Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much, but blogging is trippy.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

T-shirts

I love t-shirts.

I can remember a day (twenty-one years ago) when I didn't own any t-shirts. I went through all of my childhood and teenaged years owning nothing more than a couple of t-shirts, one of which said, "Vote for Bobby [Somebody]". I didn't wear t-shirts in summer; I certainly didn't wear t-shirts to school. I don't know why, really, except that my mother guided me through all of my shopping excursions, and t-shirts never came up when we were checking out.

When I was a sophomore in college, I owned two t-shirts. One was white with red photo-realistic pigs allllllll the way around the middle. The other was a hand-tinted portrait of Peewee Herman. (This was before his fall from grace.) I loved both of those t's. They were *cool*. The only other t-shirt I wanted and didn't own said "Not a well woman." I never could work up the nerve to buy that one on the grounds that I probably would never be brave enough to wear it.

I was something of a coward.

Now I own lots and lots of t-shirts. Most of them pertain to scrapbooking or Disney. I have a few generic patriotic t's, a small assortment of concert t's, and one that says, "Art Won't Hurt You."

But see, the thing is, I remember vividly my psych professor saying that if we could all wear a t-shirt that said the most profound truth of our psyches, *all* of our t-shirts would say, "Love me."

I remember a *lot* about Intro to Psych. I loved that class.

Anyway, the other day I was telling my sister -- the computer geek -- that I love computer geeks and I wish I had a t-shirt that said, "I *heart* computer geeks."

She actually surfed around until she found something that might suffice. I'm not a gamer, but I am torn between "I *heart* Geeks" and "I *heart* Nerds" *and* that yummy little tee that says, "Wench."

"Wench" is almost as cool as "Not a well woman." Isn't it? But not half as cool as a computer geek.

I *do* love computer geeks. Even though I don't own a t-shirt to procaim my love for them. I'll just have to say it very often until someone makes a t-shirt for me.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

2 seconds

Finally -- finally! -- I can tell you about "Shaun of the Dead."

First of all, stop reading this blog and go put "Shaun of the Dead" on your DVD rental queue. I can wait. I'll be here when you get back. That's "Shaun of the Dead." Not "Dawn of the Dead." British comedy. Not bad but classic American horror flick. I can wait. I'll be patient.

OK, are you back? All right.

Last Monday morning at about 6:00 in the morning, I saw "Shaun of the Dead" on one of the 8 Cinemax channels. Later that night, I watched it again. And I watched it again Wednesday. Twice. And twice on Thursday, I think. And... tonight. It's on heavy rotation on the Cinemaxes. If you subscribe to Cinemax, maybe you can catch it Sunday night at 8:00 EST.

I emailed my sister Amy on Tuesday and told her she needs to watch it. Then I emailed her again the next day, reminding her that she needs to watch "Shaun of the Dead." By that time, I was making a serious study of the impossible-to-understand British comments in the movie and translating them to something that not only sounded like English, but actually *enhanced* my understanding of the film.

It's a *great* movie. If you haven't seen it, you must. I'm not kidding. I just watched it 7 times in one week, and I'm looking forward to receiving it on DVD for my own personal library.

Comedies are dicey for recommendations. For instance, many people I know are completely bonkers for "The Blues Brothers." Personally, it doesn't appeal to me. Similarly, I couldn't make it more than 11 minutes into "Napoleon Dynamite." The humor in that movie was just too violent and *hostile* for me and my tender sensibilities.

And I'm a total weenie about scary movies. I insist that people watch scary movies before I do, and tell me absolutely every single *possible* scary moment so I can be forewarned about them. Otherwise, I can't make it through the movie. Remember "Signs" by M. Night Shyamalan? (Or however you spell his name....) I stopped it and refused to watch it until my husband had watched the whole thing and told me all about it so I could finish the rest of it. I'm just ... really sensitive.

But "Shaun of the Dead" is absolutely fabulous. It's terribly British and terribly dry and witty.

So here are my caveats.

If you like "Raising Arizona" and "Galaxy Quest," you'll like "Shaun of the Dead."

If you throw away the remote when you come across "50 First Dates" and "Intolerable Cruelty," you'll like "Shaun of the Dead."

If you have entire Monty Python albums memorized and understand the difference between "oy" and "hey," you'll like "Shaun of the Dead."

It's fabulous. Watch it. I have just ordered it on DVD to keep for my very own. I have so many bits memorized that I don't really *need* it on DVD, but I want to see the deleted scenes and hear the director's commentary.

That's how much I love that movie.

I won't guarantee you'll laugh your rear off. In point of fact, I didn't laugh once the first time I watched it. But that was because I was *afraid* to laugh for fear I would miss something spectacular. Now I laugh uproariously through many scenes.

Also, Bill Nighy is in it, and he's a complete freaking geeeeeeeeeenius.

It's a great relief to *finally* be able to discuss the finer points of the film with my sister. She watched it tonight with her husband, and I was so worried that I had built it up too high and that she would be disappointed. I'm delighted to report that she found it as fabulous I. And now she knows what I mean when I say, "2 seconds," or "bye BYE bye..."

Now, go watch "Shaun of the Dead." Or if you're already a devoted fan, be sure to post a comment so other blog readers won't think I've lost my mind! Thx. :)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

27 years


Ever since I moved to Tennessee at age 11, I have complained vehemently about the how cold the ground water is. It gets hot here in the summer -- and muggy -- but never hot enough to warm up the ground so a person can play in the garden hose without freezing.

In Georgia (after the Bertha Upshaw Clubhouse closed the only semi-public pool in Social Circle), I would play in the garden hose for hours. But not in Tennessee. Oh, no. The water is just too dang cold.

Several years ago, I bought a toy for my children that attaches to the garden hose and sprays water into the air. I would have loved a thing like that when I was young. My kids hardly played with it, so it still works. As they've gotten older, I've sold off many big yard-toy type things, big turtle-shaped sandboxes and giant mountains that Matchbox cars fly down and a whole host of play yards with baby toys affixed to them -- but this garden-hose-water-squirting toy has remained a fixture in our garage for those rare days that are so hot the kids want to *try* to play in the garden hose.

Finally, yesterday, it was so hot that I attached that thing to the garden hose (after washing my gorgeous Prius) and played in the water with Woodrow.

It was really fun. Tepid water is great stuff.

Other than that spot of fun, all I can report is that I have deadlines and my manicure is perfect. My manicure is so perfect that I figure I will break a nail today. I'll probably break it down to the quick, too. I leave for Wisconsin on Wednesday, and it would be nice to have a perfect manicure there -- but I sincerely doubt these hands will still look like a million bucks by the time I climb on the plane. If I *do* have nice nails when I climb on that plane, they won't survive five minutes. I'm a white-knuckle flyer.

And many thanks to Emily for patiently futzing with the water-spraying-thingamabob for my photo today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Once upon a time

I recently watched "Finding Neverland" on DVD. I cried buckets. After I watched the movie, I watched the special features -- my favorite thing about DVD's is the special features. In one of the "making of" thingies, they discussed the line that Peter says that is unfailingly perfect. "Do you believe in fairies? If you believe, clap your hands."

Last year, I had a layout published with my Peter Pan story, and the part about how that line always worked actually prompted some readers of the magazine to write to me. It's a universal thing. It seems to affect people, young and old, regardless of their preconceptions about the play or fairies or pirates or Lost Boys. It sneaks up on you and forces you to believe for a few minutes. And I have to say that as someone who's once said that line in front of an audience, it creates the most indelible impression.

Turns out that -- as J.M. Barrie wrote it -- that line has worked for every actress (or actor, I guess) who's ever uttered it. The first performance of the play prompted the first actress portraying Peter Pan to run offstage, crying over the audience response.

It's that kind of line.

By the way, don't go 'round looking up J.M. Barrie's biography online. Don't read about the boys who inspired the play. It's all outrageously depressing. I would prefer to believe that everyone always lives happily ever after.

Even poisoned fairies.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Speechless


Starstruck.

Speechless.

So thrilled, I don't even care that this may be the second worst picture ever taken of me.

I met Blake Clark tonight.

I've been quoting him for at least 15 years. Fifteen... years. At least. When Wesley and I had to move to Illinois at the very end of 1990, we had already seen a few "famous" comics at the comedy club in Chattanooga. My sister Amy said we couldn't move -- what if Blake Clark came to Chattanooga? We moved, anyway -- well, for a year. I couldn't handle being a Yankee for long, after all.

And the years stretched out and turned into a decade, and another half of a decade passed. We heard that Blake Clark was in Chattanooga *after* we already missed the show. Still I stalked him. When he showed up on TV (Brett Butler's sitcom) and in movies (ohhhhhhhhhhhh, he was sublime in "50 First Dates"), I was glued to the screen.

I mean -- I really love this guy's work. He's Southern. That's a big plus. I love his voice. But most of all, I love the way he rants. He's so *smart*.

He came to Knoxville, and dagnabbit, Amy now lives in Las Vegas. Is Blake Clark in Las Vegas? No. He's in Knoxville. (And it occurs to me, at 3:00 in the morning, that he's just up the road, and maybe I could go stalk his hotel.... nahhhhhhhh, he's married......)

Since my sister couldn't come with us, Wesley snagged 12 people to come along. Actually, two of them were friends of mine from high school. We all had a very good time before the show -- some of us got there early and ate dinner. (I had a great grilled chicken salad, and I didn't even have to knock over any little old ladies for it, either.) I also started drinking rum & cokes much earlier than usual.

Donna Carter, the opening act -- as I posted earlier this morning -- was very, very good.

But when Blake hit the stage -- I swear -- I got goosebumps on my arms. And it was pretty hot in the club with so many drunk people packed in to see the guy who played Farmer Fran in "Water Boy." (I've never seen that movie... shhhhhhh, don't tell Blake. I did see his Farmer Fran reprise in "Joe Dirt" -- I hope that makes up for my ignorance.) I couldn't believe he was really here. And we had *excellent* seats. We were directly in the middle, one table back from the front.

Blake was completely brilliant, and I laughed so hard that I feared I would hurt myself. He was just *hilarious*. It was all new material, with some favorite old lines thrown in for good measure. ("I fought in Vietnam, and I grew up in Georgia. That's like being punished for the same crime twice.")

When the show was over, Donna was selling her darlin' t-shirts and Blake's co-writer was selling autographed copies of their book "You Know You're a Hacker if...". (It's not a computer book, y'all. It's about golf.)

We hung around for a bit, waiting for the crowd to thin out. Also... Uh..... Remember, I had those two rum & cokes? I *ran* for the ladies' room the second Blake moved to leave the stage. I was about to *die*. I wouldn't get up in the middle of his act to save a drowning child, though -- I had waited 15 years for this!!!!

That's when we found out Blake wasn't with the book. His co-writer John Hodge was really nice, though -- he's the one who took the pictures on my blog tonight. I chatted a bit with him about writing and blogging and websites and such, and it turns out he now lives in Knoxville. Kewl! How'd we score a hottie like him? He's gotta be married.

In the meantime, Wesley was chatting with the owner of the club, who let slip that Blake *might* be in the bar after the second show started. Most of our companions had left, but Sharon and Scott and Wesley and I all went to the bar to hang out and wait.

It was hot in the bar. And crowded with the people who were there to see the second show. And there was no place to sit. And my shoes hurt. And every single inconvenience I experienced was totally worth it, and I would go back and stand in the heat all over again for what happened once the second show started.

See that picture up there at the top of this post? That's me. And Blake Clark. And Wesley. And see where Blake Clark's arm is? Yes! That's right!!!! It's *around me*!!!!!!!!!

But that's not even the coolest part. The coolest part is that after the photo, Blake Clark -- Blake Clark -- sat there and chatted with us for about half an hour as if he knew us and was just hanging out for a while before going off to do a shift at his normal job.

Just as Donna was doing her last little closing bit (which is hilarious) and the audience was clapping and cheering for her, he stood up and shook hands with us.

I'm never gonna wash my right hand again.

OK, maybe next week. But only if I have to.

Donna Carter -- No wrinkles!!!


Donna Carter was the "featured" performer before the headliner tonight, and she was a *great* warm-up for the evening. I laughed very, very hard, and she said some terribly true things. So I bought the t-shirt with the biggest and most profound truth (Fat Girls Don't Wrinkle!), and she was kind enough to sign it and stand for a photo. You can check out her website, and if you're lucky, maybe you'll see her perform, too!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Out of the frying pan....

... into the fire.

Today was not a good day. The air conditioner works -- that's great. I got eight hours of sleep last night *and* I awoke before noon -- that's faboo. I got a *great* package from my sister with garlic-stuffed olives, a t-shirt, postcards, a book, *and* the most darling DVD of her dog Leon -- and that rocked.

Other than that, I had a few really icky things happening.

Several, *several* weeks ago, I decided to host an ATC swap. ATC's are Artist Trading Cards. They're cool. I made a post about it a while ago. Fourteen participants signed up, and I think I gave everyone five or six weeks to make their cards and send them to me.

Ohhhhhh, silly me. I didn't make lots of rules and regulations, and I don't think I communicated enough with my participants. There were a number of hiccups. Most of the problems were ironed out in a fairly timely fashion, except for one: I haven't received two packets of cards.

I'm beside myself. I don't know what to do. It's horrifying on so many levels, I can't even begin to express it or fix it. The idea that an artist spent hours making artwork, spent money on postage, and shipped these things off to me for sorting -- and they didn't *get* here -- is just horrifying. Weeks have passed since the date I was supposed to re-send these cards to everyone, and all the participants are being *extraordinarily* patient and forgiving.

*I*, in the meantime, am just dying of embarrassment and worry. I'm embarrassed because I must be the worst swap hostess in the history of swapping. And I'm worried because... this is *art* we're talking about. People don't just crank out ATC's like penny candy. Where, oh, *where* can those cards *be*????

For one of the missing packets, I've emailed the artist to let her know that I need her snail mail address and I want to reimburse her for the postage costs. I haven't heard back from her. I'm afraid she's furious with me. As for the other artist, she may not even be aware that her package is missing. I emailed her, too, hoping against hope that she didn't, in fact, get the cards in the mail yet. Fingers crossed. Knock on wood. Throwing salt over my shoulder, rubbing a rabbit's foot, and planning to buy some lucky crystals and sacrifice a goat to cover all the bases.

I would rather some cards arrive late, than not arrive at all. But even late is driving me crazy. I feel so badly about this. Ugh. My stomach hurts from the stress.

The other really, *really* icky thing is that an article I wrote has erroneous information in it. My editor called me today to let me know, and to ask about my research and sources for the information. Thank heaven I keep detailed records of this stuff!!!!

It turns out the manufacturer of one of the tools (which were featured in the July issue of the magazine) never did supply me with basic information or the product which was being reviewed. Their website didn't even offer the information at press time. I tried to contact them; I *begged* for an actual tool to see with my own eyes; the manufacturer basically ignored my very existence, and now he's all bent out of shape because of some factual errors. (I had the wrong price, wrong number of tips included, and the wrong size thingamabobs with which it would work.) Hey, man, I could only get that info off an online store's website, and they weren't even shipping the tool yet; they were selling pre-orders! Not only did I check the source, I double- and triple-checked it.

Thank heaven, the magazine and my editor are standing behind me and the information we had at press time. And at least I know I did the best job I could do with the complete lack of cooperation I received from the manufacturer. I can guarantee you, though, that I will not be running out to buy that particular tool. I'm considering contacting his competition and offering my services as an endorsing artist.

And the final really icky thing? My beloved monthly free crop at the Maple Grove Inn is on hold for this weekend. Alison has a family emergency and needs to go see her parents in Erwin. Mary Beth can't make it if we postpone the crop until *next* weekend. I don't know what to do. I'm stuck in the middle. All I wanna do is crop and drink and eat a snack!!!!!!!!

After a day like this, there's nothing to be done except to pop some popcorn, get some chocolate chip cookies, and watch a movie. So don't expect any more blog posts from me until, oh, September. This could take a while!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Secret O' Life

I'm a James Taylor fan. I'm married to a Parrothead. [Note: A "Parrothead" is what Jimmy Buffett fans call themselves.] I think that comparison says a lot about who we are and what motivates us.

While searching for inspiration today (I needed *one* sentence to kickstart a whole newsletter, and man, I hate that kind of writer's block), I found a five-year-old trip report of mine. After three chapters, I started using a quote to give the readers a clue about what was going on the rest of the day. Who knew John Donne could ever be applied to a Walt Disney World trip? Well. Apparently *I* knew.

Anyway, one of the days started with the lyric, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time," from James Taylor's song, "Secret O' Life." I love that song. I love what that song *says*. It makes me cry. In a good way.

I have spent my life trying to figure out how to simply enjoy the passage of time. Just when I think I've got the knack of it, something happens to throw me offtrack. Like the air conditioner breaking -- oh, it is finally fixed. Thank heaven. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were a blur of hot, sweaty misery. I couldn't *think*, it was so hot. I kept telling myself that I was going to go to a motel and check in just so I could sleep. I was talking to my sister on the phone, and I compared myself to a super computer from the mid-80's. Like a Cray, I couldn't think when I was hot.

[Most people don't know what Crays were. My sister did. A Cray did the animation in the Dire Straits' hit "Money for Nothing." When was that -- 1985? 1986? Pixar is built on the fossilized bones of old Dire Straits videos, eh?]

Now the AC works, and I can once again move through the air in my house without sludging to a complete, brainless stop, wondering where I was going or what I was doing. I have deadlines. I have things to do. I have stuff to write, and I *still* have this tremendous, undeniable, incredible urge to create. And my scrap space is still a mess, so I have no *room* in which to create. It's an unending cycle.

I'm going on vacation in mid-August. Before then, I'll be traveling to Wisconsin for Club Scrap Retreat. I can't wait for Retreat. I haven't been since 2003. They pamper people at Club Scrap Retreat, and I need some pampering.

Maybe I can slow down at Retreat and "try not to try too hard -- it's just a lovely ride."

And if that doesn't work, I'll put on a Hawaiian shirt and sing "Grapefruit, Juicy Fruit," which is the only Jimmy Buffett song that I know from beginning to end. Mostly because it's short.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hot summer rain


The mist in this picture rises from the railroad tracks just across from our house. A swift, hard summer rain came along and cooled off the afternoon for just a few minutes, and for that amount of time, I thought perhaps the broken air conditioner wouldn't be so bad. I thought maybe the rain would cool the world. I danced around in that rain -- because I really do dance in the rain, still, even though I'm middle-aged and frumpy little old ladies aren't supposed to play in the rain -- but it didn't last long enough to really cool off the world. Within seconds of the cessation of fat droplets, the mist rose from the railroad tracks, roads, and roofs, and turned the town into a sauna.

Yes, it's pretty. Yes, I will always remember it, even if I hadn't snapped a quick photo of it. But it's still miserably hot in the house. Now, at almost 3:00 in the morning, the thermostat stands stubborn at 85 degrees.

When I was a child, we lived in a huge, old house in Georgia. That house had no central air. The heater was a frightening oil furnace that burned real flame and made me think that monsters really existed. The only air conditioner in the whole house was a window unit in the sun porch, a room we called the "brick-floored room." At night, the rest of the house was very, very hot, and we kept our windows open and box fans blowing. We could still hear the night sounds -- the crickets, the frogs, the occasional barking dog or hoot owl -- and the warm air would push across us in our beds, covered only with sheets and our thin summer nightgowns.

Later, when I started going to camp in the mountains of North Georgia, I found out how much cooler the night air is up there. I was so cold, and so skinny, when I was a counselor, if I had to be out after dark, I wore jeans and sweatshirts to keep warm. The mornings were so cool that I wore the same uniform to breakfast, and the days didn't get hot until the sun burned through the mountain air and made us all change to shorts.

Right now, at this minute, I am in an agony of longing for those cold mountain nights. No owl is calling; no frogs are singing; all of humanity and nature are so hot that we can't make a sound for fear the vibrations in the air will cause friction and heat it even more. I don't know how I will sleep; I don't know how I can sleep in this hot soup atmosphere. The air is so thick with heat and humidity, I can hardly breathe.

Yes, it's pretty. Of course I still love the South. But oh, I wish my air conditioner were already fixed. If this continues another day, I'll have to check into a motel just to get some rest.

Monday, July 18, 2005

O, the humidity.

Can't think. Air conditioner dead. Need air. Need cool air. Must get in car. Can't shower -- too hot to shower. Am a mess -- a stinky, sweaty mess. Cat keeps making mad dash for the refrigerator whenever we open it to get cold drink. Cat becomes angry when we block his entry. Cold drink becomes warm very quickly. Birds are ecstatic. Humans are not.

Can't work in this heat. Can't write. Can't think. Can't make art. Can't read a book. Just ... need ... air conditioning!!!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Blowing off steam


I'm hot, and I'm angry, and I'm flipping mindlessly through images in my computer in an effort to make myself happy, and I can't do it.

Mama used to say, "You'll get over it." And I will. But that was never a very effective way to deal with anger.

Once, when I was 16, I was so mad at my sister Amy that I poured an entire can of Coke off the porch. I don't remember what she said; I don't remember why I was so mad at her, but I was really seething. We had been taught from early childhood that kids don't hit. Only Mamas had that privilege, and it was only done with a switch, and I hadn't been switched since age 9, anyway. There I was, as mad as I could possibly be, and I couldn't scream, and I couldn't yell, and I couldn't say something hateful, and I couldn't throw things, or hit, or kick, or anything else that might have been considered violent.

So I opened a can of Coke, fresh from the fridge, with condensation already clinging to the side, and I stomped out to my tea porch and poured the whole thing over the banister into the yard.

Then I smashed the can -- or just barely dented it, really, because I didn't smash cans as a rule -- and threw it at the nearest magnolia tree. It fell far short of its target. Darned aluminum. Darned aerodynamics. Darn my weak, sissy-like, girly throwing arm.

Later that afternoon, I had to go out there and get the can, of course.

I'm just not very good with the whole "anger" thing, anyway. I rant and rave. I'm good at that. But I just don't deal well with it when there's not someone to rant at.

Our air conditioner died again this afternoon. It was making terrible noises last night. Now the fan -- the *new* fan with the *new* motor that we just bought a month ago for our *relatively new* (5 year old) air conditioner -- is deader than four o'clock.

The house is 80 degrees right now. All the ceiling fans are on, but the air outside is about 80 degrees, too, and I don't want to open the windows in this heat.

Now, as if that weren't enough, my daughter Emily came to me with complaints of chipped teeth. I took one look in her mouth and had conniptions. Those aren't chips. Those are *cavities*.

This is 2005, ladies and gentlemen, and the United States of America has been putting fluoride in the drinking water since I was a tot. I know I was a tot because I have *terrible* teeth, and my dentist blames it on my poor genetic make-up and a lack of fluoride in the water where I was living in my infancy.

Emily inherited her father's iron-clad teeth. He has *brilliantly* strong teeth. He also grew up without fluoride until he was a *big*, school-age kid, but he's had only two tiny cavities in 43 years. It takes practically no maintenance to keep his teeth healthy, and Emily had the same teeth, dang it, and she blew it on purpose.

Throughout her teenage years, I have said fairly frequently, "Emily, go brush your teeth." She glowers at me and goes to the bathroom to make noise, and when she emerges and I insist that she let me see her clean teeth, she goes back to the bathroom to make noise some more. I have known, in some inner part of me, that she wasn't taking care of her teeth. But at some point, you have to let kids learn by mistakes. I was hoping it wouldn't be her teeth, but man, the kid is as tall as I am. She's been past the point of my forcibly brushing her teeth for her since she was 12.

So now she has two painful cavities, and I know exactly what happens next. Next we go to the dentist, where I spend a fortune and she gets shots, drillings, and fillings. She learns the unparalleled joy of how "sensitive" fillings are. She learns that now this enamel on these two teeth has been penetrated, it's that much more susceptible to more decay and pain and more fillings and more shots and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.

She blew it. She had all the genetics in her favor; she had fluoride in her system from infancy, and she purposefully *blew* it.

So I'm hot and my air conditioner is broken again, and my daughter has cavities when she really *shouldn't* have them at all, and goodness only knows how much this is going to cost me, and geeeeeeez, I wish I had a Coke to pour off the porch.

Back in the Zone

I recently fell out of love with scrapbooking.

I know it seems impossible, but it's true. I was so busy for a little while that I was overwhelmed and uninspired. I had four or five artwork assignments all at once, with overlapping deadlines in March and April. When I finished them -- and oh, that last one was *so* hard to complete -- I just didn't ever want to make another scrapbook page.

With my energy all wrapped up in writing and ATC's, I didn't scrap for three months. That's a very long dry spell for someone like me.

Then Club Scrap sent the Wings kit, which I adore, and I scrapped a page -- just for me.

(Don't tell my tax guy.)

My biggest problem right now is that my house is a *wreck*. I can't begin to describe the mess, and I wouldn't post photos even if you begged me. I keep hoping elves will break into my house and clean it up while I'm sleeping. I haven't been working in my scrap space in three months -- it's piled high with non-scrap junk that I had to clear out of the laundry room and back hallway when the washing machine started leaking and had to be dragged out to be fixed. Now it's fixed. And the junk is still in my office.

When I finally *did* scrap -- and it kickstarted the creative urge, and I'm dying to scrap more -- it was on the couch in the living room. My back hates me right now, and it's complaining vehemently.

About 70% of my art materials are piled up in the living room.

And in the meantime, the second largest show of the year was just held in Chicago this weekend. Was I there? No. I wish I had been!!!!

The "scoop" for CHA-Chicago has been being posted on ScrapTalk. Pictures of new products abound. A written report intrigues me. Why, oh, why didn't I rob a bank and go to Chicago?

I crave things I don't have -- things that are perhaps not even ready for the consumer market. I want a more powerful die-cut machine. (Actually, I've been craving that for a couple of months now. I have a ZAZ. I want a Zip'E Mate.)

Someone posted a picture of giant, acrylic monograms -- now I want everything found in the Go West Studios galleries.

The next few weeks are filled to overflowing with too many things to do that must be done. I have deadlines for articles scattered across August and September. I'm going to the Club Scrap Retreat the first weekend in August, and then leaving for vacation in South Carolina on the 14th. Next weekend, I'll see Blake Clark one night, and then go to the free crop at the Maple Grove Inn the next day. Literally all my days are stretching out before me, shouting, "Organize! Research! Write! You don't have time to play!"

I honestly don't know what's worse -- having absolutely no inspiration, or having too much to do and no time in which to do it.

But at least I can't say I don't love scrapping. I do. I really do. Now I must quit blogging and go back to finishing my second layout. I hope you understand.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A new self-image



Once upon a time, a really long time ago -- well, really, just a couple of years ago -- I was a skinny little thang. Then one day my metabolism said, "I quit."

And at that point, I started getting great compliments from my husband, who says things like, "I hate to see ya go, but I looooooooove to watch you walk away." And that's just for starters.

Wesley knew I was skinny when he married me. I guess he looked into the future and saw that someday I would develop the kind of figure *he* likes. It was just going to take me 17 years or so, and he was willing to invest the time it took to wait out my skinniness.

So now here I am, and I'm not skinny any more. If you gaze upon the layout pictured above, you really can't tell I was skinny -- but I was. Painfully skinny. On top of my ravenous metabolism, I had a heck of an eating disorder. Any time I felt the least bit out of control, I had no appetite and could go for days without eating. Don't ask me why -- the human psyche is a strange thing, and far be it from me to understand. I'm just glad for the shrink I had when I was 23, who said, "For crying out loud, EAT something. Have a chili dog. A pineapple. A whole buffet. Whatever!!! Just remember life is a banquet and EAT!"

I followed her advice, and man, she was right. Food is actually good. I like it. I like it a *lot*.

Having finally made friends with food, I ate like a field hand for years, and then one day food decided it liked me *back*. So it stuck with me. On my hips. On my arms. On my chin. (OK, I kinda wish the extra chin would take a hike.) On my *cleavage*. I never had cleavage before!!! This stuff is *amazing*!!!! You can get out of speeding tickets with the right cleavage!!!!!

I'm happy. Wesley is *very* happy. I feel good about myself, and I'm happy, and excuse me, but I don't see what the big deal is about gaining weight. I could've used more weight when I was 16 and 19 and 22, anyway -- who cares if I got it now? Does it really matter to anyone if I'm a little chubbier than I was a couple of years ago? I get to buy new clothes every season. I have a happy husband. My kids are still well-adjusted and smart. All my bills are paid and my cat is healthy and my birds are sweet and loving. Just what is the big deal about a little extra weight, anyway???

Well, I'll tell you what the big deal is -- the rest of the world not only doesn't understand it, but they sit in judgment of you if you have a few extra pounds. I'm not grossly obese. I'm a size 16. I'm 5'8", and a size 16, and I don't feel bad.

I went to the doctor today for the first time in years. I have issues with doctors in general and their perception of health in particular. You see, I'm a time bomb. Everyone in my mother's family -- literally every single member of her family -- has died of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer. With me, it's not a matter of "if" -- it's a matter of *when*. So I really needed to see a doctor, and I went to the ob/gyn because, well, it's a been a while since I saw one. They're not the most fun people in the world. Ob/gyns have a tendency to glower at me and growl about mammograms and other, even more invasive tests that are only going to tell me *when* I'm getting cancer, not *if*. They also have a tendency to preach about how I'm getting older, blah blah blah.

My sister found an ob/gyn that she loved, and she has good taste, so I got an appointment with her doctor and was really looking forward to the appointment with a person that I thought was going to be understanding and sympathetic about my ticking-time-bomb physiology.

I was kinda wrong.

It's not my sister's fault. She's already had cancer, so she had different needs than I did. I needed a doctor with a certain level of cynicism and fatalism guiding her conversation with me. Instead I got some kind of lunatic health nut. She informed me -- in so many words -- that I'm fat, lazy, stupid, and crazy. She offered an anti-depressant that might help me quit smoking. (Do I *look* depressed???) She told me to start taking vitamins and cut sugar and caffeine out of my diet. She told me to start excercising.

She ordered a whole host of tests that I'll have to schedule at a hospital near me, and then call her office to tell them when my appointments are and when to expect the results of all these tests. And if I *don't* get all these lovely tests run, then she informed me that I should expect registered letters from her, which I assume will fuss at me because I really need to get the tests run.

Well, duh! I know I need the tests -- I'm a time bomb! But I had no idea that she was going to tell me what a loser I am. It was an absolute downer of a doctor's appointment, and I've already had some bummers in my lifetime. Granted, most of them were my *mother's* appointments while she was dying of ... BREAST cancer, thankyouverymuch -- but I had no idea I was going to have such a lecture at the hands of the person who single-handedly saved my sister's life.

It's not like I intend to die of cancer faster than anyone else intends to. I'm not trying to speed it up. But geeeeeeez, it's going to happen, there's not much I can do about it except prolong the agony once I get it.

The way I see it is: Life is short. Agonizingly, excruciatingly, pointlessly short. As long as I'm here, I might as well live it to the fullest. It doesn't matter if I take antioxidants & vitamins or quit smoking or lose 30 pounds or drink only organically grown decaf herbal tea sweetened with nothing more than a whisper of Splenda (which -- has anyone thought about what the *longterm* effects of Splenda might be? no one knew red dye was going to cause cancer in mice until years after it was introduced!) -- I'm still gonna kick the bucket someday, and probably sooner rather than later.

What -- I ask you -- *what* exactly is the point of living a life that is empty of processed sugar? I *love* dessert! I love fruit!!! (The doctor told me to stop eating fruit and drinking juice. Can... you... IMAGINE????) I love coffee and a cocktail and writing and staying up late and watching TV!!!!!! Why on *earth* would I want to live a long life *without* these things?

And do not -- for heaven's sake -- do *not* trot out the old, "But don't you want to live long enough to see your great-great-grandchildren?" Good God in the mornin' -- NO. Have you ever met a great-great-grandmother? They're scary. They frighten little children and totter around on pained feet, grimacing a lot and saying, "I can't play right now. I have to walk around the track and get my hair done."

When I kick the bucket -- which I most surely, inevitably will do, whether it's from breast cancer or a car wreck -- I want my children to look back and laugh over the way I loved tiramisu and coffee. I want them to remember me happy, not snapping about how I need to exercise now, or grumpy because I haven't had caffeine in 8 years. I want them to remember me dancing around in the summer rain, not shivering inside and warning against pneumonia. I want to be remembered for groaning at the end of a meal that I'm stuffed and I can't eat another bite, but just let me sit here and smell the blackberry cobbler. I *don't* want them to think of me as the mother who spent all her time running, exercising, avoiding everything yummy, and warning snottily, "Don't you know that will kill you?!?"

I am too busy living to start preparing to die.

Oh -- and as for the new self-image... The doctor did say one truly profound, amazingly beautiful thing. She asked me where I live. When I told her, she said:

"Oh, you're an exit on the interstate."

That's right! I am! I am an exit on the interstate of life.

I'm the fun exit with the carnival, complete with corn dogs and funnel cakes and rides that will exhilarate you. I'm the exit with fingerpaints and limericks and parrots that laugh uproariously with me and you -- if you're lucky enough to hear us. I'm the exit with the giant, larger-than-life replica of a dinosaur and the waterslide that shoots you 30 feet across the lake. I'm the exit where it's not just OK to sing the wrong lyrics to the song on the radio, it's *encouraged* to make up ridiculous parodies.

If you don't want to have fun, don't get off the interstate here. You can go right on down the road until you find the boring exit with the skinny-people clothes and the organic non-dairy smoothies. Have a hoot. When you get sick to death of it, I'm right here to give you cake with cream-cheese frosting and espresso and lend you a wild, pink tank top that shows your fabulous, homegrown cleavage.

It's a lot more fun to live than to simply avoid dying.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Slightly more fun than a root canal

Our power went out for no good reason at all.

We had no thunderstorms. No lightning. No tornados nor car wrecks. It isn't excessively hot at 12:30 at night, so I don't think it was caused by air conditioners cranking up all over the county. The power just went out.

The kids and I stepped outside -- yes, the kids were awake at 12:30 at night, they're crazy people like me -- and looked at the stars, which we could see incredibly clearly because it was dark for miles and miles. The skittering, scattered remnants of Hurricane Dennis streaked the sky with the wispiest clouds, and the stars glittered like shattered mica in the sky.

"I can see the Big Dipper," Woodrow enthused.

"Well, DUH," said Emily, "It's, like, the biggest constellation in the west."

Oh, she's so cool. Seventeen is *so* bored.

We stood out there, craning our heads back and looking at the stars until we felt dizzy. Then we looked around and realized that our town -- in absolute, moonless darkness -- is really kind of creepy and scary. I remembered what my sister told me about "War of the Worlds," and even I got the heeby-jeebies, so we came back inside.

I called Amy to tell her my power was out. Then I tried to use her very old laptop to get online. I got online and then the smart, old battery said, "Please stop abusing me. I'm old and worn out." OK, it didn't say quite that. But it was something similar.

I finally got so bored that I got in the car and drove toward Loudon to see if the next big town had power -- they did, so I went to a convenience store and asked the clerk what was up. She didn't know. I bought a small bag of Black Pepper Jack Doritos.

When I got back to the car, the kids (who were now totally hyped up by the power outage *and* being out in the car at 1:30 in the morning) were making up new lyrics to Guster's "Amsterdam."

"ARE YOU GETTING SOME HAIR? OR DID YOU GET LOST IN HAMSTER SPAM?"

As we drove back down Highway 11, streetlights turned on. They were on, but dim, so I wondered if the power was really back on. By the time we turned onto our street, the power was back on fully.

So the stuff in the freezer isn't in danger. Heck, I bet the ice cream is still frozen solid. The computer recovered the document I was working on when the power went out, and I've saved it nicely so I haven't lost all my writing. And I have new lyrics that will probably ruin all Guster for me for the rest of time. Snort -- hamster spam. ROFL!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Too much!

I'm incoherent; I can't write; I don't have the words; I am insufficient to this task.

I'm happy. Usually I can be a little more eloquent than this when I'm happy, but there are too many memories and too many good things crowding my brain to weed through them all and come up with something that will make sense.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, the Class of '85 is holding its reunion this week in my hometown, and not only was Greg there, but a whole bunch of people I really liked were there, too. I was a senior a year before these people graduated, but my class had only two people who participated in theatre, while a whole host of juniors were there for much of my high school years. So I knew more people in that younger class, and I was closer to them than I was to my own classmates.

Greg arrived on Thursday, but our schedules didn't match up. Friday night, Wesley received a call from Jim, his best friend. Jim met his wife Peytyn at our wedding in 1987, and they live in Florida now, so we don't see them as much as we would like. Jim called, and the next thing I knew, we were on our way to meet Jim & Peytyn for dinner. The evening was nothing short of sublime -- we laughed so hard and talked so fast, I didn't want the night to end. But Wesley had work the next morning, so we had to leave. Before we left, Peytyn was encouraging me to "crash" the reunion. And I was seriously considering it.

Saturday afternoon, I finally reunited with Greg at a bed & breakfast that was once the home of one of my friends -- and I had lived just down the street. Not only was it nice to see that house again, but it was incredible to finally see Greg again. He looks so young!!!! Just seeing him makes me feel younger!!!! We talked so fast and laughed so hard, again, it was really hard to leave him, but he also encouraged me to come to his reunion. Fortunately, the organizer of the event was staying at the same B&B, so I okayed it with her first -- even though I knew Wesley wouldn't be able to come with me and act as my extroverted buffer.

I can't begin to describe Saturday night -- that's the confusing part -- there were *so* many people that I was *so* happy to see again, and everone was so wonderfully nice!!!!! All the women look fabulous, all the men look grown-up. There was none of that weird high school stress -- just a bunch of old friends hanging out and laughing and talking. It was *wonderful*. I had the best time. I wish *my* class reunion had been half as fun!!!!! Oh, wait, though -- I organized that one. Ugh! What a disaster. I'll never organize another reunion again!!!!

And I might just lobby to hold our reunion in conjunction with the Class of '85 -- so I'll be able to see all these good, old friends again!

Sunday -- which is now, I guess -- Sunday all these people will have to go home. And I don't want to think about that. Instead, I just want to think about people whose faces looked so much younger every time they spoke.

I had a *really* good time. My husband is going to be shocked when I tell him. And that makes me happy, too -- after all this time, I'd like to still be able to surprise him occasionally!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

It's not about East vs. West

It's not about East vs. West. It's not about the G8 Summit. It isn't religious differences, nor politics, nor even political leaders.

It's about people who hate people.

And I don't understand that. I can't understand that. They can dress it up and say that they're attacking for religious or political beliefs, or because they're tired of the economic prosperity of Western civilization, but what it really boils down to is a complete disregard for life.

On a message board this morning, I saw a post of sympathy from an American to all British citizens on the grounds that Tony Blair was one of our staunchest allies following 9/11. But Tony Blair wasn't on the subway when the bombs went off -- in fact, I wonder when he last saw a subway train. The terrorists attacked innocent civilians who were doing nothing more than heading to work.

It's so wrong -- it's so profoundly, incredibly wrong -- I can't even begin to process the horror. If I'm an example of the average person, then we are ill-equipped to "fight terror." All I can do is sit here and think, "How awful, how sad, how pathetic they are to live with such hatred."

It's such a waste of life -- on both sides.

For those who don't scroll down...


I finally forced the Blogger image hosting service to cooperate and got my Fourth of July report to work. So it's under the last post.

It's Wednesday night, and I had a full day. Wesley went to an orthopedic surgeon to find out what's up with his right shoulder, which has been hurting since last fall. Unfortunately, the regular doctor didn't send the CD with Wesley's scans to the orthopedic guy, so we still don't have a course of action. He'll see him again in a month, and maybe then we'll find out whether he needs surgery. The orthopedic surgeon is leaning toward surgery. Ugh. It's a three-month recovery period, during which time the arm would be immobilized in a cast. I know Wesley -- he's not going to take that sort of inactivity sitting down.

My [blank blank] is on hold for this week -- the judge's answering machine says to check next week. I'm wondering when/if I'm going to get a note from the courthouse that I don't need to come in at all. And, *oh*, I wish I knew how that one case turned out last week!

The washing machine isn't working. I'm hoping Wesley simply forgot to hook up the water line or something, because the machine hums when you turn it on, but no water comes out. Cross your fingers for me! This washer is more trouble than it's worth!

And finally, the photo above is a layout I made last fall after Krisi and I behaved very badly at Pleasure Island in Disney World. Krisi and I have more fun than middle-aged married chicks should have when we go to PI every other November. And Krisi's craving a return before the next scheduled trip in '06. I agree with her. We should just tell the kids to take care of themselves and take off!!!!!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

AAUUGGHH!!!!!!!!!

Blogspot's new image hosting SUCKS OUT LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm mad, and I won't *take* it any more!!!!! Consider this my rant!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, I've been trying to post a report of my fabulous Independence Day celebration complete with a picture of my stunning and gorgeous fireworks -- from which no one in my family or neighborhood were burnt or injured -- but the blankety-blank Blogger thingie isn't cooperating. Very frustrating!!!!!!!!!!

So allow me to just rant a little --

1. "Troy" -- Saw it on HBO tonight. Let me save you three hours: That movie really did suck as badly as all the reviews last year *said* it sucked. Brad Pitt managed about 3 minutes, 28 seconds of truly sublimely perfect acting, despite the fact that the script, the direction, the special effects, the sound, the photography, and the set design were working so hard against him. It's just not worth the three-hour commitment. I'm so sorry he did that movie. But actors have to eat, too, and Brad's bent on saving a whole continent, so he needs the moolah.

2. Washing machines -- Let me get this straight. Not only do I have to do laundry, but I have to maintain the machines that do the actual washing? This is not fair. I demand a recount. Is this strictly Constitutional?

3. Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement -- NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Say it ain't so!!!!!!!! She was my feminist ideal!!!!!!!!!!! No, no, no, no, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OK, she wants to retire. I can understand that. Just *Please* let her replacement be a woman. Please? Pretty please?????

4. Blackberry cobbler -- May be the perfect food. Even with the seeds.

5. Scrapbooking magazines -- All of a sudden, there are no Memory Makers at my local grocery store. I've lodged an official complaint. In writing. It was selling like gangbusters, then the "Our Favorite SB Pages" issue didn't sell well. Hey, it cost $15!!!! Of course it didn't sell well! So now they've pulled the regular issues from the shelf? Nuh uh, baby, not without a fight!

6. Billy Idol -- I can't believe "Eyes Without A Face" is playing on my radio station. It was like a time warp to age 17. Quick, someone, I need frosty pink eyeshadow!

7. Florida -- My best friend Krisi is constantly *this close* to just running away from home (in New Hampshire) to Disney World. I'm on her heels. In my dreams!

That's all for now -- back to wrestling with Blogger and its stupid image hosting..... where's a computer geek when I need one?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Things that go boom in the night


Independence Day was, as usual, completely fabulous and totally exhausting. I adore the Fourth of July, but *man*, it takes a lot of work to pull everything together in a timely manner. I couldn't have done it if it hadn't been for Emily's help -- she really pitched in and did a lot for me. Thank heaven for teenaged daughters!

Dinner was an abbreviated menu, due largely to the fact that there are no roadside produce stands within 20 miles of my house, and I was unwilling to drive any further. At that time. Most summer days, I wouldn't think twice at the thought of driving to Chattanooga and back (a 2.5-hour trip on a *good* day) just for a perfect tomato or -- wistful sigh -- a juicy, ripe, Georgia peach.

Wesley slept a little later than he intended (I didn't know I was supposed to be an alarm clock as well as a chef, pyrotechnics technician, decorator, chauffeur, writer, and photographer), so he was running late with the ice cream. However, he *did* make it, and it *was* the best batch he's ever made.

The fireworks were sublime. Emily recorded all of my favorite Disney fireworks themes on one CD -- the old Illuminations theme (a medley of classical symphonies that make your heart go pitty-pat), the old Fantasy in the Sky theme (a medley of Disney hits that make your heart go pitty-pat), and the latest Illuminations themes, "Reflections of Earth" and "We Go On." Those make me *cry*. As it happened, we've gotten so organized about our fireworks readiness that we had just the right amount of explosions to go with only the Epcot themes (both old and new). So we had no Magic Kingdom music, but that was OK -- I cried anyway. So did Emily.

As soon as the fireworks were finished, Wesley ran off to work and I went to Athens to see my oldest sister Martha. Then I drove home, crying because I missed Amy.

So I consoled myself with blackberry cobbler and homemade ice cream. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Happy Independence Day, y'all!!!! Carry fireworks in your heart if not in your hand!

Monday, July 04, 2005

If you're looking for a good blog...

Check out this post on another blog -- it's cool, and nothing blows up in it, either!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bay's Fireworks Safety Rules

I am a rabid pyrotechnics enthusiast, yes, but I'm not insane. Here are the rules that make it possible for me to do my annual big show.

1. Warn the neighbors. It's only polite. Confine the firing of fireworks to the period of night between darkness and 10:00. After 10:30 is rude, period.

2. Only adults handle the fireworks or light the fuses. EVER.

3. No sparklers, bottle rockets, cherry bombs, or snakes. These are deceptively safe. Sparklers are the most dangerous of the bunch, because it's like holding a welding iron in your hand. I can't tell you how many friends I've had who've been badly burned with sparklers because they thought they were safe. The basic rule at our house is that if everyone thinks it's safe, it just isn't.

4. Fireworks belong in the open. If they'll be shooting into trees or overhanging branches, you're just asking for trouble.

5. Fireworks are stationary. They should be on sturdy stands that bring the fuses to about chest level for the adult who will be lighting the fuses. If you have to bend over in the dark to light the fuse, you're asking for trouble.

6. The adult lighting the fireworks must be *completely* sober. No exceptions to this rule.

7. No lawn mowers, gas cans, vehicles that work with an internal combustion engine, or electrical wires may be in the vicinity of the fireworks display area. This means a quarter of a mile.

8. No one may ever hold a firework and light the fuse. You cannot hold Roman candles while they are firing. This is just plain stupid. Stupidity does not mix well with compressed gunpowder.

9. Keep water hoses on and handy. Have buckets of water placed strategically in case of emergency. And, of course, there's a reason you keep fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage, so get them out and keep them nearby, too.

10. Inspect your fireworks and fuses in the daylight. Check for loose fuses or grainy, loose gunpowder. If it's in evidence, don't use that one. Use this time both to inspect and to organize your things. Go ahead and unwrap the fuses for all the shells at once, and then return them to their original box until it's time to light them.

11. Anchor the launch tubes for your shells *thoroughly*. You do not want them to tip over and launch a shell at the spectators. After six shells, amateur after-market launch tubes are no longer structurally safe or viable. Pour water in it, remove it from the stand, and don't use it any more.

12. Pour water on all multi-shot boxes after they've finished firing.

13. If a unit doesn't work the first time you light the fuse, spray it with the water hose and stay away from it. Do not try to re-light it. This is a dud. It happens. Get over it.

14. If a shell's box says that it shoots the shells 400 feet in the air, that means it can launch a shell 400 feet toward spectators. Keep spectators FAR from your launch site.

If you're going to be lighting fireworks this year, *please* be safe!!!! It would be terrible way to end the best holiday of the year if you spent it in the ER. Blech. That place is no fun, no matter what day of the year it is! And, oh, I should tell about the time I spent the Fourth in the ER because my daughter stuck a sunflower seed in her ear..... Or no, maybe I shouldn't....

And yes, I'm still totally stoked about the things I got this year. I can't wait until Monday night!!!!!

C'mon, baby, light my fire.

I'm crazy about Independence Day.

It's my favorite holiday of the year. It's better than my birthday, better than Christmas, 'way better than Valentine's Day or even Halloween -- although Halloween is very cool because you get to talk to *so* many kids that night and it just begs for hamming it up.

But nothing beats the Fourth of July as far as I'm concerned.

For one thing, it *is* nice to be patriotic. I love the Fourth, because when you go to town for the annual parade, everything is decked out in red, white, and blue, and no one's burning flags or running down the government or each other. For one day a year, we're all completely united in our love for our country -- and that just *rocks*.

But that's just the beginning of the reasons I love Independence Day.

It's in summer. And summer is my favorite season. It's hot. It's not warm, it's not cool, and it is most definitely not cold -- it's *hot*. Lawns everywhere are still green because they haven't been overexposed to the heat. Lots of flowers are still in bloom (although the really pretty ones like bachelor's buttons and larkspurs are waning). Hummingbirds have settled into a predictable pattern at the feeder, and if I feel like swimming, the lake is warm enough to visit it for an afternoon.

But that's still not the whole package that makes the Fourth of July my favorite holiday.

There's the food -- hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, steaks, chicken, or pork chops on the grill -- cold ham from the fridge -- roasted corn on the cob and juicy-ripe red tomatoes with grilled potatoes and chunks of peppers -- 7-layer salads and pasta salads and fruit salads -- and watermelon or s'mores or nanner puddin' for dessert -- with lemonade to drink or cold, condensation-dripping Coca-Colas -- or if you're really, really lucky, a cold Budwine from that one store in Georgia that still sells it even though you don't know where it was bottled or why Budwine tastes so much better than Cheerwine or Cherry Coke or Dr. Pepper or any other carbonated soft drink.......

Yet even the food -- as fabulous as it is -- isn't the best part of the Fourth of July for me.

Nope. It's the fireworks. I love 'em. I love things that go boom in the night.

I'm more than a touch pyrophobic, actually, and I think that fear feeds my fascination with pyrotechnics. I am an absolute sucker for fireworks. At Disney World, you know, I don't go a night without seeing fireworks of some kind. And I cry over all the shows.

So every year, I buy fireworks and put on an amateur show that would embarrass you if you saw it. I know it would embarrass you. I've seen it happen to all of my neighbors.

Heck, it kind of embarrasses *me*. We put our big speakers out on the porch and crank up the amplifier to play music with my very carefully planned fireworks. It's a solid twenty minutes of music and fireworks, and if I could just figure out a way to do it, I would add lasers, water screens and slide images like "Fantasmic" (one of the shows at Disney).

We didn't do the big fireworks thing last year. Wesley had to work on the Fourth, and so we had a smaller, shorter version on the 5th. It was a bummer, what with Amy out of town that weekend *and* no exploding things.

But I've just returned from Bimbo's, and I have this year's pyrotechnics all picked out, purchased and ready for the Fourth of July. I can't wait. I'm so excited, I doubt I'll sleep tonight. I bought some really *big* multi-shot thingamabobs, and I bought so much that Bimbo's owner, Ed, threw in some really big freebies and a whole gob of Roman candles. It'll probably take me two hours to get everything sorted and set up properly.

[Note: I don't actually buy Roman candles myself -- they're too small for my taste. But I love Ed, and he's always nice to me. He knows to expect me and my lists of things to buy. I'm so glad fireworks are legal in Tennessee. I would just die if I had to rely on "civic" displays.]

Which is what makes the Fourth of July special, right? I'm going to way too much trouble just to please myself. C'mon, baby. Light my fire.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Art lessons



Artist Trading Cards are all the rage among savvy paper crafters, and while I may not be particularly talented, I am nothing if not enthusiastic. Several weeks ago, I opened an ATC swap for 14 participants, and I was supposed to be able to sort and resend the cards to everyone Thursday.

But life never turns out the way I expect it to, and some ATC's didn't arrive on time. Some seem to be missing -- from *my* house. (Ack!!!) And some had to be FedEx'ed to NYC quite suddenly when one of the participants was honored to have two of her designs picked up for publishing.

All these hiccups have taught me some valuable lessons. For one, I need to be more communicative with my swap participants, if I ever host another one.

Most notably, I need to be totally specific about *why* I asked them to include SASE's. A few participants simply sent postage or postage and a label. What I didn't make clear is that the tiny post office here in my itty-bitty town hardly ever has Priority Mail envelopes on hand. In order to get padded envelopes for the cards, I'll have to go to Loudon and load up on envies.

But, man, I can't complain about the people who didn't send envelopes this time. I was very casual about that SASE part of the swap. I didn't explain why I needed the whole shebang. They went to work for hours to create gorgeous, amazing cards, and they followed the usual sorts of rules and included postage.

Besides, the cards I've received really are gorgeous, and one of 'em is going to be published -- so I totally lucked out in the inspiration department!

Above I've included my own prototype for my cards. The theme for this swap was "favorites," because if I had re-mailed the cards on time, they would've arrived at everyone's house just after Independence Day, my favorite holiday. So my cards feature my favorite fun sayings stamps. I adore good sayings. The one on my prototype is the one I use the most on snail mail -- "Let me know if you do not receive this." Subtle, low-key, easily missed -- and right up my alley. The only one I love more is "No soup for you," but I've used that stamp so much that it's missing right now. Sigh.

Next time I hold an ATC swap, I'll be more specific about the SASE stuff, and in the meantime, I'm consoling myself with the new ATC stamp that I got in the last Club Stamp pizza box. Annnnnnnd... the "I Can't Drive 55" stamp that I rediscovered. Annnnnnd... the nifty little mulberry paper flowers that Club Stamp sent in May.... Annnnnnnd... my deep and abiding love for all things covered in ModPodge... Oo, that reminds me -- gotta go create something!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Extremely disturbed

I don't have a lot of time right now, because I need to find a FedEx office and get something in the mail for one of my ATC swap participants. But I'm extremely disturbed, and I find I need to get this off my chest before my head explodes.

I live in a very small town -- so small, in fact, that we don't even have a traffic light. We've lived here for just a smidge over 12 years.

When we moved in, a lovely family lived next door -- the Davises. Their son Clint was 14 when we arrived; their daughter Sunny was 12. Bill and Nancy were two of the loveliest human beings I've ever known. Clint, who tinkered with cars and played the drums but hardly ever spoke, grew up and turned into such a wonderful human being himself that my husband counts him as one of his closest friends in life despite the near-20 year age difference. Sunny was such a silent, intense person that we don't know her very well, but she grew up, too, and has gone on to live a life of quiet responsibility and maturity. Sadly -- very sadly -- Bill died of brain cancer a few years ago, and Nancy moved out of the house to a condo in West Knoxville.

The house was empty for a while, then it was for sale. It wasn't on the market very long.

Some people moved in the week before Cosmo went missing, and all the time that I was walking and calling -- specifically in the trees and bushes closest to home -- I would see the new neighbors at odd hours.

I really shouldn't say "odd hours." I'm a night owl myself, and I know my neighbors think of me as the resident crazy lady. But they weren't the hours that *most* people think of as normal hours.

I would sort of wave to the new people, but I had trouble distinguishing who actually lived in the house and who didn't. Wesley opined that perhaps a fraternity had bought the house. That explanation didn't really ring true, because there weren't *enough* boys to make a fraternity. But the people we saw most were (and are) young men, with a couple of young ladies around to justify the assumption that it *might* be a fraternity.

Now I'm struggling -- *struggling* -- not to jump to unpleasant conclusions, and I'm waging a battle with the judgmental snob in my soul that wants to complain violently about the noisy engines that pull in and out of the driveway at all hours of the night. There was a particularly noisy motorcycle for a few days, and I can't tell you how much I wanted to complain about that. The terrible irony is that Wesley owned a noisy motorcycle himself for years and loved that thing. I know I'm not allowed to be judgmental about *that*. But, oh, I wanted to be.

I'm still not to the really, extremely disturbing part of this situation. Bear with me.

My children are 17 and 12. (Emily is the elder; Woodrow is the younger.) And we homeschool them. I know a lot of people think that homeschoolers keep their children at home to *protect* them from the world, but we are the opposite of that sort of homeschoolers. In point of fact, my children were learning to be homophobic, judgmental, racist, sexist, ultra-conservative snobs of the worst sort at public school. They came home saying and thinking some of the unkindest things I've ever heard, and I couldn't stand it. Homeschooling allows us to gently guide our children to a greater understanding and empathy with their fellow man, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political philosophy.

As an added bonus, homeschooling helps us to ward off the self-esteem problems that often lead to premature sexual experience and drug experimentation.

Last night, my daughter was outside on the porch, talking to a friend of hers on the house phone while I was inside watching a movie. My sister called my cell phone, and I was talking to her when Emily came inside and said happily, "I made new friends!" Em is an extrovert and *loves* meeting new people. She has never met a new person who wasn't automatically a friend. I smiled and waved, but didn't have time to get the necessary info.

Today, just before Emily went to the library for her daily allotment of shelving books and hanging out with the town kids, she told me about her new friends. The new friends are the girlfriends of the two men who live next door. They are -- I am not kidding -- 14 and 16 years old. The girls are. Not the men. The men are adults.

And the conversation that Emily had with her new friends revolved a great deal around the sex that these underage girls are having with their legal-adult boyfriends.

I have always -- *always* -- been open with Emily about sex. The moment she asked where babies came from, I was armed with illustrated books and educational videos to demystify human sexuality. I was raised in a very cloistered, old-fashioned environment, and I grew up with certain misconceptions about it all that I was determined not to raise my children that way -- mostly because I felt cheated of the truth.

I can understand why my mother was uncomfortable talking about sex -- she was of a very different generation, having been raised in a very conservative time and culture. I don't think the way she raised me was *bad* or *wrong*, I just thought the truth -- the *whole* truth -- is much better for people's psyches in general. At least when it comes to sex. I felt as if a nasty trick had been played on me not to have the whole truth. Maybe my kids won't feel that way, and that's their right. But I'm the mama, and I get to make these decisions, and I'm raising my children to know the all the pertinent facts.

Emily is saddened that these girls are sleeping with their boyfriends. She's afraid that their home life is so awful that they don't feel they have any alternative to growing up too fast. She's worried -- because of our previous discussions on the subject -- that they're going to be sad adults as a result. She's worried that I won't let her be friends with these girls.

I'm reeling with worry, myself -- worry about what's going on next door, concerns about how Emily's going to handle all this information from a new source, fear that she'll decide having sex now is cool.... The list goes on and on. I can't process all this information myself. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say to Emily. I don't know how to meet the eyes of my new neighbors with this unbidden knowledge already in me to color my conceptions of who they might really be.

The very truth that I sought for my children may be my undoing. My attempts to be a better, less judgmental person cause too much uncertainty today. I have to get it out of my head so I can figure out where I stand. I'm just ... extremely disturbed.