Tuesday, August 31, 2010


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