Thursday, April 30, 2009


The end of the semester approaches at an unbelievable rate. And that remains my excuse for not posting anything in the past few days. Any waking moment (and I have lots more of those than sleeping moments) I spend doing homework or working at the battlefield or wrapping up my assistantship or getting my thesis rolling or thinking about how much I miss my pillow and can't wait for a full-night's sleep again...

And for the record, Stones River National Battlefield opened the tour loop today. So go check it out!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I'm just going to say this

I dislike bugs. A heck of a lot. I love everything about springtime except the plethora of itty-bitty crawly things. I am a park ranger who does not like bugs; you do the math. I appreciate Jerry Seinfield's comedy routine about how a female can take hot wax, pour it between her thighs, then rip strips of paper off to remove hair in that sensitive area, yet will jump at the sight of a bug. Don't ask me to explain this phenomenon. It's just life.

And for the record, heels make terrible spider-squishers. And m&ms do, indeed, melt in your hand. These are both things I have learned this evening.

Now that I have all of that off my chest, I can get back to work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dream On

Once upon a time, in a far away land, there existed a happy place called Working Technology. Those who lived in Working Technology wore a bright smile on their face, as their technology always, well, worked. They'd never heard of that adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” because their first tries were always successful. Nobody was ever cranky in Working Technology, because all pieces of electronic equipment functioned properly. Period. What an amazing concept- technology that works they way it was designed. What a dreamy place.

I wish I lived there. Then I would not have to resist the urge to throw my computer against a wall when it doesn’t cooperate.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Battlefield Photos

Here are some pictures of the damage incurred by the tornado on the battlefield. The pictures are from different dates, so you can see some of the progress made by the [amazing] work crews.

that's what i'm talking about

I love creative minds. I especially love seeing them at work.

Today I will be happier than a bird with a french fry

It is still cloudy and will probably rain today. But since I don't have to work and get to wear my civies, this rainy day means I get to wear my polka dot rain boots! I have to go to a ceremony to accept an award from the History Department, so I will probably have to bring nice shoes, too. Unless I wear my rain boots to the ceremony. Functions where I am required to behave myself only spark thoughts of how I can cause trouble unnoticed. Not that I plan on causing trouble, or anything. Maybe I'll just wear my boots and pretend to be in shock when people comment about them. "How did THESE get on my feet?" It's going to be a good day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The joy a 2-year-old brings

I felt like I had a long day at work today. I already am not a huge fan of working on Sundays and the gloominess of the day only made me feel like crawling into bed and not getting out until the sun came up again (at this rate, that would be Wednesday). Then stuff at work continued to drag me down.

On Sunday evenings I volunteer at my church with a kids organization called AWANA; I work with the 2 and 3-year-olds, the group called "Puggles." A puggle is the name of a baby platypus. I love my Puggles. Working with them always brings a smile to my face. It isn't always fun to go straight from work to Puggles, because I usually am tired, but it is always worth it. I walked into the nursery today to see one of my Puggles waiting for me with her mom. When she looked up and saw me, she ran to me with her pigtails bouncing and her arms outstretched and gave me the biggest hug a two-going-on-three-year old can. She called me "Miss Is-a-biss," the closest thing to Elizabeth most toddlers can say. She then proceeded to walk me over to the toys she was playing with, talking up a storm about her skirt, the color purple, and the rain earlier in the day.

I cannot begin to describe the absolute joy Brenna brought into my life at that moment. Working with kids, especially little ones, always brightens my day. The world is new and uncomplicated and waiting to be explored. Kids, especially those little ones, love unconditionally and are not afraid to show it. I learn so much from my Puggles.

And now my day is better.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I was organizing my school and work papers (which will probably take another month, as my current way of organizing was to stack everything in on pile that has turned to five piles... eesh) when I pulled out a paper with an article from last summer. I looked down and I realized why the name Kori Bryant sounded so familiar. Kori Bryant was the woman who died, along with her nine-month-old baby, in the tornado that hit Murfreesboro last week.

I had been thinking the name must have just resembled that of the basketball player, so I tried to push it out of my head. So I had a shock as I read through the article and reexamined the picture. The realization of who Kori was hit me. I worked with her for a day in Cool Springs last year at the "Staycation Expo." She worked for the city parks and rec and I for the park service; we were there to represent tourist activities in Rutherford counties on behalf of our respective agencies. (You can see the article here. We are on page 16).

I think the word "sunshine" could best describe Kori. She had a bright smile and engaged with those who approached the table with cheerfulness. What we talked about ranged from hairstyles, to interior decorating, to schooling and working, to crazy families, to futures and more. She had recently found out that she was pregnant and was very excited about her new baby. We talked about the crazy ideas we had about being "grown up" when we were kids and how things are different and how odd the concept was of starting our own families. We were two extraverted twenty-something-year-old females, chatting up a storm. We connected for the day, but didn't keep in touch. I think we were too tired from the day.

I don't know why she stuck in my head. My job allows me to meet lots of people. Maybe because our lives were so similar in many ways, and yet she was where I wanted to be in many ways. She was starting a family and kind of inspired hope in me that one day I, too, would do the same. So now realizing who she is has created a huge empty feeling in my gut. Why did that have to happen to her? Why do I feel so sad to know Kori passed, when the chances of meeting her again were so slim? Regardless of my knowing her or not, a young mom and baby died, so why did it take the personalization for me to get so upset about it? Now I feel almost guilty that I didn't feel as sad as I am now before I knew who the two were who perished. And now I am dealing with all of this. In an empty house. By myself. Which is probably the best way, since I don't like verbalizing my feelings when I feel like crying. I'd rather just cry by myself then move on with life. And now you know.

Tomorrow is a new day with fresh beginnings. But I still have to deal with tonight.

Friday, April 17, 2009

i know him! i know him!

There is a line Will Ferrell yells in his movie, Elf, when he hears that Santa will be visiting:

I have a tendency to feel that way whenever somebody mentions somebody or something I recognize (though I usually keep my reaction internal). I yell those lines a lot, even if only in my head.

A lot has been covered about the tornado, particularly about the damage at the battlefield. Yesterday a local news station produced a story about the damage at the battlefield. The images on the news story spark the "I know him!" reaction in my head, especially the part when the newscaster walks by the desks... I sit there, almost daily; that's where I check my email and that's where I compose my official NPS correspondence (or just do my research, but that is not nearly as fun to say). I know [those desks]! I know [those desks]!

The battlefield continues to get busier, as more people arrive to help. We have work crews from Natchez Trace and Land Between the Lakes. They've been busy with chainsaws attempting to clear the tour road and the area around the Hazen Brigade monument. We had an archeologist team out the last few days to survey the areas that have been recently exposed to see if any artifacts surfaced (they did not find anything major as far as I know). We've also been planning for Junior Ranger Day. Initially, we were going to have upwards of 400 kids bused in from Nashville for the event (plus any local kids), but now that number looks to be closer to 200. It allows for a little sigh of relief, but not much. I stay out of trouble when I stay busy, right?

Oh, and for the record, I also like smiling. Smiling's my favorite.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I have a list of things to do (on a sheet of paper in a little notebook), but decided to procrastinate. I find that writing things that I don't have sometimes inspires me to write the stuff I do have to. Actually, I am down to one official assignment left due for school, but have stuff to do for the battlefield, stuff for projects related to this class, and stuff to do for my sister's wedding in May. Oh, well.

Yesterday the battlefield hosted its annual volunteer appreciation picnic. It was ridiculously cold, especially considering we live in Tennessee and it is April. White air came out of our mouths while we were talking (no kidding). But I had a good time. We have some pretty spectacular folks working at the park, both paid and volunteer. I don't know if I have worked with such an outstanding group of people before.

Our superintendent talked with me briefly at lunch yesterday and said, "I bet you never expected to deal with this when you signed on." I replied, "I bet you didn't, either." He said in all of his career, he had been fortunate enough to escape the emergency situations. But there are some that deal with it all the time. Yesterday, a level-3 incident team was formed to work out of the battlefield. We will be at "emergency" status for another two weeks. The team established will help us coordinate plans and efforts to move forward in clean up, removal, and overall attempts to get this park back in order. Easily 1,000 trees have been knocked over or torn up (some of the trees literally look like someone just twisted them in half and then left them there). But the people who are a part of this team deal with emergencies all the time. They are expected to leave for days and weeks at a time at a drop of a hat in order to help parks get back on their feet (they helped the national parks in Kentucky last winter after the ice storms). I have a lot of respect for their job; I don't think I could do that. They have to go see destruction and devastation and help people make sense out of it... regularly. Either way, the basement has become their base of operations, at least for the next ten days to two weeks. The craziness will continue for a while, yet.

I work tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday, so I should probably go do some homework. The semester is almost over! Yay! and Eek! all at the same time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

to do: buy another notebook

I love to make lists. I find drawing the line through the tasks I have accomplished extremely satisfying. Seeing the many lines through the completed tasks brings me great pleasure. Recently, I purchased a giant dry-erase board (it helps me think out my thoughts visually). I find it handy to write lists on that board, but the pleasure of crossing things off my lists is not the same. I have my little felt eraser and wipe off my completed task and then a blank spot appears. No lines remain, just a diminished sense of accomplishment. So much for considering the earth... I think I have to go back to my many lists contained within many notebooks. Maybe I'll start a recycling program for my to-do lists so I don't feel so bad.

Here is caricature of me as my pirate self drawn by a friend on my white board. So, I guess the board comes in handy for some things...

Monday, April 13, 2009

walking highlighters get the job done

I worked again at the battlefield. And again I was stationed out front of the visitor center, informing visitors of sites they can and cannot visit on the battlefield. I had to wear a neon yellow vest, so I looked like a walking highlighter. No worries, though. I also had to carry a walkie-talkie, so that made me look like an official-looking walking highlighter.

Another storm came through today, as well. It didn't last very long, but torrential rains poured down for about ten minutes (under a tornado watch, no less... a lot of people were holding their breath at the battlefield until the storm blew over). Then it left as quickly as it came and sun beamed down from bright, blue skies. I then got a little sunburn on my neck (I forgot to reapply sunscreen after lunch and am very sensitive... that's right, I'm a park ranger who gets sunburned by opening the refrigerator door).

I have tomorrow off because I have class in the afternoon (and a ten-page paper to finish in the morning...). And then am scheduled to work the rest of the week. My duties will branch out, though, as we have a number of volunteers who have signed up to man the front of the visitor center. I will soon be roving the tour road and trails, informing the delinquent visitors they are not allowed to run/jog/walk/bike/take photos/etc. through there. No exceptions.

Although we do have our visitors who step out-of-bounds by crossing the tape into the battlefield (which would technically mean that they step in-bounds...), I will state for the record that it amazes me to see the number of people who have offered their help to volunteer to help clean up the park. Plans are being made to coordinate volunteer clean-up days; we are just assessing the damage and attempting to plan phases for clean up at the moment. So stay-tuned! Your help may be requested...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

T-Day plus 2

I worked at the battlefield (I need to find a new word besides "work," by the way... I love that job...). Today I was stationed outside the visitor center informing people that the battlefield was closed, but they could go inside the visitor center to the museum and watch the movie. Easily over half of the vehicles driving through were gawkers who were only interested in looking at the damage.

A number of people still got into the park boundaries (Oh, is that what the yellow tape across the trail entry meant!?). A consideration: the trees that are (and are no longer) on the battlefield are not witness trees to the battle. So they grew up over land that battle was fought on. So they have probably grown over battle "stuff." And relic hunters know this... Not only do we have to let locals know they aren't allowed to walk around, we have to mind those who may have intentions of taking from the battlefield. We have lots to look forward to in the upcoming months.

And for the record, we still have no internet at the house. But my awesome friend, WILL!!!, had an Easter cookout and let me use his internet.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

it [was] a twista! it [was] a twista!

For those who haven’t heard, a tornado touched down in Murfreesboro yesterday. I’m ok, all of my friends are ok, and I don’t personally know anyone who had any major property damage from the tornado. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the entire city.

While I don’t personally know anyone who was physically affected by the tornado, I haven’t encountered anyone from here who wasn’t affected by the storm’s fury in some way or another. I’d like to say that before yesterday, I’d think that I felt for those who had gone through natural disasters and understand how rough it could be. I think most Americans are that way. But when a disaster tears up an area (regardless of it being a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or typhoon), the affects are far-reaching.

The buzz since the storm has been about the tornado. “How are you? Where were you when it hit? Are you and those you know OK?” are the questions that start conversations. Chaos reigned for a very brief period leading to a lot of “they say,” “I heard,” and other forms of speculation. I can only speak from my own perspective. In fact, when the storm hit I was in a stairwell closet with twin six-year old boys, a four-year old girl, and a one-year-old that was ready for a nap. They were more irritated that I broke up playtime. Imagination works wonders in a 5x8 foot crawl space. In the meantime, the tornado touched down in Murfreesboro.

The tornado ripped through Stones River National Battlefield and the effects on the landscape still remain. I was scheduled to work today, mostly just so I could work on wrapping up the new Junior Ranger program before publishing. That had to be put on the back burner as we tried to make order out of the chaos. I am also scheduled to work tomorrow, but specifically because of tornado-relatedness (I wasn’t originally scheduled to work on Easter). The battlefield was closed today and will be for a while. The visitor center was closed as well, but we hope to reopen it tomorrow at noon. Unfortunately, we don’t know when we will be able to open the tour road or the trails. The boundary trail may not even open before the end of summer. Any natural resource or maintenance projects planned for the summer have been scratched in lieu of all the clean up and removal that will have to take place.

Walking around the battlefield today impressed upon me the power of the storm. We’ve begun to pile debris in order to clear it out. The “stuff” of the piles ranges from pieces of houses, stuffed animals, clothes, broken china, and other evidences of peoples lives that have been torn up. Those piles literally represent some of the lives around Murfreesboro.

Life will continue to move forward and most of the country will forget about this event (that is if they even heard about it in the first place!). Those in Murfreesboro will remember for several months, years even. Some may only remember because of the evidence that the storm left behind. Some will remember because of the effects upon their lives. I personally appreciate the reminder about how we can’t control everything. And we can make plans, but those are also often out of our control. I also have a much healthier respect for the weather (and weather reports). No joke.

(For the record, I am writing this in a word document and will post it whenever I get a chance... our internet was knocked out).

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Little Thrown Off

I just finished my presentation to the class. I think I did well, considering I only had about 3 people nod off when the lights went out when I showed my footage. Most everybody else engaged accordingly and I appreciated that. I think what threw me most, though, was when I mentioned Hiroshima and saw the puzzled looks on faces. When I asked who knew what either Hiroshima or Nagasaki were, only a handful of students raised their hands (after supposedly having read their American history textbooks about WWII).

Really? You don't even know what Hiroshima is? I'm not asking for you to point it out on a map or even how to spell it. I just had a little more faith in the average college freshman. My bad.

Fury in the Pacific

This is cool (because I am a dork). But if you would like to see the footage from the Battle of Peleliu, watch this.

Some Processing

Tonight I am invited to "guest lecture" about the Pacific trip in an American history class. The professor just wants me to show some pictures or film and talk about what I saw on the islands I visited, as he is about to cover WWII history in his class. So I have been reviewing film and photos (and archival footage) to assemble some sort of presentation for the class.

It is still hard for me to believe that I walked on those beaches. It is difficult for me to switch to and from the archival footage to the current day footage because I get caught up in the realization that those are the same land masses, though usually time has caused them to look much different now than they did during the war. I was talking to someone the other day about the trip, and she asked me why I went (a common question) and what the trip meant to me (an uncommon question). I realized that I still have a lot more processing to do about how this trip affected me and my decisions of how I will live out my life in the days (and weeks and months and probably years) to come.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Peleliu Cave [Video]

This is a rough video of a cave in Peleliu. The cave had a TON of remains in it. The footage is very shaky, as I was watching where I stepped while I was filming. The woman leading us is Lucille, one of our guides (and possibly soon to be the nurse on Peleliu... the ONE medic on the island). Keep in mind that it is also easily 110 degrees in that cave; it's too bad the video can't relay how stifling the air was in there. The video is a about six minutes long, and I tried to include some of the feel of getting in and out of the cave, as it was a tight squeeze.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A few pictures (thanks, Lindsay!)

The photos are a little cut off sometimes; just click on them and the full thing will pop up in a new window.

Tangie, our fearless leader on Peleliu

A natural arch among the Rock Islands (look at that water!)

Not an uncommon site.

John Edwards our Peleliu leader and Lorraine our Ngesebus leader

The class on Mt. Suribachi


Lindsay took an insane amount of pictures on our trip. That's good for me, as I only have a few due to all of my filming. She graciously agreed to let me share her photobucket page. Check out these photos! There are hundreds, but you really get the feel for the trip with them. I'll post a few specific ones in a bit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

jet lag + insomnia = a cranky zombie

I am tired all day and can't sleep at night. I'm not sure how long I get to blame this on jet lag. We've been back from the Pacific for a full week and I still feel like I am kind of just floating through life in some warped dream (and have been less than productive because of it). At some point I will have to snap back into reality, as I have some deadlines approaching, am supposed to be starting on my thesis (for reals this time), and will be back at the battlefield full-time soon enough. I realized how bad it was when I dozed off in front of the assistant archivist from Tennessee State Library and Archives during a class field-trip/guest lecture; I was sitting across from him, too. Unfortunately, he didn't know about my jet lag. So much for ever considering working at TSLA (what? the sleeping girl? she doesn't need to work here, we want workers who can stay awake). And I will apologize for those who have to deal with me on a regular basis and if I have been a little cranky. Again, I don't know how long I can blame jet lag, but for now I will.

People keep asking me how did my trip go. I really want to say, "amazing and awesome and life-changing," but I feel like that would be bragging. So I usually pipe up, "it was good," or, "it was cool." I want to delve into details, but there was so much that I don't know where to start. And sometimes I think people just ask "how was your trip" to be nice or to start a conversation, but aren't really interested in listening about what my travels really entailed and how that affected me. I guess that is why I video-documented the trip. Maybe I will be able to portray to my family and friends my experiences with my film(s).

Now comes the real work.

And for the record, I still haven't posted any new videos because of the whole not-being-able-to-focus-due-to-lack-of-regular-sleep thing. I have most of this upcoming weekend set aside for starting to sift through videos (and take some time to make some shorts). I suppose I should go lie down now and pretend to go to sleep in an effort to get my body settled into Middle Tennessee time. Eesh.