife they'll spot there.

Walking back to my car, I finally took notice of the food cart in the plaza. Vegan soul food - I treated myself to a vegan gyro which was tasty - just the right spices. The cart has been there for four years, serving tasty, animal-friendly meals five days a week, 11 AM - 4 PM. And, they'll cater your party.

[click here to see Day 1]
[click here to see Day 2]
[click here to see Day 3]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

And on the Third Day

I trotted down to the museum today to see how the visiting Buddhist monks were coming along. The vibrant colors and precise detail is inspiring. The artists were eating lunch in a room next door. One hand held a bowl of noodles while the other manipulated chopsticks. Brought back memories of Japan.

I then wondered if they felt like I did while on my month-long journey. Wondered if they felt like a paraded spectacle, surrounded by strange faces and language. Wondered if they smiled and nodded in agreement in response to funny yacking, and not knowing what they are agreeing to (once, I nodded in agreement and found myself naked in a public bath). I wondered if they looked for familiar faces in a sea of strangeness, like I would while walking the streets of rural Japan. And upon finding one, I stretched my neck to make eye contact and share a moment of unspoken empathy.

Each of our missions are the same, create pockets of peace.

[click here for Day 1]
[click here for Day 2]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

QKGirl at the Speed of Light

High-speed Internet - what a beautiful thang :)

Peace is Tangible

Sacred Sand Mandala Day 2


I was surprised to see the progress the Buddhist monks have been making on the sand mandala today. Big difference from 24 hours earlier.

When I first arrived, the monks were taking a lunch break so I started talking to another woman who was taking it in. It was interesting speaking to her and learning that she and her family have lived in Tallahassee for about 17 years, yet she says it's difficult to find out about things going on. Hmmm, a spark was reignited in me...

Once the artists returned from their break, they continued to work on the mandala for peace. They take two hallow, metal tubes and place the sand in one. They then hold the sand-filled tube over an area and use the second to lightly tap the sand out and create a design. It was incredible to see the precise detail in a lotus flower - the dimension and look of texture.

Since I've made it a goal to visit daily, I'm considering changing my weekend plans...

[click here to see Day 1]

Monday, November 14, 2005

Let Me 'Splain My Interest...

Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan
I find religion fascinating ~ the way it has controlled and maybe provided order to society over the centuries. I'm a confirmed Catholic, although being divorced, I'm really not welcomed there any more. I wonder what the Pope will say to me when I show up on his doorstep in a couple of years with a few of my pals - Annette and Val - you're still in, right? Anyway...

I grew up in a bi-religious home (is that the correct terminology?). Nothing drastic - my Mom is Catholic and my Dad is Lutheran. Being very young, I remember they asked me which church I wanted to go attend.

Prior to that, me and my siblings attended both churches and at the time, the only difference between the two that I could decipher was that the Lutheran church service seemed to last for HOURS while Father Hamerial at Our Lady of Peace had us out in 45 minutes. I did weigh the other benefits of attending my Dad's church, he was an elder and had status - which guaranteed prime seating and "the blood" (wine) was served in shot glasses while the Catholics shared a goblet. The church-goers seemed more friendlier than the Catholics and hung out afterwards with coffee and donuts.

But still, I chose the road to Catholicism and my siblings followed. All of us were confirmed; despite my younger sister questioning things (as we were supposed to do).

While working in Yellowstone National Park, I was introduced to the Campus Crusade for Christ (born-agains), Mormons (what kind of religion forbids chocolate??? But if you're in Salt Lake City, take the tour of the "compound," the history and theory is intriguing) and the cult Church Universal Triumphant (and what kind of religion protects itself with armed militants???). While working in the Everglades, I was introduced to different kinds of Buddhism, including Jain (who are very limited in their diet - no meat, no tomatoes and nothing that is grown in the ground - to avoid the worm poop, which is considered dirty). Recently, I've studied Wicca and sang alongside President Jimmy Carter at his Southern Baptist Church (ok, there were a few Secret Service Agents between me and him).

But, my month-long visit to Japan last year was truly life-altering. My first host-father designed and carved Buddhist furniture. I was taken to many temples and through broken English, limited understanding of the Japanese language and lots of hand gestures, I learned a little bit more about this unfamiliar religion. And how it all began with little Buddha sitting on the lotus leaf...

The image above was taken in Nara. It was supposed to go in last year's Christmas cards (ok - unintentional irony) but the cards never made it out.

The Buddhists Are Here!

Sacred Sand Mandala Day 1


Buddhist monks from Tibet's Drepung Gomang Monastery are in Tallahassee, Fla. this week , a stop on "The Sacred Art of the Land of the Snow" North American Tour. The tour's purpose is to share the compassion, wisdom and generate wisdom of the Tibetan Buddhist culture with North Americans.

Throughout the week, the monks will be interacting with Tallahassee residents on different levels, including creating a Sacred Sand Mandala (various geometric designs symbolizing the universe and used in meditation). In the foyer of the Mary Brogan Museum, the group of monks work on their knees designing. Each day, between 10 AM - 5 PM, they will work on it through Friday, Nov. 18. On Saturday, Nov. 19, the mandala will be taken to Lake Ella where it will be returned to the universe, via Lake Ella.

I plan on visiting them each day and will capture their progress. Unfortunately, I will not be in town Saturday to join them in the final celebration.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Fair to (kind of) Remember

North Florida Fair


Tonight I experienced another one of Tallahassee's cultural attractions, the North Florida Fair. I used to love going to the local county fair when growing up in Buffalo. I've never been a fan of the midway - the rides and games - but more into the exhibits and livestock (ok, I'm a big geek!). I went with a group of friends tonight and although I didn't get to see any of the exhibits (we were too late to see them), I did have a good time.

Who wouldn't love the fair - the aroma of fair food - meats on sticks, fried doughs and wisp of sugary clouds (aka: cotton candy); the people watching - gals wearing 5" stiletto heals and their guys wearing sunglasses at 11 PM; breathtaking rides to replicate the feeling of flying.

My two highlights of the evening:

  • "The Barrel of Death" (or something like that). Two former stunt men road motorcycles on the interior of a giant wooden barrel. According to them, since their jobs are so dangerous, health insurance won't cover them so tips are appreciated, however, they earn their tips (like a stripper, I suppose). With my dollar bill folded in half and wrist rested on the metal cable circling the top of the barrel, one of the stunt men road a go-cart looking thing (and I think powered by a lawn mower engine) at some ridiculously high speed and grabbed mine and other dollars. I have to admit, I thought this was going to be cheesy but was pretty impressive to see.
  • A deep-fried Twinkie. I had heard about this and finally got to taste the curiosity. For $3.00, I received a hot, deep-fried Twinkie (which was dipped in batter, then fried) sprinkled with powered sugar. Have to admit, it was "yum-o."

Ah, the fair. Can't wait until the next one...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hello!

Quirky Kitsch Girl
I recently acquired a new camera and am loving it. Earlier this week I found out that one of my stories will be published but needs a headshot for the writer's section. Does this one work?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Catching Up With My Past

The weekend was spent catching up with myself. Organizing (and cleaning) my apartment. Thinking about my future, trying to forget the past (at least the bad). My friend Matt called today (one of my Japan buddies). For being so young, he's so insightful. I envy that about him. My sushi-making class was postponed due to the impact of Hurricane Wilma but rescheduled for December - I can't wait! Kathy (another Japan buddy) will be joining me.

I also updated a couple of blog entries, if you'd like to get caught up:
New York in 1860 Minutes
Bogging Through Apalachicola National Forest

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Checking In

I really don't have much to say - well, I actually do. There's a lot to say, but it's all clogged, or choked. A bit of numb apathy, too. I just know I need to find some sort of personal motivation. I have some, and I'm moving forward in reaching my personal goals. I want more, I'm impatient.

I have spent some time with family and friends over the past few months, and those were good. With people I don't get to see everyday. I received a surprised package from a Yellowstone buddy, much needed after a draining week following Hurricane Wilma. A squirrel is storing its acorns in my car. What's in store next? We'll see.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Shouldn't Life Be at This Pace?

I'm just procrastinating - suffering from some sort of writer's block; on deadline for an assignment. This photo was taken at Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee, Fla. I was intrigued with the pink magnolia leaf and the little snail trying to move about. Upon studying the image, I noticed the little ant and the tiny water droplets left behind by the snail.

I've been busy, busy, busy, yet, don't seem able to accomplish anything. I've been doing a lot of thinking, contemplating and wondering about my life and the road that led me here and where the road will lead me next.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Ue O Muite Arukoo...



And the song plays on; I sang these lyric at least 149 times since last year. For those of you not up on your Japanese vocabulary, these are the first few words to the song "Sukiyaki."

A year ago today the journey began. Twenty-four hours in travel time (one way) for the month-long visit. What a long, strange trip it was. Oddly, a place I really miss. It's too difficult to explain, only the three other teammates and team leader would understand (we're pictured above).

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The DIY In Me



By no means do I consider myself "very domestic." "Slightly domestic" doesn't fit either. But, I do have a creative side that likes to create things with my vision and hands. As I've mentioned before, I setup my sewing machine (Random Trivia: I read somewhere that there are more personal computers in American households than sewing machines) and haven't finished anything yet (I'm still having a challenge with zippers) but, here is a before and after photo of my latest project. I found these two tables at the local Goodwill and I re-did one of them. I had the glass beads hanging around and thought I'd put them to use. Haven't decided what to do with the other table.

Monday, September 26, 2005

UPDATED Nov. 6, 2005: New York in 1,860 Minutes




My quick trip to New York over the weekend was incredible! I probably walked about ten miles on Saturday, my legs are still sore. I like walking Manhattan streets, you never know what you'll stumble across , like a farmer's market, quirky little shop or a small dog!

Like a few of my other posts, there is so much to share that I'm gonna have to delay in posting the experience for another time. There are so many stories within the big story. In the meantime, enjoy a few images.

**********************************************************
Updated: November 6, 2005

The opportunity to have a book personally signed by Stephen King was all I needed to make up my mind in going to New York for a quick weekend in September to enjoy some of the events of the New Yorker Festival. Usually my travels are tied to business and on previous trips to the New York City area, I have stayed in a castle and other plush accommodations.

Since I was flipping the bill on this brief trip, I opted for the YMCA Hotel near Central Park. Ironically, I cashed in some Delta SkyMiles to fly first class (flying on First Class SkySaver, which saved me 5,000 miles from Coach SkyChoice). To keep costs down even more, I looked into using my American Express Rewards to purchase tickets for the various events through TicketMaster, however, since I cashed in most of my points when I moved, I didn't have enough to redeem. But, $25 for most events was a decent price.

I arrived at the YMCA Hotel around 11:00 PM. My small, yet clean, single bedroom was perfect. Linens and towels were provided (no face cloth). The front desk clerk instructed me that my key-card let me into the bathrooms. When nature called, I followed the signs to the bathrooms and found an entire hallway of bathrooms. I tried the key-card on each door and each time, a red light denied me. I wondered if there was suppose to be a code, somehow tied to my room number. After eight tries, a green light gave me the go ahead to well, go.

I was half-expecting a communal bathroom: multiple toilets, showers and sinks. The bathrooms were labeled co-ed so I had no idea how that was going to work out. To my surprise, the golden key unlocked the door to a private (clean) bathroom with toilet, shower and sink.

The next day, I attended a panel discussion with CNN's Christian Amanpour and other journalists concerning advocacy journalism. The events and actions (or lack of) by the US government following Hurricane Katrina provided easy conversation. Following the discussion, I headed to the festival's headquarters to stand in line for Mr. King. To my horror (we're talking Stephen King), signs were posted on the bookstore stating that the tickets for the King book signing had been allocated.

WHAT???

No where in the literature was there mention that tickets were needed. I sobbed to one of the festival volunteers, "but I came from Florida. How were we supposed to know we needed tickets?"

She explained that "it's bookstore policy...only 150 tickets were allocated...the only people that would know are people who shop at the bookstore."

Lame excuse. Apparently, the bookstore didn't want thousands of fans mobbing the store and implemented this free ticket policy. Had I known that in advance, I would have lined up the night prior for tickets.

Instead, I hung around in the seating area, sucking on the Altoid samples, watching National Geographic Traveler on the plasma television and chatting up the Song Airlines sales folks. And then, the literary genius appeared.

Donning a white tee-shirt stating, "I Make Stuff Up" and blue jeans, Mr. King shook hands with the author signing next to him and his signing began. He seemed thinner and more fragile, than I had pictured. He also seemed sincere when meeting his fans.

I didn't get a book signed but I did get close enough to see him, so close I could spit on him - not that I would! The bookstore people didn't make it easy for those of us who wanted a close look at him. The professional photographers there on assignment and the bookstore staff got in a little huff about visibility.

I won't admit that I flew to New York for nothing, I had already turned something into it and decided to make some more. Outside was a fantastic farmer's market full of fall goodies associated with the cooler climates. Crisp apples, fresh squeezed grape juice, baked goods with pumpkin and cinnamon. I picked up lunch and a snack for the trip home. Wandering back to the hotel to freshen up for the evening, I wandered into what seemed like a 7-block festival. I weaved in and out of the street vendors, taking in the sights of different people and aromas of various foods. It was a magnificent fall day.

I spent the evening with Sleater-Kinney, the queens of punk rock, and 300 of my new friends. Not knowing what to expect, the three young ladies came out in boho tops, jeans and bob-cut hair. They discussed their evolution over the past decade and how the importance of independent bands. The band played on and I was caught-up in their beat.

On the way out, a woman of about 60 years old asked if their music was for sale at the festival's headquarters - "no, you'll have to get it at a record shop."

I headed to the Virgin Megastore for my copy of the "The Woods," their latest release.

And Sunday morning, my 6:00 AM flight took me home.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First Year Anniversary Following "I Do"

One of the funniest things I recall from my divorce hearing was getting up and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why is this funny? Because the response is, "I do."

How ironic, I thought. A marriage begins with "I do" and ends with "I do." In an odd way, it reaches full circle.

With the anniversary of my divorce coming up, I've been thinking about the past year and all I've gone through. I moved out of my apartment, went to Japan for a month, moved in with a friend, condo purchase fell through, numbed my heart, moved in with my uncle and his family, moved to northern Fla. and began a new job and new life. I don't think I would have been able to get through all of the change and emotion I've experienced without the "anti-anxiety seeds." And I don't care what Tom Cruise says, these things are better than any exercise.

This past March, I reached an emotional low point in my life and questioned my self-worth and purpose. For three months I cried for no reason. I cried on the plane. I cried while walking down city streets. I cried sitting at my desk. The ultimate low point was spending 24-hours crying then telling my roommate (while crying) that I was going to check myself into a mental institution for a few days. She didn't let on that this freaked her out, but she called Zelda Mae, who convinced me not to do it because although I could probably check myself in, I probably couldn't check myself out.

I suffered from depression (and I think I always have and still am, but not to that degree) but after hitting that low point, I chose to live vs. the other and began an upswing to bring me out of the hole.

Parts of my life still have small shadows of darkness but for the most part, I now see the vibrancy of life. I still have wounds to heal, walls to mend and a heart to fill but I'll get there, eventually.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Reconnecting With a Certain Guy

Key West reminds me of a friend I used to work with in the Everglades. This past week was the first time I've visited there in about two years. It was also when I received a phone call from this guy I haven't heard from since March. (Good thing I haven't changed my cell phone!)

We chatted and got caught up with each of our lives. I was so happy to hear from him. He always made me smile with his contagious, positive outlook and radiance. I'm glad he's doing fine.

Being the SSSS Girl

Booking a flight less than 24 hours prior to departure, one-way gets you an intimate meeting with TSA officials. My work schedule had me in Key West for one night then returning to Tallahassee. Things changed and I now needed to fly between Key West and Miami, eventually returning to Tally later in the week.

Upon checking in at the Key West airport (don't know if it's international, I can tell you it's SMALL), I was told that I would have to watch as my check-in luggage was searched. "OK," I thought. So, I watched as the TSA man searched my bag, rubbing little white sheets of paper inside the pockets and sticking it in some sort of machine. While he waited for the results, he tossed his wand, like a baton. Don't know if that was for my entertainment or his.

After thoroughly molesting my bag, he tucked in the TSA sheet that supposedly explains why my bag had to be hand checked and offered hints on how to pack to avoid future hand searches - none of which said, "don't book a one-way ticket last minute."

Greeted by the friendly TSA officials at security, one of them calls out, "we got an SSSS Girl coming through." As I discovered, SSSS does not stand for: Sassy, Spectacular, Smashing and Silly. I'd rather be an "It Girl" than an "SSSS Girl," but at least I was something.

One official thoroughly examines my boarding pass, comparing it to my drivers license (which, contains a photo of me from 10 years ago, donning puffy hair and glasses) and me. She hands it to me and I step two feet to be greeted by another official who scrutinized my boarding pass, drivers license then me.

Well versed in the drill of TSA security, all of my possessions are placed on the belt, including my shoes, sunglasses and hair clips. I pass through to the other side, have my boarding pass, drivers license and me compared, again, and am told to take a seat while I watch my carry-on luggage being molested (half-assed, I must say). A female TSA agent is needed to search me and I chime in with my two cents that I don't mind having the tan, 20-something, with a secret tattoo peeping from his sleeve pat me down. All this earned me were icy glares and more time in the "penalty box."

Eventually, an agent comes over and I ask what an SSSS Girl is. She says, "oh, it's special people, like celebrities, VIPs..." I finish her sentence: "and people who book one-way flights last minute."

Upon realizing I was not hiding any explosives, weapons or lighters on body, I was free to go with a story to tell.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

John Crawford: The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell


The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell - An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq; by John Crawford, published by Riverhead Books, 2005.

"This is my first book signing and I thought I'd be sitting in a corner, sign a few books and 15 minutes later go home and take a nap," the former Florida National Guardsmen told the audience of about 150 at the local bookstore while the C-SPAN cameraman adjusted his tripod.

In the fall of 2002, Crawford was shy of 2 credits from graduating from Florida State University and on his honeymoon when he learned he was be shipped to Iraq. Once there, he wrote a story and a book publisher asked him if he could write a book. And thus, the book was born.

Crawford is a storyteller and almost overnight has become a spokesman for the soldiers who have and are currently serving in Iraq. His book offers grit and truth on what it's like to serve and live in conditions unimaginable to most Americans. His perspective is fresh, considering for the past few years we've been hearing the government's and journalists' perspectives. The stories are not in chronological order, however as he points out, the language becomes "stronger" as the conditions of deployment become more difficult.

Today marked his first book signing. He's been making the media rounds, including appearances on the Daily Show with John Stewart and National Public Radio. I heard his interview on NPR and read an interview with him in last Sunday's paper. Prior to the signing, I had not read the book. Many in the audience have already read it twice and even three times.

"The way you talk in war is different than what's appropriate for a family book store," he said as he explained how he liked to use and speak the dialogue in his book, but would modify it for today's G-rated audience.

When one of the audience participants thanked him for writing the book and serving the country, he joked that he never knows how to respond to people thanking him for serving. "It's not like I got an RSVP or was invited to go to Baghdad," he said.

I grant you an RSVP to read the book. It's especially a good read for those of you who wonder why soldiers return as different people. No matter what the rhetoric says, war hardens people. (But don't tell my father I'm reading it, he couldn't handle the profanity in "The Breakfast Club" and I can't imagine what he'd say about this.)

(Note: And if you catch the recording on C-SPAN, you'll get to see 10 seconds of my 15-minutes of fame ticked off).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Are We All That Different?


I visited Mission San Luis Apalachee in Tallahassee today, one of more than 100 mission settlements established in Spanish Florida between the 1560s and 1690s and a National Historic Landmark. As a mission, both Apalachee Indians and Spaniards lived here. In the early 1700s, the British settled into Charleston, SC and began making trips to Spanish Florida and destroyed the Spanish missions. Upon reaching Mission San Luis, they annihilated all buildings and it wasn't until 2000 when the first formal mass was held at the mission, since 1704. The rebuilding of the mission is credited to archeological who have been piecing together history through excavation.

In 1704, the Spanish turned Florida over to the Brits, forcing the Spaniards and all members of the Apalachee tribe to migrate to Cuba. It wasn't until 1996 that descendants of the Apalachee Indians, of the "Talimali Band" were discovered living in Louisiana. Various records indicate that following the dismantling of the mission in 1704, some fled to Mobile, AL vs. to Cuba and then eventually to Louisiana. It is estimated that about 250 - 300 members are alive today.

As usual, I became exhilarated from learning more about Florida's history. The whispering breeze rustled through the trees while insects buzzed with electrifying cracks to drown out 21st Century noises. Excavation plots dot the area along with costumed people playing the role of 16th century Christians (I was dressed as a 21st century heathen with my shorts, sandals and summer top).

One of the most fascinating discoveries I had, however, reminded me of Japan. The above photo is a replica of an Apalachee Indian community center, typical of the late 1600s and early 1700s. The photo here is of a Japanese house from Shijimizuka Ruins in Hamamatsu Prefecture, typical of 1,000 - 2,000 BC living quarters.

Thatch is thatch, but I saw similarities between the two. Certainly, the Apalachees of Florida had no way of going to Japan to study architecture and there really is only a few ways to build a shelter, but aren't the similarities something? As people, when it comes down to it, are we really different from each other?

Are We All That Different - 2


Shijimizuka Ruins, Hamamatsu City, Japan. Dates 1,000 - 2,000 BC, the Jomon Period. See the similarities to the Apalachee Indian building, which dates 1560s to early 1700s.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

It's Not a Black Thing But a Family Thang



I experienced the world of Tom Joyner this past weekend - and when my thoughts are composed, I'll share 'em. That's me picutred with him.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Meets the Everlgades



More images of Hurricane Katrina's visit to Flamingo Lodge & Marina in Everglades National Park.

Images of Katrina




Just a few images from Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park following Katrina.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ripple Effect of Hurricane Katrina

Last year, Florida took a beating from four named tropical storms; three of which I needed to be concerned with. I stocked my safe room (my bathroom) and hunkered down accordingly. Having come out unscathed and now living in Florida's panhandle, I thought I was out of harm's way when it comes to hurricanes. Not so.

Peter called today to give me a brief update on the status of Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park - a place that has been part of my life for at least 10 years. And for anyone who has ever visited the Everglades will know, it's a place and an attitude that sticks with you.

What Peter reported was not good news. The Park Service didn't have them evacuate (which is strange, since I went through MANY evacuations while living there, including four in one year) since the storm developed quickly and was projected to cut directly west across the state. The staff stayed in their rooms and trailers and as the sound of the freight train came in and the wind intensified, many evacuated from their trailers. Good thing because when the sun rose, the day revealed that most of those trailers, RVs and employees' cars were gone, along with the employee pub - washed away into Florida Bay.

He said that the resort lost five out of six houseboats, the marina docks are torn up, the store is in disarray. The Lodge rooms are flooded as well as the cottages. Garbage dumpsters that were behind the restaurant were carried by the six foot storm surge about 1/2 mile across the street and now sit in the Coastal Prairie. Garbage cans and grills from the campground that sits on Florida Bay have been swept about 1,000 yards by the waves. Amazingly, the windows did not blow in, which probably saved many of the employees and their belongings.

He said it will be months before the resort is open again. The staff can return once electric and potable water has been restored. The staff are all fine, physically. Mentally, one can only imagine what they've gone through considering their lives swept away in a matter of minutes.

It makes me sad to think of this destruction. Because although I didn't necessarily have the best of times while living there, but many good memories that sit with me.

Peter will send me some photos later in the week, I'll try to post some when I return. I leave tomorrow for the first hurricane preparedness seminar the office is sponsoring...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Oh, the Irony

Since the first week of work I was tasked at planning a series of hurricane preparedness seminars throughout the state. Having finalized all locations, distributed the brochures, posted on the web, reservations taken, the first seminar - scheduled for this Monday, has been postponed due to the projected path of Hurricane Katrina! Oh, the irony, I love it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New York City: Here I Come (Again)

OK, I'm really excited about this. While IM-ing with ZeldaMae last night, she told me about the New Yorker Festival begin held Sept. 23 - 25. It's "a public discourse of arts and ideas." All sorts of writers (Stephen King) and journalists (Christiane Amanpour - no Anderson Cooper, though - damn!) and other members of the arts world (Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ric Ocasek); of course, writers from the New Yorker, too.

I redeemed some miles for a first class flight and will be staying in a hostel (ironic, I know) - I'm looking to make this a cheap and cheery weekend, which it will be. I dropped one of my sisters a line (because I don't have the other sister's email!) to see if she wanted to come into the City that weekend. It would be fun if she did.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

When I Was First Bitten

It was more than the travel bug that bit me when I was very young, it was the adventure bug, too. When I was five, we moved next door to where my father grew up. Across the street from him lived his childhood friend, Pete Willis.

I remember Mr. Willis didn't live there after we moved in across the street but his parents did. He traveled the world and brought us back treasures from Africa, such as wooden-carved animals and colorful beaded necklaces. My parents (or one of my sisters) have the wooden stools he brought back, too. When he would return home, he and my father would talk of tales about a panther that was hidden in Mr. Willis' barn. I found it hard to believe but a bit of me hoped it was true.

Later, he traveled to the Middle East where I believe he was in Iran during the 1980's and later Afghanistan. I never understood what this burley, bearded man did to travel to these exotic places and at first thought it was odd that he was the same age as my father but not married and didn't have children.

Eventually, a woman moved in across the street, a doctor from Thailand. I was interested in her, too, because she was single, no kids. I remember eating some kind of jello-canned-cranberry-textured stuff that tasted like sulfur. I did not enjoy the taste one bit but enjoyed her sharing herThai culture with us.

Meeting these people piqued my fascination with learning more about the world.

As I got older, I was a slave to 80's music, especially the British Bands (Duran Duran, Culture Club, U2 (I know, they're Irish)) and dreamed of traveling to England and Europe. In high school, I remember one of the neighbor kids asking why I wanted to travel to Europe when I hadn't explored the United States. That summer, my family and I made our first trip west of the Mississippi for a week in Wyoming, including Jackson, Cody, and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. Here, I fell in love with the west.

Upon graduating high school, I made it a goal to return to Yellowstone to work. The second summer following graduation I ran into my high school track coach who asked what I was up to. When I told him my plans of working in Yellowstone the following summer, his reply was something like, "yeah, right, whatever."

He didn't believe I could do it and I did. For six summers and one winter I did. In a strange way, that "hiking path" led to my current "career path." Since then, I've traveled to Europe, Canada, Cuba and Japan as well as extensively throughout the US. It's a big world and I've merely made a dent in seeing it.

I often think about these people who came along in my life who questioned what I wanted to do, what I wanted to see. Travel off the beaten path isn't for everyone but it's for me, in my own way. Because my wants and desires were different from theirs, I feel as though I was viewed differently, when in fact, there's nothing "wrong" with me.

Right now, I'm strategizing either for Russia or Iran next spring or summer, visiting my "Russian sister" or tagging along with a friend to her homeland of Iran.

Things I Did This Weekend


This weekend was fairly low-key. Besides being sick (following my first road trip with my new job), I took it easy by unpacking, visiting the Caribbean Festival downtown, setting up my PC AND sewing machine and making some necklaces (pictured here).

I tried to write some poetry, too, but couldn't get anything to come together. I've been so empty of negative emotion and unable to cry that I thought poetry would be another avenue to express what I'm feeling. It's as though when I get a negative or depressing thought and feel myself spiral into a pit of sadness, the negativity/depression is repelled away, like two magnets coming together. Those two magnets never touch but you can feel the repulsion as you try harder to make them meet.

I also contemplated the fact that "blue" is a truly underrated color. You don't hear of the "perfect blue little dress" or a song called, "The Lady in Blue." It's actually a very complementary color on many people, especially those with blue eyes.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Finding My Way In Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland


Weary travelers with confused looks and wrinkled maps are common sites on major city streets, say, Manhattan. One doesn't expect to see tourists with looks of frustration and weariness within a resort trying to find their room , unless they are staying at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville.

It's quite impressive that nine-acres of lush landscaping complete with a winding river and waterfalls are housed within a climate-controlled glass dome. I imagine it being a modern Biosphere 2. But unlike the Biosphere 2, the inhabitants could find their way within, and even (controversially) out of the dome with ease. Not so at the Opryland.

I had heard that the Opryland had a very confusing layout. Being navigationally challenged myself, I was curious as to how complex it could be. Little did I know that accepting my room key and map was like accepting a challenge. Something like "The Amazing Race." My smuggish road warrior instinct kicked in upon deciding that if families who travel once a year could navigate the maze, I certainly could do so.

I navigated fine through the first atrium only with minor barriers. Some tourists were taking pictures of a walking plant and wouldn't move so I inadvertently rolled my suitcase over Pa Kettle and knocked over Ma Kettle's sweet tea. I drudged on to be tripped up by the two mini-escalators that seemed to go no where.

Despite directional signs, the Opryland management is aware that getting lost is an issue (although, I don't recall seeing a "lost and found" nor a "lost child center.") because there are plenty of Opryland staff dotted within the complex to assist wary travelers. Of course, it would be real hospitable if they carried trays of lemonade or water, but I deviate...

With the assistance of a proper Southern gentleman, he walked me to my elevator where I finally reached my resting point. I missed most of the conference sessions because I could not find my way to the conference area nor to the specific meeting rooms. But, I did find my way to the evening events, which included performances by Donna Summers, BJ Thomas, Phil Vasser and LeeAnn Rimes (pictured above).

Despite being a tad overwhelming, the Opryland's staff does Southern Hospitality right to make every guest feel welcome. But next time, I'll be bringing a GPS. A trail of bread crumbs doesn't work - the staff cleans it up too quickly.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wired - 24/7

I returned to the office today with a little surprise vibrating on my desk. Something I've dreaded and never liked touching. A Blackberry. The office decided it's time for us "worker bees" be connected to the Mother Ship 24/7.

I like to think I have some knowledge of technology but I've avoided the affectionately nicknamed "Crackberry" (for those of you who don't know - it's called this because it's addictive). The positive is that it's a phone, email, Internet, AIM and organizer (among other things) and can be used for personal use. I no longer need to haul my PDA, 2 cell phones and laptop. I just can't figure out how to turn it off.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nashville Fling

Ingredients:

*3 parts Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
*1 part cranberry juice

Stir in one (1) fear to conquer and pour over five (5) ice cubs. Drink once every 30 minutes for two hours and gain the confidence to conquer the world.

OK, four drinks give me a little courage to conquer some fears and don't let me loose control of myself. Tonight (this morning) I danced ON the bar at Coyote Ugly, alongside some twenty-somethings. Amazingly, it was a liberating experience. And no, I did not leave my bra behind...

Friday, August 12, 2005

These Boots Were Made for Flyin'

After more than a month of vacationing from my road warrior status, I hit the road again tomorrow for Nashville. Over the next four weeks, I think I'm traveling every week except one. I can't WAIT to go through airport security! Despite efforts to have consistent security processes across the US, every airport is different. And when traveling in Europe, a whole other ball game. I'm sure more tales will be told from this venture, stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Midnight Motion Pictures

The whole concept of dreams fascinate me. Not the kind where you hope for something then it comes to fruition, but those that happen during the REM period. I often wonder if they are premonitions or just avenues to live out our dreams and wishes. Or, a way to vent our frustrations and confront fears.

And what does it mean when there are recurring people in our dreams? Especially people who you haven't consciously thought about in years suddenly appear in your personal, late night motion picture. Or recurring themes - for years I've dreamt of exploring beyond my parent's woods and discovering a castle with cemetery. Is it because I always wondered what was beyond the borders?

Or emotions - I've had dreams of varying intensities. Usually following the ending of personal relationships, I have a dream that brings me closure and allows me to move on. But what happens when I don't have that dream bringing me closure?

I have felt intense sadness in a dream and thought I was crying but woke up laughing. Last night my dream dealt with frustration and disappointment and when I awoke, my body was extremely tense. The dream disturbed me and took me an hour to go back to sleep and dream about venomous river otters...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Eye of the Beholder


I admit. I'm a sucker for art, especially folk and pop art. While driving down the road in Tallahassee, I past a junk-yard looking place with a sign that read "American Folk Art Museum and Gallery." I stopped and met Missionary Mary L. Proctor, artist and owner.

She's being painting and creating for 10 years, following the death of her grandmother, aunt and uncle - who left her what started as a junk yard. She paints on doors, shutters, metal siding and anything she can get her hands on. She gave me a tour of the grounds. She's pictured with one of her earlier works.

She paints whimsy and emotion into each piece and incorporates buttons, soda cans, dollar bills, anything she can get her hands on, into the work. Each creation is bright and authentic.

Her main inspiration is God along with her grandmother and others who come in and out of her life. Mary's personality is as colorful as her artwork, each bit having a story. We went into one room where a rat sat on top of one her works and listened in. She proudly showed me her creation of all 42 US Presidents in which she crafted for Tallahassee's Spring in the Park celebration along with a book for each President but was told she could not exhibit the pieces because it contained President Andrew Jackson. The City had received a threat against Mary if she exhibited because of that piece.

She pointed out a tower of bicycles. Those bikes ended up there because people did think she was crazy and began tossing old bikes onto the property. She stacked them up to create a tower with a cut out of the Statue of Liberty holding a baby. She said it signifies that women keep the United States together and bicycles represent individuals. Even though not in perfect condition, we keep going and will triumph.

Sadly, she said not many of the locals stop and visit her gallery. She's waiting for some wealthy benefactor to come along and help clean up the grounds and provide a proper venue to display her work. I plan to see Mary again and she's worth meeting while visiting Tallahassee.

Now I See

Last week I felt like crap. I was tired and had to drag myself out of bed each morning. My whole body and mental state felt run down. I attributed it to the busy weekend I had earlier, but after 8 and 9 hours of sleep each night, I still felt horrible.

I had an eye exam yesterday and my blood pressure was measured. The top number was 25 points higher than it was 2 months ago. This explained why I was feeling miserable. After having my pupils dilated and driving around town like a freak (because I had to wear a black, plastic sheet over my eyes and under my glasses - but, it look very "80's-band-like") I went to the drug store and paid out of pocket for my medication that I haven't been taking. Long story but it has to do with changing jobs and being cancelled by my previous insurance - although I signed up for COBRA and the new one doesn't kick in until October.

I also attribute it to the natural stress of relocating and starting a new job. As my friend Barb, who now lives in Petrified Forest National Park, pointed out a couple of months ago, with all the life changes that have happened to me within the past year, it's natural for my stress level to be high.

I stocked up on soy products and other "healthy" eating options and maybe it's a state of mind, but I'm feeling better.

Friday, August 05, 2005

What Does It All Mean?

Today in the office, a journalist asked if there was a scientific reason why Florida sunsets are so vibrant. According to Florida International University there is a scientific reason. The ocean light is suspended by salt particles and water vapor reflect and causes brilliant sunsets. As for the top 10 locations for a Florida sunset? Anywhere looking west.

Then I went shopping alongside the mall-rats, feeling worse about myself. I had intentions of buying a DVD player - so I could watch my pilates DVDs on a TV screen vs. my laptop - since I have room to stretch out, but ended up purchasing two movies ("Like Water for Chocolate" and "Eternal Sunshine"), no clothing and no DVD player. The advantage about living in a college town is that "things" seem a bit more affordable. The disadvantage about living in a college town is that you're surrounded by young twenty-somethings and are reminded of the laws of gravity. *sigh*

Arriving home, I had a bizarre package waiting for me. It was a padded envelope with the return address of the place where my mail used to go. The gal there opens my mail then forwards the "real" stuff to me. In this week's envelope was a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. No note. No clue. Nothing. So, I don't know if the shipping gal just decided to send me some ears or if someone mailed them to me and she threw the envelope away. Very strange. At least now I have a matching set!

And will they or won't they? I'm confused. Last week Bush stated he didn't have an answer when the troops would return from Iraq, only when Iraq is ready (paraphrasing). A few days later, while Bush is vacationing in Texas, there's talk that the troops will begin pulling out in the spring - about 20,000 of the 120,000+ that are stationed. Yesterday, following the al-Zawahri video, Bush said the US will stay in Iraq and complete the job. (Could he be a "flip-flopper?" Nooo, Republicans wouldn't do that!)

What is the definition of complete anyway? The fact that we went in and destroyed Iraq and captured Hussein, that completed something, didn't it? And all the lives affected directly and indirectly by the war. The Iraqi and Afghan lives - lost and changed. Those State-side who physically lost loved ones while others lost loved ones in other, non-tangible ways.

Our government seems to offer a support network for Iraq and those Americans directly impacted by the war. But what about the rest who are going through a transition due to an indirect impact of the war on terror and are not receiving assistance from the government - a government that caused the change - when will the transition be complete? Of course, maybe it all doesn't matter.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Nuthin' Much

Well, I have nothing much to say right now, my mind feels like mush. I'm really enjoying my job but I work a solid 8 hours (plus break), balancing assignments. A new project is to plan 10 meetings throughout the state between now and October and have it complete by next week. At least the days fly by.

I was asked today what my weekend plans were and I replied, "I don't know."

The air was sucked out of the room by the questioner as she gasped with surprise.

What I need to do is just get organized. Both mentally and physically. For the past few weeks I haven't done that, focusing on story deadlines. I need to go through my email inboxes - 90 emails to sort through - that's why I haven't responded to most everyone! And find some storage units for my place, like bookshelves, filing cabinet, etc. so I can put away my "stuff."

I do want to share this little piece that I picked up in the daily news clips (what this has to do with Florida tourism, I have no idea). While working in Yellowstone one summer, I had a fascination with llamas so this story caught my eye. Enjoy!

Llamas Scare Austrian Drivers

Monday, August 01, 2005

Showing Up is 90% of the Work

Or that saying goes something like that. Upon realizing that I want to be a writer when I grow up - OK - I AM a writer already, I want to live off my writing - the competition is a mixed bag. A lot of writing is just plain bad, but, those people are actually writing and doing something. They are following through. And that's the problem with perfectionists, we wait until what we want to do is perfectly laid out from the vision in our mind and nothing ever gets done.

I've been busting my "fingers" to get my stories about Japan finished this week and sent them off to the editor Saturday and last night, to make deadline. She thanked me then sent out a generic email extending the deadline and that some people who offered to submit something haven't done so. I don't understand why people say they will do something then not follow through. If they can't do it, just explain why!

I found a grant for travel writers and I think I'm going to apply. All they can tell me is, "no." (Although, I think they just wouldn't respond since it's via email). The granter is looking for fresh ideas on destinations to visit and looking for ideas. I have a couple ideas on destinations I'd like to visit that have very little information written up about them (of course, there could be a reason for that). I'll see what happens.

I know I need to catch up on all sorts of adventures over the past few weekends, but here's a rundown of what's been happening:

*Visited Sarasota over the weekend - it was a LOT of time in the car. Those five hours are getting longer. BUT, it was good to see everyone and grateful for everyone's hospitality.

*Price I paid for fuel yesterday:

Sarasota $2.37
Lake City $2.49 (!!!!)
Tallahassee $2.22

*After five weeks of living without a paycheck, got my first one, yippee! Other income I took in last week:

$5 for taking an in-mall survey.
.14 (yes, that's fourteen cents) from American Express for some anti-litigation thing and foreign currency.

*My water bill for the month: I was concerned about utilities and was cautious about conserving when possible. The bill was $6.23. Don't get grossed out, I did take daily showers and washed my dishes accordingly. Guess the cost of living up here really is less than Sarasota! AND - if I take two in-mall surveys a month, I'd have enough to pay the water bill AND maybe a Starbucks frap.

*Filed and buffed my fingernails on the drive down to Sarasota. Realizing that's probably not a safe thing to do, I picked up Spanish language CDs for the return trip and intermingled the lesson with the Brazilian Girls' CD (only one of them is a girl, by the way - The Beatles weren't bugs!). I made it through lesson 4 and realized I still know a lot of Spanish.

*One time I felt old this week: Asking the music person at Best Buy for the Traveling Wilburys CD - She had never heard of them.

Gotta go do the laundry thing, until next time...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

EEEEEEEE, UUUUUUUUU, KKKKKKRRRRR

For the record, I'd like to say: I HATE DIAL-UP INTERNET! Guess I'll have to change that.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Things That Can Bump You in the Dark...

Eastern Pipistrelle Bat
Eastern Pipistrelle Bat,
originally uploaded by QuirkyKitschGirl.
...or get caught in your hair. Stay tuned, posting coming soon!

Stalactites Hang Down...

Stay tuned, posting to come along soon!

Friday, July 22, 2005

UPDATED Nov. 6, 2005: Bogging Through Apalachicola National Forest

Knee-deep in the watery bog of Apalachicola National Forest, I took a step back to comfort myself against a cypress tree. "Do you know what you did not do? My tall, lanky photography instructor asked. "ou did not look for water moccasins, he scolded.

Not only had I had gotten up at o-dark-thirty on a precious Sunday morning, I was now in the middle of a venomous snake-invested bog somewhere in Florida's wilderness and could be left for dead because I did not listen to what I was instructed. I squeaked out an, "Oops! Thanks for the reminder,"and allowed instructor Dr. Thomas Eads, of Apalachecology Photo Tours, to lead the way to the next Kodak moment.

Cameras dangled from our necks and tripods doubled as walking sticks as we slowly trudged through the tea-colored water. Dutifully, I remembered to always make sure my back foot was anchored before shifting my weight to my front foot, in case I stepped into a sink hole. "How many snakes have you seen here?" I hesitantly asked.

"Well, just one so far. It swam into my buddy's leg, bounced off and kept on swimming,"he casually replied.

This was good news for me and I reasoned that my odds of surviving this trip were pretty good. The chances seemed minimal of being bitten, let alone, seeing one of these dark creatures.

Having lived in Tallahassee just under a month, I was trying to take in as much as I could. Clyde Butcher is a landscape photographer whom I admire and have always heard of his photography classes through the Everglades' waters. Tallahassee-photographer Tom Eads offers a similar program.

Not only did I get to see a whole new world through the camera lense, Dr. Tom introduced me to his. With a background in biology (a doctorate, to be exact) and passion for the environment, this was no ordinary photography trip. As we cautiously walked through the bogs of the forest, he pointed out the small critters in the big ecosystem around us. He said, "it's not about saving the fuzzy, white squirel. When the fuzzy, white squirel is doing well, the surrounding environment is doing well," which indicates a healthy situation for humans.

We had briefly stopped to photograph some pitcher plants when I looked down to see a small, brown frog. Minnows swam by the frog and a half-dozen different plants surrounded the frog. All in a square-foot of land. Our photography also included capturing the colors of various Florida wildflowers and tall, stoic trees. The experience changed the phrase, "see the forest for the trees."