Saturday, December 11, 2010

Likes and Stati

I find myself "liking" things in life. As if my whole world operated like Facebook. "I like this" pops in my head when I want to approve something. I have even caught myself creating statuses (stati?) as my day progresses.

I am currently at my parent's house in Germany. I got to visit some pretty amazing sites so far, to include the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Bastogne. All of this exploring of an era that lacked digital social networking forces me to current consider change in society. It makes me wonder about how life was different and why. Ultimately, though, it causes my subjective concern: is this shift in society positive? But historians are supposed to remain objective... and active in their voice. That thought was neither.

Ultimately, I cannot complain about social networking, as it allows me to remain in touch with family that I have spread all over the world. I don't have to wait for days or weeks to hear from my family. But I will still wonder about how deftly we (current society in the Western World) access the world versus our comprehension of said world. Or the lack thereof.

"[ekg] thinks too much when she has long expanses of time by herself... like on an airplane to Europe."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When it rains, it does so torrentially...

I don't imagine I will have time between now and Friday to post anything. But I also imagine my mom has checked this page about eighteen times since my last post, so I should post something. I don't have a lot of time to do anything right now because, well, because of who I am. I always take on more than I should. Because I believe I should wear purple elbow-length gloves and matching knee-high boots with my red cape. ICanDoIt Girl! She never says "no!" Even when she should!

On top of my commitments, I got sick, totaled the front end of my car, and still have to pack for Germany (not that I was not excited to do so, Mom, I just wanted to take a minute and enjoy that ritual of travel... evidently that is not happening). I have lots to do between now and when I board the plane in 34 hours and 23 minutes. Not that I am counting. I cannot wait to finally board the plane, settle into my seat, and snooze my way across the Atlantic.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exploding Snot Monsters= Lot of Paperwork

All week I worked outside, killing bad plants and cutting down trees. I had a few days in which I just wanted to stay in bed with my down comforter covering my head. I have "allergies" again, creating me into a snot monster. And working this week only aggravated my condition.

I tried to take medicines to combat said allergies (ok, ok, fine. "headcold) but I had to monitor my medicinal intake to avoid being too loopy. I was working with tools that could seriously maim or kill in a matter of a few milliseconds, after all. On top of my lack of meds, I think my body ended up producing more icky stuff to combat all of the sawdust, dirt, and fumes that I inhaled over the last few days. My head feels like a bowling ball, solid and heavy, spinning furiously.

I hop on a plane for GERMANY in four days (but who is counting?) to visit my MOM and DAD! Woo! But I really need this headcold nonsense to clear out. I imagine the pressure from the cabin will compress everything in my head enough that my head explodes mid-flight. Right over the Atlantic Ocean. I also imagine an incident that will lead to lots of paperwork for the airline and I only want to help them out. Out of my consideration, I am loading up on whatever medicines I can find to clear this up while packing for my [super fun, awesome, amazing, can't-hardly-contain-myself] trip.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Observe the Kerf

In tree-falling, the term "kerf" refers to the space or hole that the chainsaw created. So when you slice into a tree and make the cut, that open cut is called the kerf. As you continue to work on the tree, the kerf will sometimes move (open up or close) and will let you know if the tree is about to go somewhere. In theory, the sawyer has cut in a manner to fell the tree where it needs to go. But that kerf will indicate if the sawyer needs to readjust or move out of the way (quickly). So the saywer's motto "observe the kerf," means a heckofalot for those working around the tree.

Today I felled my first tree. No, I did not yell "timber!" but I did have to yell "tree falling!" Not only was it my first time cutting down a tree (it was maybe about 10 inches wide and 40 feet tall), but it was the first time I used a chainsaw. ZSZCHRRZSRR! I sat through the classroom training yesterday about how to use/clean/maintain the chainsaw, the proper technique for felling trees, and what nasty wounds from chainsaws look like (yes, pictures on a PowerPoint). I believe they call that "instilling a healthy fear" of a tool that can theoretically take your life (doing a job that can also theoretically take your life). Today I got to go out and put my newly-learned knowledge to work.

I am not going to lie. I enjoy getting certified in stuff like this because I like being a walking contradiction. I will wear heels and pearls one day then [safely] mow down a tree the next. I appreciate the new layers of complexity that this creates in me. But even more than that, I am amazed at the science involved in this type of work. Who knew physics could be fun? From the fairly process of taking down a tree to the understanding of an ecosystem enough to manage it effectively, the knowledge base to work in these fields astounds me. I am grateful for the opportunities I have in my current job to experience these things.

Tomorrow I will fell some more trees and hopefully receive my "A" faller's certification (the first step). No worries, Mom and Dad. I will observe that kerf.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wormy in my Pocket

"Miss E-bizbiz, I got to put the wormy in my pocket."

"Oh, Ok," I reply, mindlessly stirring some mac and cheese. "Wait, what?!"

"I got to put the wormy in my pocket, Miss E-bizbiz," he informed me again.

"The what in your pocket?" I asked, hoping his little fist held an imaginary creature.

"The wormy! In my pocket!"

"Little man, I cannot understand what you are saying. Show me what is in your hand."

As his little fingers spread, I saw what he meant by "little wormy." What was left of an earthworm, covered in lint, curled up in his palm.

"Outside with that! Now! Worms stay outside." I marched him to the back door so he could return the wormy. From ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Ah, the wonders of three-year-olds. No boundaries. No rules. Just discovering.

Seriously, though. Worms stay outside.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My other goal

Incidentally, I also decided I am going to run in the Music City Half Marathon in April 2011. That means I will be training for another half (this time, I plan to be half-way serious about my time). So maybe I will run in my second half marathon within two weeks of my potential graduation date. It could happen.

Writing

I am writing. My. Thesis.

And I don't like it. My writing. My research. My arguments.

If graduate school was a native tribe in Somewhere, South America, then hitting this wall is a rite of passage that means I have blossomed into a true graduate student. But, alas, I am still "student." I am so very tired of my research topic that I just want to scream. Every last little nerve in me wants to graduate and be done, so I will push through.

My next rite of passage involves swallowing the research that I bit off and can now hardly chew. It means saying "no" when people want to go out. It means sacrificing sleep so I can fit more hours in my day. It means less play and more work (but not all work and no play; we know what happens then). It means putting down my pleasure reading and picking up my thesis works. It means putting my Netflix on hold for a few months, as I have no time for movies.

Upon my graduation day, there will be tears. That is the next rite of passage within my grad school tribe. But the tears will be ones of joy. I will wear my cap and gown, shining (war paint and feathers would be way cooler and would probably better signify the journey I had to make in order to cross that stage).

Until then, I make my fingers type out the boring academic words that compose my master's thesis, dreaming about freedom.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow (there'll be sun)

"Fight on, my men," says Sir Andrew Barton,
"I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I'll rise and fight again."

I really did try to work on my thesis this evening. I tried tried tried so hard. I even went to the library. But sometimes, thesis-writing just does not happen. And considering that I have have spent 2.5 hours in my quasi-writing endeavors, feelings of epic failure are currently pulsing through my veins. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I will rise and fight again.

Incidentally, while some kids dream of growing up to be astronauts or doctors, I dream of growing up to finish my degree. I dream of coming home from a long day of work and NOT have a the idea of writing haunting me. I dream of thinking about going out and having a big time WITHOUT the dreaded T-word hanging in the back of my mind. One day, it will happen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

friends don't let friends take benedryl

All week long I have been telling myself that my sore throat, aching ears, and stuffed nose are just symptoms to allergies. That's all! Allergies! Nothing else. I am not sick. I am not sick! I don't get sick. I don't get sick! I can't get sick! NOOOO! I am not sick.

It is no wonder, either. Part of my job consists of greeting and talking to visitors as they come through the visitor center (out-of-state germs). I am exposed to public school children, usually ten-year olds, about three times a week (dirty kid germs). I work with high school students at least once, if not twice a week (too-cool-for-school germs). I am also the Puggles director for my church. I love two-year olds, but they are little germ machines (the germiest-of-germs). It does not help that I also make several trips to public schools and the library over the course of a week; those places are real-live petri dishes.

I feel that I have a fairly strong immune system, but it can only handle so much. So I am going to go take some pseudefed and tylenol (you know, for my allergies) and charge on through my day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

different kind of tired

I know, I know. I haven't been posting as much as I would like. During much of my free time (the little I have), I have been writing on my thesis like a good graduate student. I need to get myself grad-ee-ated. To complicate my schedule, several days of my work week have been spent working in Natural Resources, doing the work of a biology technician. So far, that has been comprised of killing exotic, invasive plants and chipping the results. Read: physical labor.

I do not think on my toes the same way I do as "ranger." I do not have to constantly pull mental files to answer questions. I do not have to make calls, plan events, deal with massive numbers of school school children, sit in meetings (and receive sucking head wounds), or type out reports. I can tell the difference by looking at my typing hands.

When I work inside, I do not have to cut plants, spray herbicide, and shove tree limbs and trunks into a wood chipper. When I work inside, I do not come home with dirt under my fingernails and scratches from my hands to my shoulders. When I work inside, I can come home to shave my legs without having to see the many shades of blue, orange, purple, and pink bruising covering my legs or avoid the scrapes (heaven-forbid I run a razor over those open wounds). When I work inside, my hair stays neatly pinned to my head and, generally, no mascara runs ( I don't even bother with makeup on my resource days).

After I come home from a day of working in Natural Resources, I am not only physically tired, I smell HORRIBLE, have dirt streaks on my face, sticks in my hair, particles of nature in my waistband, hair sticking in every direction manageable, and spots of blue skin from where the herbicide soaked through my clothes. The very last thing I want to do is... anything but shower and sleep. I am still trying to get into my swing of things.

The cover for the handle of the chipper. I love it.


I show felled trees no mercy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trail Running

For most of the year, I avoided trail running to prevent raising my risks of injuring myself while training for the half marathon. So today, after some researching at the battlefield (no, my efforts to get a hammock hung for me there have been to no avail... I work there AND research about the place THEN use it as my personal recreational area), I went for a run. For whatever reason, I ventured off down our trails instead of staying on the loop.

I think it was the preceding research that motivated me to move away from the road. I had spent a few hours reading about soldiers' accounts of their surroundings, whether it be before, during, or after the battle. I had landscape descriptions on the brain.

I forgot how much I love running through the forested areas (especially in the fall when there is only a 0-5 percent chance that I will get ticks or poison ivy). I found it especially enjoyable (and challenging) after reading those soldiers' accounts. I think I ran faster thinking about how fast they would have ran through there. I also appreciate the fact that I did not have bullets whizzing past my head "as thick as hail" or see forests fall "like scythes cutting grain." Some within the park service argue that battlefields and military parks should not be used recreationally and treated as places of "hallowed ground." But I argue for the benefit of allowing visitors to use the place for hiking/biking/walking/running. We connect to the space in our own ways.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scattered

Also, I am aware that the desk I described sounds scattered and far from neat. Because it is. Ha.

Who has time to maintain an organized desk, much less a clean room? Not this chick.

concrete and grace

If you were to look at the contents scattered across my desk, you might be a little confused about what I do (or even who I am, for that matter). Tangled with two pairs of dangle-y earrings is a pair of neon yellow earplugs. A shiny park ranger badge sits next to a play-doh container. My watch and keys sit on top of a box filled with markers. Hot pink stationary rests on top of a stack of DVDs (including "The Rundown" "Blood Diamond" and "Little Miss Sunshine"). I have several video tapes from recent editing projects on top of blank CDs and DVDs beside a wildland firefighting manual. Plastic green army men stand ready to fight next to a light up pig key chain and a toy NPS patrol car. A disco ball, external harddrive, and Post-It note block are lined along the front of my dry erase board (that serves no other purpose than to remind me of awesome quotes like, "In matters of style swim with the current; In matters of principle, stand like a rock" by Thomas Jefferson, and "Today I will be happier than a bird with a french fry." I also have Smokey Bear and "See Rock City" magnets pinning tickets to said white board (one airline ticket to Iwo Jima and a Killers concert ticket). A plastic hat cover (hat "condom" as my coworkers like to call it) is folded neatly and rubber banded next to a chocolate tin that is filled with Sharpie markers (I wish it still had its original chocolate, though). I have a stack of bills tucked into a book about the "Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945" with a calculator on top. A bedazzled skull and crossbones card is pinned to the shelf next to a paper cut out pirate ship scene. I have coins (and two dollar bills!... I am rich!) under the many cords that connect my many electronic devices. A museum exhibition guide from the Frist's "Golden Age of Couture" leans against a shelf that has a park ranger print next to it.

And never mind my collection of sock monkeys on the shelf underneath my very top shelf loaded with books about WWII and the Reconstruction.

I like breaking assumptions. I work in a job that people mentally assign as masculine. Not only am I a park ranger (fully equipped with my Smokey Bear hat and ranger boots!) but I am a knowledgeable ranger at a battlefield (even if my Knoxville-visitor friend insists that I don't know my history). A girl!? Who knows about military history!? And wears high heels off-duty?!

It reminds me of one of my favorite songs:


"We are fire inside, we are an army asleep; We are a people awaking to follow their dreams; We don't have time for your games, we have our own goals to score. There are trophies to win (instead of being one of yours)." You can't keep me in my place. I don't fit into whatever box you have attempted to create for me. And I like that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jet Ski

Check out direction #43 on the following map:


View Larger Map

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Sea-Shore

"The sea-shore is a sort of neutral ground,
a most advantageous point from which to contemplate this world.
It is even a trivial place. The waves forever rolling to the land
are too far-travelled and untamable to be familiar.
Creeping along the endless beach amid the sun-squall and the foam,
it occurs to us that we, too, are the product of sea-slime.."
-Henry David Thoreau

While I would like to record what my whole week at the cape was like, I think I will just share a moment that defined my whole week. Our training facilitators let us off two hours early one afternoon during the training week to go explore the area. While I could not have asked for better weather for most of the week, the only rainy day happened on our "break" day. Additionally, I forgot to charge the batteries to the camera I had brought along. Of course. Storms AND no camera. Brilliant.

I traveled with two from Pipestone National Monument (doncha know). We started as quality American tourists- consumers devouring the gift shops that stretched along Provincetown (technically in search of a sweatshirt, but we happened to find some other little trinkets along the way, too). We had hoped the weather would clear up enough to make it to the beach, but there was no break in sight. We drove to the beach as the sun sunk into the horizon. As we sat in the car, somebody pulled out his phone (the smart kind) and said that if we waited a few minutes, the radar showed a break in the approaching clouds. Then he piped in, "but I bet there is a killer rainbow out there right now." That was all this itchy body needed to hear. I opened my door, braved the rain, and bolted over the dunes onto the beach.

From one side the sea breeze slammed the rain drops onto me while the sun smiled from the other direction. Arching from the ocean, over the beach and life-saving station, beyond the grassy mounds beamed the brightest rainbow I have ever seen. Vistas that beautiful can't even be found on a postcard. The waves crashing, the seagulls diving, and the sunlight dancing on the tall blades of beach grass breathed life into my picture-perfect view. The sight amazed me enough that I didn't realize how the rain and cold started seeping into my core; at one point I couldn't feel my fingers, but I didn't care. The expanse of the world lay in front of me, why would I leave?

The sea begs mystery; I found myself caught in my historian shoes, pondering the many lives that had seen this same view. Beach-goers, coasties, early settlers, natives, even pirates. For a minute, the mystical world of the sea captivated me; I would have believed that mermaids played along that very same beach if you told me so.

Alas, dinner reservations demanded that we return to town. But I have stored those few moments I spent on that beach in my "Life Does Not Get Better Than This" mental folder. A. MAZ. ZING.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's [Not] a Twista!

On Sunday night, I hauled myself- books in tow- to the library to focus on my writing. I had been plugging along fairly well when a voice over the loudspeaker informed that all patrons must relocate in a quickly and orderly fashion to the first floor as a tornado warning had been issued. Initially, I thought it was only a drill, but packed up and obliged the voice, anyway. I lost my steam after sitting in the periodicals room for 20 minutes with 100+ rambunctious students, so I left.

Today brought more storms, "with potential for tornadic activities" the weather channel had advised. I spent part of my morning in Nashville and the weather remained on my mind for the duration of my trip back to the park. Heavy rains and a voice that popped up on the radio announcing the National Weather Service's advisory for tornado watches (and even some warnings) in the area. The varied grey clouds swirled in all sorts of directions as the storm couldn't decide what it wanted to do. At one point, the radio voice announced that the storm may touch down on the road I was traveling at that moment. I was so close to the park, I just kept going and prayed for the best.

Tornado warnings and watches used to be no big thing for me. After living through the [relatively minor] tornado that touched down on Good Friday of 2009, slight levels of panic rise up in me when I hear the piercing beeps of another weather announcement. After seeing what the tornado did, sporadically devastating areas around town and creating some major chaos for the days to follow, I expect the worst when I hear of a potential storm in an area. I love thunderstorms; I love listening to distant rumble, watching the light shows, and feeling the buzz in the air. But when I have been cautioned that the storm could evolve into the potentially deadly funnel, I can only suppress my anxieties so much.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome Home

"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow."-Lin Yutang

I still have sand particles on my scalp from being sand-blasted by the First Encounter Beach along the Massachusetts coastline. My suitcase has purged its contents onto my bedroom floor. I can hear my pillow beckoning my head to rest upon it.

I had a fantastic week. I plan on elaborating in a future post or two. A thought struck me on my drive from the park to my house. I experienced some amazing places this week. I saw seascapes and marinas and marshes and rainbows and autumn woods and lighthouses and fields and ocean, ocean, ocean. After I got back, as I drove away from the battlefield, the warmth of the changing trees hanging over the stacked rail fence contrasted the vibrant pinks and oranges and golds that streaked across the sky. The welcome home sky served as my cherry on top of an outstanding week.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Woo!


I finished the race in 2 hours, 38 minutes, my speed averaging a little less than 12 minute miles. My next purchase: one of those 13.1 stickers for my car. I did it. Now to start planning my next race...

I am sore (I expected that). And proud. I did what I had set out to do. I made it from start to finish without stopping (well, I had to stop briefly as nature called about mile 9...). But I don't stop now. Tomorrow morning (like 4:30am morning!), I am flying to Cape Cod National Seashore for training. I have the best job in the world and plan on enjoying every minute of my trip. I may or may not have time (or access) to blog on my trip. So, peace out, cub scout.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Your Mark

In 10 hours (and 11 minutes, but who is counting???) the gun will go off to start the Murfreesboro Middle Half Marathon. I have been training for this since February. You could say that tomorrow will be the highlight of my year- and it hasn't even started, yet.

My running group just left my house; I hosted a "pasta party" so we could "carb up" before our big day. We've been training together since early March, running 3-4 times a week. We don't run fast, we don't run hard, but we run. It has been a positive experience to grow with the group. We used to dread our 2 mile runs. Now 2 miles are our "break" days. I use 2 miles as a pressure release after work. Tomorrow's half-marathon will be the first half-marathon for most of the group (myself included). Excitement tangled with anxiety has kept me wired most of the day. I think anxiety is starting to consume my excitement...

I don't know how I will feel when I finish the race. Happy. Tired. Overwhelmed. Sore. Excited. And I know myself- "now what?" will be the first question that pops into my head. Running a half-marathon is a huge goal to accomplish (for me, the non-athletic, math-olympiad, rather-spend-my-time-in-a-library kid). I think I am also nervous about finishing. I know I have doubts. "What happens if I have to walk it out? What if my back starts hurting again? What if I don't fuel myself correctly?" I know I will press on. Or, at least, I tell myself so. A good friend of mine flew in from New Orleans to run with me (it is her first half, too). She will push me and I will push her and we may have to drag each other across the finish line, but we will do it. I have got to do it.

P.S. I'm ready. My gear is neatly laid out by my bed. My Gatorade is in the fridge, chilling. My alarm is set. I've pinned my bib to my shirt (#724!). Bring it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Now I can sleep for 4 hours

I need to go to bed. But I have had a weird day and think "maybe if I write this out, I can get it off my chest, and will sleep better." Probably not. My roller coaster day rocked my world a little. Alas, I am tired enough that I am wired, too. This is no good. I have to be up in less than 5 hours, but whatever; I can sleep when I die.

I woke up this morning ready for the day to be over already. I am fully aware that is a horrible attitude to have and attempted to talk myself out of it. Pollyanna mind games only work so far when I feel moody. It did not help that I slept in and missed my running group (again!), tried to use lotion for toothpaste (ew), and spilled cranberry juice on my first uniformed shirt (forcing a quick change into an un-ironed shirt in order to roll out the door on time). And I got to work five minutes late. I worked the visitor center all day (only getting a ten-minute lunch and three different restroom breaks... it was a long day). I easily encountered over 100 people, giving directions, answering questions, and keeping a smile on my face all day. I love my job, even when I am cranky.

Then I had two visitors that left particular impressions upon me. The first visitor "shared" a number of his "views" (complained) about a series of things, but said he understood that a sweet girl like myself would not have anything to do with these things. I maintained my ranger smile and let him get whatever he wanted to say off of his chest. About an hour later, he came back into the visitor center to tell me that he had an official complaint: this park did not preserve any Confederate sites and we have no Confederate signage anywhere. I attempted to calm him down and at one point mentioned how, indeed, this was a Union victory and... He interrupted me to say "Darling, you clearly don't know your history."

1. Don't call me "Darling." The ninjas in my pocket don't like it and will want to escape and attack you.
2. Darn-tootin' I know my history. You don't even know about my pocket sharks that will bite your head. Off.

We bantered a little bit more and just before I was about to say something I would have to write an apology letter for later, my supervisor walked out. He listened to the visitor and offered the visitor a comment card to fill out. The guy left and my supervisor put the card in my box for reply. Thanks.

Later in the morning, a visiting couple stopped through. I oriented them to the park and set them off on their way. The gentleman came back and asked to review our regimental list. In the meantime, we started talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder veterans experienced and how society's way of handling veterans changed with each war. He shared that he was a retired Marine and saw combat in Vietnam. He also revealed that he had no help upon his return and didn't fell "normal" for almost a full decade after his return. While sharing a story with me about some of his experiences in combat, he started to choke up as he fought back tears. I couldn't do anything for him but listen and empathize. How many decades ago did this happen and he still bears his invisible scars?

How is it that I get so hung up in my world that I forget that there are other people on this planet? People who experience hardships in ways I will never know? People who understand about life and death situations? Relativity tells me my struggles are no big thing and there can always be something worse. So bring on the cranberry juice spills and "darlings." I think I can take it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just passin' through

"Doyaknowwertherakinhozat?" As I reached across the counter to take my change, my eyebrows furrowed as I attempt to decipher what I just heard.

"DoyaknowertherakinhoZAT?" The voice asked with more emphasis. I turned slowly, as I did not want to startle the native and realized that Bubba Joe standing behind me was talking to the wizened gas station-owner who had handed my my change.

Slowly the old man drawled out, "Last I sa-aw, 'twas under the tree-ye, in the front yar-ard, where you put it la-yast. I didn't put it noway-er."

"Ah," I thought to myself, "he was asking about a raking hoe's location. Don't let the grammar bother you. Keep your straight face and you might just get out of here. Let's go little printer! Print that receipt!."

"Ma'am. This register here don't print. You cain wayit and I can pri-int from that one."

"Ah, no thanks. I'm good. Thanks!" I reply as I make my hurried escape. Man! Was that a scene from a movie? A set-up? A dream?

I visited West Tennessee last week to visit my sister and brother-in-law for the Chester County Bar-B-Que festival. It works out that sometimes I am reminded that even though I have lived in this state longer than any other (now at a solid three years and two months), I am still a stranger. Sites that may seem commonplace to locals capture my interest. I enjoy being a tourist in my backyard. I marvel at the number of churches along backroads and wonder how they each can keep functioning with the appearance of a rural and scattered population. Political signs boldly show the residents' party preference. Among many of the political banners stand posts that state "JESUS" in prominent letters, as if He were running for political office (I'd vote for Him). The littering of barns and other old buildings along the horizon spark questions within about the history contained on that land. And sites like a revival tent make me giggle. Maybe I shouldn't, but who doesn't love an end-times trailer with "Jesus Man" painted on the side?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I don't get this very often

I lead a lot of tours at the battlefield. And by "a lot," I mean hundreds since I started working there. I know how I feel about the tours from my perspective (and am continually reviewing ways to improve). I rarely get to hear what those touring with me feel about my tours.

I led a group of students from Cumberland University last week. Their professor keeps a blog and wrote about the trip here. Aw, thanks! It sounds like the group had a big time and that makes me happy. Unfortunately, I couldn't do anything about the canoodling couple who chose the Slaughter Pen to snuggle (like the professor said, their clothes stayed on the whole time); otherwise, I feel the tour was a success. So thank you Cumberland University Civil War class. You guys rock.

P.S. It appears that I present the battle in a relaxed manner, much like Vanna White would if she were to lead a tour. I don't know how I feel about that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

s'more-inspired revelations

Ahhh, camping. I love waking up to sun rays warming my tent, the smell of damp earth, the sizzle of bacon cooking, and raging hormones. Wait, what? I neglected to add "with 20+ teenagers" to my camping statement. I spent the last three days as a chaperone for a youth group camping trip. That explains my exhaustion, aches, pains, and tilted smile. Yes, middle- and high-schoolers demand a lot of energy. In fact, they demand a lot. More than once did one pipe up, "how come [fill-in-the-blank] isn't done?" and it took all within me to refrain from responding, "because your mom isn't here and you haven't done it, yet. Get busy, kiddo." But I didn't. Usually.

I am glad to do it. In fact, the trip proved fruitful for a number of reasons. I connected more with some of the kids and with other leaders. The near-freezing temperatures reminded me of why I need to get down on my knees every night and thank God for every blessing in my life (especially my warm, soft bed). I separated myself from my crazy-busy life for a few days. I always enjoy a quality campfire (and eating s'mores!). I also stumbled upon a revelation that had not fully sunk in before: I am my mother's daughter.

Now that I have stumbled upon this revelation, I am not sure how to respond. Mom, I know you are reading this and I don't think it is a bad thing that I share many mannerisms and personality traits with you. It just isn't the easiest thing to swallow. This morning I heard words coming out of my mouth that sounded (in tone, pace, and word choice) just like my mom. Ahh! All weekend I had been the center a variety of mom-jokes. One friend said that, "You are such a mom." After I gave him a stern look, he added, "in a good way!"

Now, as I sit amongst my smoke-flavored laundry and push myself to finish cleaning my room, I continue to ponder my other mom-like qualities. Now I just have to figure out how to use these newfound powers for good.

On a side note, I miss my mom (and dad) a heckofalot. I would rather see any mom-traits coming from my mom in person. C'est la vie.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Morning, Monday!

It is 7:20am. I argued with myself about waking up to run this morning. [But I don't wanna!] I justified staying in bed because I could hear a light rain falling. [Just do it] After I finally hauled my butt out of bed, I got ready but had misplaced my keys. [Ugh] I missed the time to run with my running group, so I settled on hitting the gym for a shorter run. [I got this] Upon my arrival at the gym, I slammed my door, looked at my car seat, and realized that I just locked my keys in the car [^&%$]

Good Morning, Monday.

Campus Police helped me out and I fit in a one-mile run (after all that, I should have just stayed in bed!!!). I want to throw my weight around and be cranky this morning. But I caught myself: whether the events in my life make me feel like I have a good day or a bad day, it isn't my day. The day is a gift of mine to use wisely. I showered, made some coffee, pumpkin oatmeal, and I am ready. So bring it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Emily and Tom

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all.
~Emily Dickinson

While some people may consider me obscure and random (just a touch), I know exactly how I got to where I am. This poem is a favorite of mine. I recently saw it in a piece of artwork I would like to recreate and started looking up some background to Miss Dickinson's writing. In the process, I discovered that Thomas Wentworth Higginson contributed as one of Emily's literary mentors. Thomas Wentworth Higginson also served as the colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers (the first Federally-authorized African American regiment) and wrote the work "Army Life in a Black Regiment." If you are familiar with my research, then you would understand why seeing a relationship between Emily and Thomas struck a chord with me. I will continue to investigate this puzzle piece of history I have discovered. In the meantime, I have to make a trip to the Lobby of Hobbies so I can get the materials needed to paint the poem.

A thought: Dickinson suggests that hope never fails or maybe that hope will always exist. I appreciate that.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All Work and Some Play

I love this.


I also love this: ranger posters in the hotel rooms.


Whoa! That's the biggest arrowhead I have ever seen!

I left on Monday morning with a crew from the battlefield to head to Mammoth Cave National Park for some Operational Leadership training. I can't complain; I love Mammoth Cave and the training proved fairly interesting.

A thought that intrigued me the most during the training concerned the high incident rates amongst National Park Service personnel. Additionally, in an OPM survey, the NPS ranked something like 249th out of 251 government agencies in work/life ratio. A huge percentage of National Park Service employees are dedicated to their mission. Many are so dedicated that it blinds them to their own safety (hence the high incident rates) and even their home life and families. Some are so dedicated, they've tattooed the arrowhead on their arm. Just kidding, Dad...

It is a blessing and a curse to work with so many talented, passionate, and dedicated employees. I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love to visit other parks and meet other rangers who also devote so much to their job. But I think I have to take care that I don't fall into the my-job-is-the-center-of-my-world mentality. That could prove problematic in my future (imma thinkin).

In other news, I met with my thesis advisor last week and the meeting went well. I actually feel motivated enough to pull out my research again. Maybe I can finish this thing so I can move on with my life. And by "move on with my life" I really mean "be a park ranger somewhere." It will happen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I have the best job in the world

I leave tomorrow morning for three days of training in Operational Leadership. "Operational Leadership" is just a fancy word for "being safe." I will take it. While some people might dread the hours of class time covering mundane material that may actually seem like common sense, I am excited. The training is hosted by Mammoth Cave National Park, site of the longest cave system in the world.

I have the best job in the world.

P.S. This afternoon I busted the lead singer to a fairly famous country music group for riding his bike with his kids where he wasn't allowed. He made an honest mistake and I maintained a pleasant attitude towards the rule-breaker. I also kept my professionalism about me and treated him like all of our visitors. I don't think he knew that I knew who he was. So there was my (minor) brush with greatness. And my example demonstrating Wallace Steggner's line about national parks being "America's Best Idea." I don't care who you are, these parks are for all- democracy in action, baby.

Friday, September 17, 2010

You did it! Congratulations!

I feel like this:


It could be the peppermint mocha.

Monday, September 13, 2010

pumpkin spice

At the turn of each new season, I get very excited. Usually, I start spouting how the upcoming season is my favorite season and can hardly contain myself. I also try to encourage that season's early arrival. I break out my shorts a few days before it is actually warm enough to wear them in the spring. I purposefully leave my winter coat at home in March, hoping that will going to stop any biting, winter winds (it doesn't). I rival any eight-year old kid in my Christmas excitement (and no, tearing off extra links from the Christmas countdown chain does not make the 25th of December arrive any faster).

At the end of August, I bought a pumpkin spice air freshener. Maybe if I pump more freshener in my house, the temperature will drop and the leaves will start changing. I love fall! Fall is my favorite! Bring on the excessive use of pumpkin and cinnamon! And the sweaters! And school books and fall hikes! And excuses to drink hot cocoa and wear shades of purple, orange, and brown!

Wait a minute! What am I doing!? Falling into the same trap I do every season. Letting my now become my past before I take the time to appreciate it. I have to savor my end of summer before I rejoice in autumn's arrival. My pumpkin spice will have to wait.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

P.S.

In my heightened excitement this morning (over the race and my coffee), I left the house without putting on a vital piece of my uniform: my sunscreen. Summer wished me farewell with one last Ranger-shaped sunburn, complete with a farmer's tan and a blazing red triangle at my throat. Thank you, UVB and UVA rays. I owe you.

endorphins + caffeine

I consider myself a running enthusiast. This morning I ran my first 10K race. Very few understand this new-found love I have of running. Unless you have risen at the crack of dawn, pinned that number to your race shirt, grabbed paper cups of water from strangers only to throw them off the side when you are done, then crossed the finish line with hundreds of other sweaty runners, you don't get it. Each heartbeat fuels my push to run faster. Faster. Faster. I run for race day.

This morning's race was different. I took a break from running all week because of my cold and may or may not be fully recovered. Eh, life. I may or may not have visited the Frist Center of Visual Arts last night when I should have been sleeping (it's not my fault! I wanted to see their "Golden Age of Couture" exhibit! it's last day is tomorrow!). I did not finish with my best time, but I finished and that was my initial goal. With each race I think "ah, next time I will have a base time to race against myself!" It is rather bizarre, as I never considered myself an athlete of any sort (I was in Math Olympiads in sixth grade and did receive a trophy...). So the more I train, the more I amaze myself in my enjoyment of something I used to think I hated.

After my run this morning, I had to go to work. To lead living history programs. With my cold. Leading living history programs may be one of my least favorite activities, as it makes me nervous. I think I am afraid that I will say something incorrect or forget my lines or something. To make up for it, I decided to treat myself to some liquid deliciousness before work. I have recently discovered that peppermint mocha-flavored creamer is now sold year-round and not just at Christmas. I decided this morning would be an excellent morning to enjoy my peppermint mocha coffee. You know, to loosen up my congested chest. I also thought that enjoying my beverage before rolling into work would help me calm down a little, as I could just take a deep breath of the yummy smell and let my cares melt away (like they do in the commercials). Big mistake.

Between my "runner's high" that lasted most of the day, my nervousness regarding programs, and my consumption of caffeine (that I am NOT used to), I could not be kept still. A fellow ranger insisted that I did not walk anywhere today, I was skipping. I very well could have been, but I was on such a rush that I can't hardly remember a thing. I believe my ranger programs went well. I did once say "Hello, my name is Ranger." And a fellow ranger wanted to know why I was wound up tighter than his watch. I don't even know what you are talking about Jim this isnormalanditisprobablyendorphinsalthoughitcouldbethecoffeeidecidedtodrinkthismorningbutitwassogoodhaveyoueverhadpeppermintmochacoffeeiamsogladthatitisayearroundflavorbecauseiamgoingtobeaddictictedyouhavenoideabananas.

Maybe I should reduce my peppermint mocha consumption by half. Because I won't stop running. Ok, so maybe I will reduce it by a third. Or just a sip. Every once in a while...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Snapshots of a Sick Day (worked)

6:25am Alarm sounds, my head is pounding, I can't breathe! [press snooze]

6:32am Alarm sounds, head still pounding, I still can't breathe out my nose [press snooze]

6:39am Alarm sounds, the sensation in my head is more like a throbbing than a pounding, I can slightly wheeze through one nostril, my cat informs me she is starving with her scratchy "rowr," I contemplate calling in sick [press snooze]

6:46am Alarm sounds, the idea of medicating myself entices me out of bed, I actually turn alarm off.

6:50am Feed the cats, take some tylenol and pseudephed, boil some water for enchinacea tea. It's going to be one of those days.

7:01am Start shower, hope the steam will loosen up my congested chest. Indeed, the meds don't take effect soon enough and I attempt to condition my hair before shampooing and use facial soap to scrub my body. Mmm, minty.

7:24am Attempt to use Mary Kay products to cover up my sickly-looking face. Give up, and throw on some eye-liner, mascara, and powder. I am going to blow my nose enough to rub off any makeup, anyway.

7:46am Peanut butter toast and tea for breakfast. Grab a can of soup for lunch. Pack a box of tissues and my meds. Hope I have everything in my bag.

8:22am Walk into work. Immeadiately am asked about three different tasks that I think I recall? from last week. Explain my space cadet-like condition.

8:40am Turn on computer. Stare at screen. Wish for a warm bath and a soft pillow (in vain). Blow nose and wash hands, instead.

9:02am Still staring at computer.

9:26am Reply to emails. Hope they sound coherent. Blow nose and wash hands.

9:50am VIP kids from local high school visit. I help them wash the park van and car.

10:43am Back to desk. Stare at computer. Think about weekend programs. I should probably finish my scripts for the weekend.

10:46am Contemplate taking more meds. Is three and a half hours close enough to four? Can I hold out another half hour?

11:06am Take more meds. Blow nose again. Wash hands.

11:13am Find regimental files to start script writing.

11:16am Look at opened regimental files on my desk, hoping the script will write itself.

11:30am Give up on writing to eat lunch. MMM, soup. My choice of southwestern veggie will surely get my nose to run a little?

11:56am Blow nose, wash hands, consider calling it a day and going home.

11:57am Check email again. Persevere.

12:08pm Is it time for more meds, yet? Heat up water for more enchineacea tea. Those scripts won't write themselves. Blow nose and wash hands.

12:12pm I need lotion for my hands and nose.

12:47pm Have found old scripts to work with. That is a start.

12:56pm Reading about cannonading only reminds me of my pounding head.

1:14pm Why do supervisors need to talk to me? Can't they see that I would rather be lying down under a rock somewhere?

2:00pm Check to see if any visitors would like to listen to a stuffy-nosed ranger talk. Nope. Back to the dungeon (after I blow my nose and wash my hands).

2:06pm Weigh the pros and cons of staying or going home. Stinkin' work ethics. Just do it.

2:08pm Continue flitting back and forth between writing, fighting the urge to leave, washing hands, and blowing nose.

3:28pm Have you ever noticed how lots of medicines are either red, white, or blue? Mine are. Patriotic meds. These are the thoughts that run through my head BEFORE I take them...

4:10pm Nap? Nope. Only in my dreams. More tea.

4:13pm Ony 47 more minutes. Come on, 5 o'clock! Let's go, 5 o'clock! Arrive just a little bit faster.

4:22pm Blow nose (very gently because it is near raw) and wash hands.

4:34pm Start cleaning up for the day.

4:46pm Help close visitor center. Wish someone a happy weekend (and proceed to get reminded that it is, indeed, only Tuesday). Think long and hard about my pillow and how my weekend is actually still 4 days away.

4:49pm Yay. I get to go home. And take more meds. And sleeeeeeeeeeep.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Caterpillars Galore

So if you know me, you know that I am not a huge fan of bugs. I am much better about not wigging out about creepy crawlies than I have been in my past regarding the things, but still can't understand that phrase "cute as a bug." I particularly loathe insects that jump (ask anybody in my family about my feelings regarding grasshoppers) but caterpillars tend to freak me out, too. Maybe it is the way they move. Maybe it is the fact that they are fuzzy. Maybe I am just weird.

The other day while I was babysitting, the three-year-old ran up to me with a thick, fuzzy, green caterpillar. "Miss E-bizbiz! Miss E-bizbiz! I found a caterpillar!" I imagine the thing's head had already been crushed by the toddler's fingers, but I didn't want him to come near me with it. "You have to be gentle with the caterpillar. Go put him on the grass so he can grow up to be a beautiful butterfly." After tossing the caterpillar into the lawn (the three-year-old's version of gentle), he ran out to look for it. After a thorough examination with his hands on his knees, the baby had no such luck finding said caterpillar. He looked up and exclaimed, "Miss E-bizbizz! The caterpillar must now be a butterfly and flew away because he is gone."

Aww! He is cute as a... not bug. He did make me appreciate caterpillars for a moment. A very brief moment. Then today at work I was just typing away, working on revisions or report-writing or something when I felt a tingle on my middle finger and mindlessly brushed at it. A caterpillar rolled off my hand and into my lap. Rockets shooting up into the air have nothing on how fast I popped out of my chair. How did a caterpillar get on my hand while I was at my desk in the basement!?!? I was a good park ranger and rather than killing the nasty thing (against my better judgement), I took him outside to let him live to see another day. I am still puzzled by the situation and will have minor paranoia attacks in the upcoming days regarding those icky things. Ew.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Politickin'

The listening session went well on Friday. It was just another day I got to serve America.


(I am very excited about my name being published on the official itinerary. I'm somebody!)

I was assigned to the registration table; I either pointed people in the direction of the Pre-Registration table (if they had already registered) or had them sign up at my table. I also assisted with pointing attendees in the direction of the restrooms (I have lots of practice with that by, you know, being a park ranger). I met a lot of folks at those tables.

Indeed, I got to shake Senator Alexander's hand. Initially, I did not recognize the senator. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an old guy shaking hands down a line. "Uh oh," I thought. "Crazy guy alert." I encounter my fair share of crazy people at the park and all I can do is smile and nod. So I was ready. He stepped up to me, reached out, shook my hand, and said, "Hi! I am Lamar Alexander." And I replied with my introduction. He then left and my initial smile changed from my Tour Guide Barbie smile to one of dumbfoundness.

"Huh," I thought. "That was the Senator Alexander, not just a crazy dude. I wonder if I did what I was supposed to do?"

Then I continued to ponder the situation. How many hands do you suppose the senator has shaken in his 40+ year politcal career? Lots. I won't even attempt to guess a number.

I appreciate working at the event. For starters, I got to wear pretty clothes and break out of my uniform for a day. I also got to meet some very passionate people. But it also made me realize that I love my job. At least at my level, I don't deal with politics. I just get to smile and wave. "Thank you! Buh-bye! Buh-bye, now! Buh-bye! Thank you!" I am good at that.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I should switch to a felt-tip pen

My job certainly keeps me on my toes and requires me to figuratively wear many hats (while literally wearing one very distinctly-shaped ranger hat). My hats ranger from that of ranger to historian, greeter to tour guide, designer to writer, organizer to researcher, teacher to trainer, and the list does not stop there.

Currently, the park has a series of wayside signs in the creation/revision process. One wayside planned for the Hazen Brigade Monument will list the names of the 55 soldiers buried at the site. Our museum tech and I were assigned to confirm that the names listed were correct. We already had one sign go up, only to have two separate descendants of the soldiers buried there inform us that some names were incorrect. My minor OCD tendencies told me this would be a good job for me. In fact, it sounded like an excellent task when it was assigned to me this morning. Ha! What was I thinking?

The task involved checking the list of soldiers printed in the Roll of Honor (page 439) then cross referencing those names in various adjucent general reports (depending on those states, the reports vary in size from two to ten volumes per state). We had to confirm the soldier's name, spelling, regiment, and burial plot. After spending several hours reviewing these volumes (and telling "we see dead people" jokes), we confirmed our findings by matching each of these headstones with our list.

Misspellings or variations of spellings often occurred during the nineteenth century as the individuals writing the name just wrote what he or she heard. Depending on dialect, the variations could prove particularly interesting. Our trek through the enclosed monument site was hot and only demonstrated MORE inaccuracies in our records. I really felt if I stabbed my ballpoint pen through my eyeball it would have been a less painful process. The fact that I had to take breaks to do my regular job stuff probably saved me (or at least my right eye).

By the end of the day we decided we will need to create an organized file to list out the various spellings of each soldier (for researchers and inquiring family members). I would say we will spend most of tomorrow creating that list, but indeed, we will not. We will be listening, instead. I have lots to look forward to on Saturday (and will keep my ballpoint pen in hand, just in case).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ahh! Nature!

Last night when I took my trash out, I noticed that the air felt cooler outside than it felt inside. I ran back into the house, excited to go to sleep with the windows cracked open. I opened the window by my head about 2 inches (not wanting my cats to get too crazy and push the screen out or anything) and restfully fell into dreamland. I awoke cheerfully to the morning sounds of birds and bugs, rolled out of bed, and headed to my strength-training class.

Upon my return home, I walked over to pet my cat who was longingly gazing out the open window when I realized that my screen was wide open. It had been open all night! Ahh! Nature! Nature escaped into my room!

So tonight I will rest my head upon my pillow and think about what living organisms will serve as my bedmates... Spiders... Mosquitoes... Spiders... Snails... Spiders... Slugs... Spiders... Snakes... You don't even know.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Will (the-bestest-brother-in-law-ever!)!

So, I had contemplated wishing my brother-in-law a happy birthday by way of a facebook wall post. I don't want to cheapen my wish, though. He has a lot of folks that care about him and have posted a variety of happy birthday wishes on his page. I don't want to just post another post for posting's sake. Maybe I still will. It is fun to see a whole column of friends showering you with birthday wishes on the book of faces!

But I like Will too much. I want to give him a "happy birthday" hug in person while singing off key! I want him to have his strawberry cake and eat it, too! I want to send him a card in which Storm pops out and creates enough of an atmospheric disturbance that the lightning actually ignites the candles on his birthday cake! I feel like a wall posting will not portray that (even if I wrote all of that out).

Will and I have had several discussions on the validity of digital friendships. What levels are these types of friendships? How does it change relationship dynamics? Is is a positive or negative thing (or can you even quantify that?)? I appreciate Will's ability to discuss and not get defensive or pushy.

Will is a good guy. Actually, Will is an amazing guy. Will deserves an amazing birthday day. And a wall post. Because he is that awesome.

*P.S. Will, the X-Men reference was for you; I don't even know if I did it right, either... (:

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Theory Behind Shifting Plate Tectonics

My boss argued that since people don't throw away old National Geograpgic magazines, they just get stacked up and moved around. The movement of the magazines are the cause of the shift in plate tectonics. It works for me.

I had my chance to pick through a National Geograpic giveaway stack (contributing to more shifting) a few days ago. I have loved National Geographic magazines since I was a kid. Picking through the gold bindings made my heart beat a little faster. I chose ones with cover stories on dinosaurs, diamonds, oil, and my big (dorky because I am a history goob) find: a 1982 issue with a title story, "Two Berlins."

As I poured over my finds, I couldn't squelch my kid-like wonders. I want to go to those places depicted in the semi-glossy pages. One article reviewed ecological changes on islands in the Pacific, using Palau as one of the examples. The pictures of the bright blue ocean call my name. When I grow up, I am going to find a way to visit these places and get paid for it. Hmmm. In the mean time, I will continue dreaming.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You only live once

Which is why I appreciate this.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

America's Great Outdoors

Last week our park was contacted (along with two others in close proximity to NashVegas), by the America's Great Outdoors initiative. Nashville will host a community-listening session at the end of August. That gives everybody two solid weeks of preparation time. That also means we are going to be super busy trying to set this whole thing up. That also means my chances of going to the gulf have shrunk considerably. Boo on that.

Anyway, Obama set forth the initiative on April 16 (4 days before the Deepwater Horizon exploded in Mississippi Canyon 252... yes, I see the irony) to "promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors."

I am all tore up about how I feel about government-initiated community efforts. I believe they call that "socialism." As employee of the Federal Government, I have little choice about my participation (and since I have this insane drive to do whatever I do well, I will only strive to participate fully). I do appreciate essence of the initiative. I am all about some protecting of the saved spaces we have, the natural and cultural places that represent American heritage. Bring on the patriotism. Just bring it on if I want it- I don't want the government to tell me how I should be patriotic, dangit.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me

Three years ago today I rolled into the 'Boro for the first time with my car loaded with some essentials and a number to a Venezualan lady who had a room for rent, ready for graduate school. I cannot believe three years have already passed. I have now officially lived here consecutively longer than any other geographic spot on this Earth. It feels weird. I think what feels weirder is my lack of vision of what is next in my life. Potentially I can go to other parks. Potentially I can hang out here for a while.

Three years ago, I had no idea of what my future would look like in 36 months. I was brimming with excitement about being a grad student. Here I am, in the same predicament about my future, completely over the whole school thing. Well, not completely. I still have to finish...

I wonder what the next three years will bring? Or maybe I should stop pondering about my future so I can focus on my present. This week: today I babysat for twelve hours (fun way to spend my day off), tomorrow I am presenting at a teacher workshop tomorrow for Nashville metro schools, we have an ROTC staff ride on Thursday (my favorite), and I may be sent to the Gulf some time this week to be a resource advisor for some of the clean up crews. Tonight I am waiting for some laundry to finish, watching some of my favorite dramas on TNT, trying to appreciate the day. I am feeling a little off today. It was probably the concentration of six kids for twelve hours. Or my thoughts of my ten hour day tomorrow. Or my battle with uncertainty about my collection of successive tomorrows. Eesh.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On Fame's Eternal Camping Ground

Every other Saturday night during the summer months, the battlefield offers the "Hallowed Ground" tours. On these tours, rangers lead visitors through the national cemetery as costumed cast members read letters and journal entries from the soldiers buried there. The whole tour is led by latern light.

I am always torn about the tour. Knowing that is how I am going to spend my "Friday" night makes me drag just a little. "Ugh," I think, "I just want to go hoooome after this long and hot week." I go home to grab a bite to eat and change into a clean, pressed shirt before the tour and put on my ranger smile to push through the last few hours of work.

The tour is quite possibly my favorite to lead. With each stop and each introduction, my ranger smile melts into my real smile. Every character portrays true hardships experienced by a soldier or family member during the Civil War. As I listen to the stories, I realize that any troubles I have are nothing compared to what these guys went through.

The final character portrayed is Theodore O'Hara, author of "The Bivouac of the Dead," reciting his poem. My favorite line, "On Fame's eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread; And Glory guards with solemn round, the bivouac of the dead," pulls the whole tour together for me. The 7,000 soldiers buried at the cemetery gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country. I have one of the coolest jobs in the world in that I get to share their stories with countless visitors daily. I need to remember that when the day-to-day grind appears to wear on me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good News

The bite has not gotten worse and appears to be fading. It looks like I will live to see another day.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It Never Fails

"IN MY HIP!?!"

Evidently, it does not matter if I am 6 years old or 25 years old- I still throw fits at the doctor's office. Generally speaking, I avoid going to doctors like one might avoid contracting the plague. Unfortunately, a welt (that I initially thought was a 'skeeter bite, then chigger bites, then spreading poison ivy) formed into an intolerable rash that spread from my ankle, up my leg, across my knee and stopped at the inside of my lower thigh. I could hardly focus at work because of the itching and burning. I popped some anti-histamine, spread some cream on it, and reached for the phone. It was time to make the phone call of death.

"Heritage Medical, may I help you?"

"Uh, yeah. I need to make an appointment to *cough* come in and *clear throat* see someone about a *cough cough* rash."

So I went after work. As I expected, regardless of my form-filling expediency, I still waited an hour and a half to see the nurse practioner. She concurred that the rash was related to the bite, but didn't know what type of six- or eight-legged critter bit me.

"Continue with the anti-histamines, use this prescription cream, and I will give you some steroids to help fight the infection. Do you want pills or a shot?"

(Thinking to myself what crazy person opts for shots???) "What will be more effective and quicker?"

"Ideally, the shot, but it is up to you."

*SIGH* "Give me the shot, then. Please." (You have to throw in the please, even if you don't really mean it... especially about the needle).

So the nurse practioner left and the RN came in a while later with her shot. I spent the ten minutes I had to myself preparing myself for the shot. I have had countless vaccines in my life, even had my childhood vaccinations twice (thank you very much, military hospitals). "You got this, Elizabeth! It is just a prick in the arm, and I bet you could convince the nurse to give you a lollipop afterward."

The nurse walked in with the syringe, filled with a white, cream-looking substance.

"Alright, these are never pleasant, but this one has to go in your hip."

"IN MY HIP?!?" What is she? Crazy? Are you kidding me? "Why?"

"There is more muscle there."

Clearly she can't see my hips because that ain't muscle. So I untucked my uniform and exposed some of my hip. I will give the nurse credit. She pinched me really hard before she stabbed me, so the stabbing didn't feel as bad as the pinching. It is a good thing there is so much to pinch on my hip. She made the standard "now that wasn't so bad, was it?" remark that nursing school must train its students to say. Thanks for the purple band-aid, may I leave?

Upon leaving, I realized how small the building was and quite possible how loud I had been. The nurse's teenage soon was in the waiting room, waiting on his mom. He most likely heard me yell my startled inquiry. It never fails. I just looked into the sunset, walked out of the building, and pretended like I wasn't the last (and only) patient in the building.

I am monitoring the bite. If it gets worse, I am to go back. I hope it gets better.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dear August,

How I loathe thee. Thine chiggers and poison ivy remain the bane of my existence. I cannot hardly bear thine excessive heat (and am particularly susceptible to irritating heat rashes). Why have thee no holidays? Why have thee no breaks? Any season-changing colors come from the brutal sun's rays beating down upon the Earth, with almost no relief in sight. Thine isolated thunder storms tease with cool breezes, only providing enough moisture to create sauna-like conditions.

I know there will be a break from these intolerable measures in a matter of weeks. In the meantime, we shall have to find a way to get along. I will provide the calamine lotion and resist from scratching and complaining if thee could be so kind and stop with the record-breaking heat? That would help me appreciate each passing day for what it is, rather than hoping each day end sooner.

Yours very truly,

~ ekg

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Recent Discovery

I have found that weather forecasters are very similar to ex-husbands. They can lie through their teeth without a blink of an eye.

Thunderstorms all week- ha! Now, the weather people cover their lies with percentages. I imagine ex-husbands would do the same if they were smart enough. "There is a 40% chance that I won't be where I say." Maybe if more people used percentages in their daily communications, I might be more forgiving in relationships like I am of the weather guy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dear Mom,

I cannot update my blog with a quality entry because I am tired. And the things I want to say I can't because I don't know who reads this. So I will say that I am still alive and keeping myself busy.

Maybe tomorrow I will be abducted by aliens and have a story to tell.

Love,

ekg

P.S. No, Dad, I have not pulled out my thesis this week. I will get there eventually.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What I am Listening to Today: Crossfire

I love this song. So I thought I would share. And Charlize Theron kicks butt. I want to be her when I grow up. Incidentally, I also love Brandon Flowers. I want to marry him when I grow up.

Lessons in Procrastination (By way of Yardwork)

After my run this morning, I decided to pull out the ol' lawnmower and attack my grass-cutting chore. I am not going to lie: it has been nearly a month since I have mowed. Unfortunately, lawnmowing is a chore that does not get easier with time. Every day I ignore the fact that my yard has, in fact, become a jungle the chore becomes increasingly more difficult to conquer. It is not something that I can mentally overcome, neither.

I bounded home after my successful morning 3 mile run, ready to throw on a pair of jeans and get productive this Monday morning. Bring on the yardwork! Between mowing and "gardening"* I figured I would be outside approximately an hour. My lawn usually takes me 45 minutes with my push mower and I was only going to do minimal work in my garden.** It took me a solid 15 minutes and a series of grumbled expletives to get the %^$# thing started (because I have neglected my yard duties for so long.

After I finally got it started, I started charging through my backyard jungle. Vrrrommsmmch(clunk!). Silence followed by another string of grumbled expletives. Stupid almost-knee high grass. Whose fault is that? Mine all mine. I shall overcome. So I cranked up my iPod and tried again.

You know that first-grade haircut that happens upon one's discovery of fiskers' ability to chop one's own hair? That is what my lawn currently looks like. I believe another word for that would be "hack job." And that planned hour turned into two and a half hours without any real work in my garden (minus the four tomatoes I gathered). Eesh. So much for productivity.

I would like to turn this yard lesson into a "life lesson." You know, that dreaded question: So, how's the thesis coming? Procrastination is a skill I have mastered. I think I know if I pull out my thesis-y stuff it is going to appear between knee- and waist-high, tangled and thick. It may take me a while to start my engines (and, yes, there will be expletives). But between training for a half marathon, working like a maniac, helping create costumes for a historical production in August, "gardening," mowing my stinky lawn, and just living my life to the best of my ability, I have a hard time bringing myself to pull out my research and writing.

I will get there. You'll see. And again, I will overcome. It may turn into a hack job, but it will get done.


*Another blog entry entirely on my "garden" due soon...

**Again, that blog entry about my gardening skills or lack thereof is well over due.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Props to the New Girl

I went to the dentist this morning to get my teeth cleaned. Besides the shortness of the visit (which made me very happy), the new hygienist kept the spit-sucking straw nearby so I never become a human fountain. This I appreciate. So props to the new girl. She probably doesn't even know how she made a difference in my day by just doing a good job at her job. And that is my thought for the day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Even at 25 (You've Got To Start Sometime)

"Are you going to live your life standing in the back, looking around? Are you going to waste your time? You gotta make a move or you'll miss out." ~Jimmy Eat World

I sit here, thinking about all I have done and thought over the last two weeks that I could write about.

But.

I am tired. I don't want to dwell on my past two weeks. Today is like my Friday. I have tomorrow and Monday off (and a dentist appointment on Monday- yuck). I am going to pop in a movie and probably fall asleep early so I can wake up early and go for a run before it hits 85 or 90 degrees (which means before 7:30am...). And then I may actually pull out some of my reading for my thesis.

[cue record screeching noise]

That's right. Thesis. For those who know me, they know that my response to the question, "how is your thesis coming" is mirthful laughter. I have been avoiding writing like some people avoid touching sharp edges or jumping off of tall cliffs. I think I struggled with an identity thing: I hated being a student. I wanted to be all park ranger and no grad student. But recently a number of things have happened that have encouraged me to at least visit my thesis. I am still in my program and that makes me a student whether I like it or not (I also have to pay for graduate hours whether I like that or not). I make no guarantees, but I feel like I am in a place where I no longer need to run away from finishing. I just need to finish so I can get a job. Hopefully, a job in the Pacific, either here or here, but I trust I will go where I need to be.

Monday, May 31, 2010

summer rain

One of my favorite smells in the world happens as a summer rain hits hot pavement. It is part moisture, part cloud, part dirt, part heat, and all awesome. I think I was seven years old the first time I cognitively remember noticing and appreciating that smell. We lived in El Paso, Texas and were playing outside as the sun was sinking. In a rare happening for the desert, it started to sprinkle. I remember my dad standing on the driveway, taking a deep, exaggerated breath, and proclaiming his love of that smell. Growing up in the Northeast, he was accustomed to more moisture and probably appreciated any extra water whenever it happened while we lived in the desert. Ever since then, I took extra delight in summer rains.

Today has been full of summer rain in Middle Tennessee. The morning started with scattered showers. Later, a two-minute downpour was followed by the bright sun to absorb the puddles. Even later, a ten minute sprinkle fell so light, the downward motion deceived my eyes. I knew it was raining because the sidewalks told me so, but I could hardly see the drops. Regardless of what my eyes told me, I could smell summer hanging in the air.

And pure elation followed.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Uncommon Valor (remains) a Common Virtue

I have been meaning to post, I promise. I feel the longer between posts the more I have to say to catch up, to explain, to sort out. So I will pretend to start afresh. Forget what I have written and I will just start each day new. That way, you don't think I am crazy when things seem to change or turn around so fast.

I am not going to write much today. I attended a Memorial Day service at Stones River National Cemetery, hosted by the VFW. Each of the over 7,000 headstones in the cemetery have an American flag placed in front of it. I love to see autumn leaves encompassing the stones and light snowfalls dusting the cemetery can be breathtaking. But seeing the thousands of flags is amazing. Pausing to understand what each represent can be overwhelming.

It is interesting to see the flags that have been placed for Memorial Day in a cemetery that was established for Civil War soldiers. Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day and that day of remembrance was established out of the mass numbers of soldiers buried after the Civil War. Those men did not return home 150 years ago in the same way many men and women service members do not return today.

A friend of mine (a 70-year old retired Marine- I love Mr. Bob) emailed this to me and I think it is fitting for the weekend.



I like this one, too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This is how I feel



And I am ok with that

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sing it, James

I may have the option to create a digital exhibit in lieu of writing a third chapter for my thesis. I think I would like that. I would like to continue working on interpretive media for the stories I continue to research. I would like these stories shared beyond the bound pages of my thesis, sitting on a library shelf. I would also like to learn the technology to create digitally-based projects, as I think that will be a useful skill-set for my future.

Alas, I don't currently have the skill-sets needed to create the website. If I choose to create a digital exhibit, I will face all sorts of learning curves and could quite possibly run head first into walls. Not that I am afraid of challenges, but I feel like I trekked through the jungles, mountains, valleys, and deserts called grad school and am concerned if I take this on, I may walk right into the base of a cliff that I won't want to scale. Creating this exhibit will be extremely beneficial for me on many levels, but could also prove extremely difficult and time consuming. So I must decide if I continue with the writing of my third chapter or take on the exhibit project.

For now, I will turn up my iPod while I iron my uniform for tomorrow's early morning. Get up offa that thing and shake til you feel better; Get up offa that thing and try to release that pressure.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Or two

My mom said she wanted a blog post or two, so here's my "two." Today was warm, but I spent most of it inside. Usually that means I am downstairs in the dungeon doing computer-y stuff (no sunlight), but since we currently don't have a Tuesday afternoon volunteer, I manned the visitor center this afternoon. I got to see the sunlight through the windows (while avoiding a sunburn). Tomorrow I am traveling to another park for interpretive training, and will be gone for upwards of 13 hours. I will be back in time to get myself ready for my 730AM school visit Thursday morning. A ranger's work is never done.

Just ask Keith.



I still giggle about the pen. Indeed, it is mightier than the cannon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

a short note

A short note to let my mom know I am alive (even though I talked to her yesterday). This would be longer, but after an errand-filled morning, I have 14 minutes left to put on my face, pack my bag before I babysit, sweep my kitchen floor, pick up the dining room, and head out the door. Then I have to go babysit, run home, and put on a spread for some friends coming over. Dinner will be promptly at 7pm and I made a trifle. Mmm.

Now I've got 12 minutes. I'll write more later (really, I will, I promise).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I have one last wish

Just let me down easy. I am riding on one of those natural "highs" called life and have been for some time. Maybe it is because I don't have anymore coursework. Maybe it is because I am keeping myself busy doing work I like to do. Maybe because I am a hopeful individual and know of many adventures around the corner?

I did the wildland fire training and am now certified to fight wildfires. That training was long, though, and made for a long two weeks at work. My room is a mess; my books are stacked all over my room begging me to open them and glean from their pages the many ideas that will help build the arguments in my thesis. I have almost two weeks of laundry stacked up in my closet.

Yet, the sun is beckoning me to enjoy its rays outside. Maybe if I go for a run or do an hour's worth of yard work I can get this itch out of my system enough to grant me the ability to sit down and focus on writing today. There is always tomorrow...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

How bad is it that I am trying to pick out where I am staying when I visit Crater Lake next month based entirely on whether or not the hotel/motel/bed & breakfast has HBO? Don't give me that look- that first night is when "The Pacific" airs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

hmmm...

I have recently received a number of comments on my posts from people I don't know. Several are in different letters (one is in different characters...). I believe that's called "spam." And it must stop. Hmm.

In other news, I am very tired. I goofed off quite a bit last week (but had fun doing it). And many of our Spring projects are gearing up at the park, i.e., keeping us busy. I'd say it is keeping me out of trouble, but that's hardly true.

The hours of my day fly by. I don't believe the word for what I do should be "work." I like it too much to be "work." This weekend (and next) I am going to take the wildland fire training. I am stoked. I will also have to take a pack test to be certified, but I ain't skeered. Bring on the training, I'll be just as good as the boys. I'll try to be, anyway.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

just a stretch (for my fingers)

As the weather is not good anywhere within a 2-hour driving radius from here, I did not take any type of road trip as I had hoped. Maybe early March. Instead, I went to the gym, did some household chores (woo), and sat down to address what I need to do for my (you guessed it) thesis.

My thesis advisor gave me a book to use as an example for my writing (specifically, the parts relating to cultural landscapes). I have skimmed over it, will read its entirety soon, but am a little befuddled. I think my advisor's vision and my vision of my thesis differ. That intimidates me a little. So, I guess I will just go forth with what I have laid out and see how she responds. Today and tomorrow will essentially be the last two days for the next two weeks that I have time to write. I will spend the next two weekends taking S-130 and S-190 wildland firefighting training at work, on top of my regular three-day a week schedule (plus my 10+ hours of babysitting). Writing will be far from my mind after work for the next two weeks (if my mind is even functioning after work on those days).

Good news, though. I had a spectacular week (for no reason in particular) and am enjoying where I am right now. So my "struggle" in school is just forcing myself to stay in front of the computer and write. I am definitely not struggling with being here right now. And that's a good thing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

No Rhyme or Reason

So I sat down and wrote two pages for a chapter of my thesis. Just like that. I don't know why, I just did. So now I am off to bed so I can get out of bed at 5 and go for a run.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The weather outside was frightful... now it is just pretty

We got snowed in on Friday. Then it sleeted, rained, and froze, making Murfreesboro a large ice kingdom on Saturday. Today the sun is shining and I can hear the constant drip sounds of the snow melting. It's pretty awesome





Reason #2: Look What I Can Do

You know those little guys depicted in cartoons who wage war on an individual's shoulders? Like this:


I feel like that whenever I am trying to talk myself into working on my thesis. I not only lack motivation to finish, I practically have incentive to stay and work on this for a while, yet. It looks like my position will be transferred into a SCEP position, meaning I get health and life insurance and am career-condition upon my graduation (i.e., if a permanent position opened up, I would be eligible). So, hmmm, what do I want to do? I love my job, I like where I live, and I want to grow some vegetables in a small garden. If I stay, I can do these things, but if I stay I must remain a student. So where is the motivation to write?

I have also applied to some other term/temp jobs elsewhere. If I get offered one, I will seriously consider moving (because I love to see and experience new places!). And while technically I don't need a degree for those, I will want to be finished so I won't have anything hanging over my head. So there is a possible motivation to write. Choices, choices.

I think I am going to have to be like Kronk: "Listen guys, you are sort of confusing me, so be gone or whatever I need to say to get rid of you." Maybe I will just stop thinking, wait it out, and things will resolve themselves?

Monday, January 25, 2010

I just noticed

A typographical error two posts ago. I'll blame it on my braindead-ness that day. I have know excuse today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

As I Lay Dying

Ok, I am not really dying. And Faulkner has little to do with my life currently. But trying to write this stupid thesis is sucking me dry. I think I am what "they" call "burnt out." I put so much into the last two and a half years of school, that I have little left for these last dwindling months. I can't do anything else, because I have a guilty feeling hanging over my head that what I should be doing is writing.

So I sit here, writing a blog post instead. Maybe this will help, a warm up for my fingers, a stretch for my brain. Or maybe I am what "they" call "procrastinating." I struggle with finishing in a timely manner- mostly because I don't have to. If I want to stay at Stones River, I need to remain a student. I applied to a number of jobs at big parks in a big state (the AK), but I don't need to graduate to get those jobs. If I am even selected. I will be graduated by August, but I need to finish this stupid thesis first. I have got to face my obligations like a grown up and force myself to complete this last piece before graduation.

And I've already tried to talk myself into it. "This is it, this is all I have left." "You've come so far! Just a little bit more!" "Heck, it is only like two more papers." "Just do it." I guess the Nike approach will have to do. Just do it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Job Well Done

As I sit hear, reeking of sweat and mud, I feel a mixture of pride, exhaustion, and accomplishment swirling within me. I have been the coordinator for an Eagle Scout at the battlefield. He has been planning this project since the end of July. This past Saturday was the last of three Saturdays he has had his volunteer crew out to help replace a portion of fence outside the visitor center. I am proud of him- he had enough hours to officially have earned his project last month, but still had a stretch of fence to finish. He could have called it quits and said he did enough, but he came back and finished.

For someone with little to no upper-body strength, I have a hard time with most manual labor. I helped where I could, but the mud (very sticky, heavy, water-saturated mud), made any efforts three times as difficult. My "team" comprised me, an awkward thirteen-year-old who insisted on telling the same lame earthworm jokes, and the scout's little sister who didn't feel like she had to work since she was just a sister. I choked on a tall order of patience and we ploughed through digging holes and setting up fence posts at our own (slow) rate. The teams worked according to their ability and we finished the project by noon.

It is amazing how mentally exhausting physical exertion can be. I sit here, my hands still smelling of leather, more hair whisping out of my braid than tucked in, hoping somebody will come along and carry me to the shower for I don't have the strength to get there myself. I have to work this afternoon! And by "work," I mean "write." Ugh. I hate school. I just want to be a park ranger and move along with life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ruins Provide Incentive

"But there has to be that interval of neglect, there has to be discontinuity; it is religiously and artistically essential. That is what I mean when I refer to the necessity for ruins: ruins provide the incentive to restoration, and for a return to origins. There has to be (in our new concept of history) an interim of death or rejection before there can be renewal and reform." J.B. Jackson, The Necessity for Ruins

Just a little snippet of what I've been reading for my thesis. I like chewing on this thought, though.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Side Show to the Big Show (Or My Life is a Circus)

I just got back from our local Civil War Round Table meeting. Yes, I am a dork like that. Other than covering some business, on meeting's agenda was a book discussion about Sam Watkins's "Co. Aytch First Tennessee Regiment (Or a Side Show to the Big Show)". The discussion went well; most attendees participated. For the most part, everyone agreed that Sam could not have remembered that clearly twenty years after the fact and that, because of the nature of the initial publication, Sam took several liberties in his storytelling. It is a good piece that eloquently describes a soldier's experiences of the Civil War, but it isn't the most accurate of tales.

On point I found interesting, though, was brought up briefly and then left alone. Sam wrote the book after he knew the ending. He knew how the war would end, what side would claim victory and that he would live, that he would grow old with his family.

If I wrote an autobiographical novel today, what would my story look like right now? I don't consider my life a "side show to the big show" as Sam did. Sometimes I feel like my life is a circus, but that's beside the point... I don't know how things end, so what details would I flourish or leave out? How different would two stories of my life, both written by me, be if I wrote one now and one in twenty years? Not that I can remember what I had for breakfast, but I know that as events from my past fade in my memory with time, what seemed important then is not so much now. And for that matter, things that I didn't even take notice of at the time have made huge impacts on my life.

Just a few before-bed ramblings.