Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Far as the curse is found

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. 

That song was playing in the Dairy Queen as my mom and I took a driving break last Friday. I nearly melted while washing my hands in the ladies bathroom. All day we had heard news pieces and I had read stories of the events that were still unfolding out of Connecticut. We knew there was a shooting. We knew dozens of people were killed. We knew many were children.

Every mass shooting this year has provoked my heartache and tears. This one hurt in a different way. Probably because of the idea of children. Innocence in a broken world. And how much I love children! A school!? This happened at a school!? Among the ABCs posted on walls and "Days of the Week" calendars. Among rainbow-colored carpets and creation stations. Among an environment designed to feel inviting and safe to little, bright-eyed humans. The contrast between this safe place and the horror experienced there is still fully unconceivable.

As we continued our drive, every American flag we passed flew at half-staff. Each time, I could feel a new set of saline drops pool in my eyes. And that was before I saw any pictures of those sweet faces or heard of courageous acts by caring adults (or caring kids!).

Now that I have been home, I have been helping prep the house for family's arrival (yay!). You would think something as exciting as that would be an easy distraction. But then something reminds me of the tragedy and I have to stop a minute. Pause. Breath. Pray. Weep. Dry my tears and think forward. Remind myself that life is short and precious and our heartbeats are, indeed, limited. I remind myself that even when each heartbeat pains the soul when thinking about this world's brokenness. And that the act of compassion gets easier each time you practice it. Compassion is absolutely necessary, especially in times like these.

A friend posted on Facebook that it was difficult to pull together Sunday's hymns/song set while thinking of the news. He was working on "Joy to the World!" while expressing joy felt difficult. But the third verse served as a form of comfort.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

That baby's birth that we choose to celebrate on the 25th of December happened because of this world's treachery. That baby's love overcomes all (far as the curse is found). We can rejoice in that, even when our hearts hurt. Especially when our hearts hurt.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Catching up

What has that girl been up to? I wonder that myself.

I know how to keep busy. Doing what, you ask?

Since I last wrote, I had planned on writing many different posts.

I had planned on writing about winning a Twitter contest to receive tickets to a chocolate event at the Hermitage.
My friend said "stand over there by that pretty tree and I'll take your picture."
She didn't say "stay still."
The gorgeous fall day was spent with a good friend (and delicious chocolate) at a beautiful historic site.

I had also planned on writing about life in some of the rolling hills of Stewart County.

We wake up to fog a lot here.

I planned on writing about some of my projects (I still plan on that, in fact), including getting involved with Echoes of Nashville, a historic tour company (and how excited I am about it).



I thought about writing about my trip to Wisconsin, in which I ate cheese, drank beer, and learned to shoot (not all at the same time).
I need to work on my stance, apparently. 
I might even write about my trip to Texas I took this past week. I did so much in less than a week, all I remember is "fabric" and "family" and "fun." The rest is a blur.

I have intentions to be more consistent about posting in the near future. However, I know that I have family visiting (woop!) and the holidays and then a whole week volunteering at the Stones River National Battlefield 150th anniversary events. All that followed by a dentist appointment. So while I have positive intentions, I make no guarantees. Wait for it! I have a New Year and resolutions coming up, don't I?

Monday, November 26, 2012

hills

I am learning very quickly that I have the ability to take hills. Yes, I mostly mean while running (but we all know how I love to link running to life). Since moving from Louisiana, I feel that every surface I run while outside is an uphill surface. To say the terrain of Stewart County is not flat would be an understatement. All roads roll. And while I find these roads fun to drive, they present a special challenge while running them.

I read somewhere that one of the best way to take a hill is to imagine pushing yourself over the hill. Don't just focus on making it to the peak, mentally imagine yourself going past the top and working the downhill. I didn't have much practice of that while in Louisiana. Now I can practice that between 8 and 15 times every mile.

Most recently, I am training for the Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I would like to also run a few 5ks in the Spring and then try to run the Ragnar Relay race in the summer (and/or fall). I like having these distant races in my mind while I train. It makes me push myself harder. It makes me think beyond the day's run and what I am ultimately running for. I run for my health, yes. I run to keep in shape and not have to buy bigger pants, yes. But I especially run for race day. I love the excitement of race day.

When I think of myself up and over hills during my training runs, I am imagining myself taking the hills of the half marathon course around Lynchburg. I imagine the spectators cheering and the feeling of crossing the finish line. And with each hill, I feel a sense of accomplishment. They are minor accomplishments, but accomplishments, nonetheless.

I find myself encountering hills in life, too. I have to push myself to see beyond the steep grade and think of pulling myself up and over the hill. Ultimately, I have to remember in the grand scheme of things, these hills are tiny and that there are bigger things (like the festivities after a major race) that I work for.

Besides, if I didn't get out to stretch my legs, how else would I catch sunsets like this?


Thursday, November 15, 2012

coffee and donut

Dra-at. I had almost completed a new post when the internet died and said post had not saved.

[grumble grumble grumble]

I'm over it. So now I will start afresh. Here's the thing: what I wrote before is lost and I am not even going to bother trying to recreate it. Instead, I will let you know that if you refrain from drinking coffee for months and cut processed sugar out of your diet for months indulging in coffee and donuts is a rush

{silver}

that is difficult to describe

{pancakes}

although I can say that my right leg won't stop quivering

{air}

and that my brain is operating at a much faster pace than it is used to

{lace}

and that my heart might explode.

I only wish I was kidding. However,

{bananas}

may I suggest the Pumpkin Spice donut from Dunkin' Donuts?

{Grace Kelly}

That Pumpkin Spice donuts is absolutely delicious!

{glove}

Now I need to go

{stars}

figure out the rest of my day or

{sparkle}

maybe go for a run or

{tornado}

figure out how to detox myself from this

{craziness}.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

casting my vote

I have a distinct memory of my mom taking me along with her to vote when I was in third or fourth grade. We went to the local library building, not checking out books that time. "This is very important," she told me. I remember her telling me almost gravely of the seriousness and responsibility we have to vote (although, the gravity of the matter is probably a combination of my flare for the dramatic and my choosing to remember my past with that same flare).

Oh, the excitement as we stepped into the gray booth! Oh, the wonder of that machine!

I still walk onto voting premises with pride. Oh, the significance of the act! Oh, how my voice is counted! I think of the many in history who have been denied their right to vote (example: when my great-grandmother was born, she legally was not allowed to vote) and am thankful for my right. I think of individuals worldwide who do not have the privilege to cast their opinion via ballot and am thankful for my right.

The red "Cast Ballot" button seemed especially bright yesterday afternoon. I nearly squealed in delight as I stepped out of the voting area, resisting the urge to curtsy on my way to my car.

Thank you! Thank you! I just made a difference while exercising my amazing right as an American citizen.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Freedom to be Crazy

Crazy arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

The nondescript envelope was addressed to "Resident." My mom suggested I throw it away but I could not contain my curiosity. What's in it? I tore the envelope along the side edge, careful not to damage the contents. I pulled out a brochure.

This was no ordinary brochure. The title, "Favored Races" and the subtitle, "What if they had integrated?"immediately caught my attention. What is it? And do I see what I think I see? Yes. Upon reading the document a little more thoroughly, I discovered that it was a racist piece of propaganda sent by what appeared to be a local individual desiring to run for the Tennessee House of Representatives. Specifically, the political platforms outlined included discussions about how certain races were superior to other races and allowing for lesser "favored races" to breed with "favored races" would "have a more devastating effect on civilization than nuclear bombs." Specifically, the argument attacked Mexican immigration. Wait for it:

"Mexican immigrants are weapons of mass destruction." No joke. That's what the brochure claims.

It continues, "The Mexican immigrants are good workers and add to our economy you say. What did they add to the Mexican economy?" The ridiculousness of these and other statements removed my ability to be angry at this person (a Mr. James Hart, although his website does not work, surprise surprise). I should be angry at the racism, and maybe even compassionate at the stupidity, but ultimately I laughed at the sheer notion of the entire event. How did this individual make enough money to even get his ideas printed, much less be able to run for any level of public office in these States United in the 21st Century? His crazy completely removed the validity of his arguments. Sorry, dude.

While reading aloud some of the statements of this "candidate's" platform, my mom asked if it was even legal (I am sure the racist severity was making her uncomfortable... as it should). Yes. Crazy is allowed to say what he (or she) wants to in these States United (cue Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American"). In fact, this type of speech needs to be protected, as crazy or stupid or mean as it may be. That's part of being an American- having rights to use our words (or our brochures) to say inspirational things, to challenge mainstream ideas, to push innovation, or even to propagate stupidity.

God Bless the U.S.A. (Yes, I sang that part. Loud.).

With my blood pumping red, white, and blue this afternoon, I will take to the polls and exercise one of my most treasured rights as an American citizen. And while I tend to keep my political opinions to myself, I can honestly share that I will not be voting for Crazy.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

smiles are humanity's sunshine

I wonder if people realize the power of encouragement? The force of a kind word can make a heart soar. I often forget. I know I think of kind things about others, but I don't always say them. I need to vocalize those thoughts more often.

This past weekend I had a chance to go back to Stones River National Battlefield and see a number of people I haven't seen in what felt like forever (yes, yes, I only visited there like two months ago). Since so much has changed in my life in such a short time, I felt like I was visiting the place as a different person and I wondered how people would respond to my recent life-changes (especially since most people there were used to seeing me in the green and grey).

All I received was positivity and encouragement from people I talked to. I felt especially encouraged when some people I greatly respect said nice and encouraging things. Often, those words were practically in passing while conversing about a variety of topics, but their kindness meant the world to me.

To those who said nice things to me: thanks, thanks, and thanks again (one million times over). To those who say nice things daily: you are my hero(es). To those who don't realize how you impact the world with your positive projections: you rock. I am working on being kinder, being more expressive with my own encouraging words.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Farm Dog

We know, we know. She's told us a million times. She loves fall.



I really do.

Fall brings its fair share of outside chores (in beautiful weather, of course). In addition to the regular seasonal raking, sweeping, watering, and bedding down for the winter, my parents have a new house with another layer of chores that have to be complete. It's a good thing I have a farm dog to help me out.


All 7 pounds and 4 ounces bound around the yard as helpful as you can imagine a 6-month puppy could be. He especially likes to chase butterflies, chew on sticks, and crunch on hickory nuts (all things conducive to chore-completion). His masculine fur catches all possible burrs and stickers, as well as the crispy curling leaves that he passes. His attention span darts from one noise to the next, constantly keeping him moving about the yard. Zeke probably loves fall more than me. Now if I could only get him to learn how to properly use a rake...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cumberland River Run(ning)

I finally did it. I finally went for a run in my new backyard. Between all that I had to do before leaving Louisiana and packing and moving and attempting to settle in, I have not gone for a run in over two weeks (and the two weeks before, I may have gone for a total of four runs). I needed to get up and go!

Where I currently live is tucked into a hillside. Literally. While I find preemptive relief knowing that my bedroom will be the safest place during a tornado, it means I have no easy access to running trails. I wasn't exactly sure where I would wind up this morning, but I had do go somewhere. I found that somewhere 8.3 miles down the road.

As I tooled down the road looking for someplace suitable, I saw a road with a bridge that led to an island or peninsula-type landmass. I  turned onto that gravel road and found myself in Cross Creeks National Wildlide Refuge.
The bridge beckoned me to cross. I am glad I did.
It was slightly overcast, not even 60 degrees, and breezy. Even at the 10 miles per hour my car creeped and bumped along along, I could feel my running shoes itching to hit the pavement. I found a parking area, stopped, got out, and barely remembered to stretch before I hit the pavement.


The winding road along the river seemed to stretch for an eternity.
I may have found my new favorite place in the world to run. The gravel road stretched between two bodies of water (the Cumberland River and probably an inlet of the river). Trees painted with autumn colors stretched over either side of the road. I caught myself out of breath before I knew it, as I was moving too fast to pay attention to my speed or heart rate. "Keep going!" yelled the little voice within. "Find out what is behind that bend!"

The sun attempted to burn through the clouds at one point.
It did not make it through; rather its light provided a warm glow through the trees.
I had to turn around for I had things to do, but I am looking forward to tying up my laces tomorrow and stretching my legs out along that river.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Winding Roads

"I am going to kill you," she said through her pasted smile and gritted teeth. When my mother's jaw sets like that, it means she is only mostly kidding.

Under the glow of the hotel lobby florescent lights, I decided that was not the moment to declare "what an adventure!"

We had just finished a three-hour drive through bumpy, windy roads of central Louisiana. In the pitch black. And maybe through some heavy fog. Earlier in the day, I had decided this route would be better, as I wanted to avoid the traffic in Baton Rouge. That is a decision I believe we both questioned repeatedly during that three-hour drive. We packed the truck on Thursday and decided to leave that evening to get a jumpstart on the nearly eleven-hour drive to Tennessee. After a shower, a pseudo-nap, and some dinner, Mom and I got behind our respective wheels; she would drive the moving truck and I would drive my car.

I am pretty sure I ran over six frogs on that leg of the trip. Mom said she stopped counting the frogs she hit. We also passed raccoons, rabbits, armadillos, and possums. Some of the animals were alive and some were roadkill. Some stretches of the road was just pavement and a sharp drop on either side. Some of the drive ran across long bridges that were probably scarier to drive during the day if we knew what we were driving over. We bumped, rattled, and wound our way through Louisiana, stopping just across the Mississippi border in Natchez. Those hotel beds provided comfort if for no other reason than the fact they were still places to rest for the night.

Friday morning we hit the road again, taking a brief visit at Natchez National Historical Park (I can't pass a National Park Service site and NOT stop!). We arrived in Stewart County on Friday night with the cold and drizzly rains, unloaded the truck on Saturday under a pleasant autumn sun, and I have spent the past few days trying to breathe. I have been non-stop for the past several weeks. You know that muscle spasm that happens after you stop doing a movement repeatedly? Your muscles still think they need to move, so they keep moving in an odd and uncontrollable manner. I am currently in muscle-spasm mode. I know I need to keep going, keep doing! Wait, wait. No, I don't. I can sit a minute and it is okay. Is it!? I have to keep going, keep doing! No, no. I don't. Some habits just die hard.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Moving Randomness

I can now say I have changed my address 28 times before I turned 28. You can practically call me a gypsy (but not really- I don't think gypsies have addresses, that's part of being a gypsy).

You would think by now I would have learned how to pack and properly label a box. But sometimes I was not on my moving "A-Game" and neglected to label boxes accordingly. The result:




Although, in all fairness, many of my boxes are filled with miscellaneous assortments of things that are mine. Or that I call mine. It's just stuff, really. I just tell myself whenever I unpack, it will feel more like Christmas as I surprise myself discovering varying boxes' contents.

Today, I am loading up the truck with my boxes of randomness and tomorrow I am driving said truck to my next destination: Tennessee. I have been busy packing and cleaning and doing more packing (followed by more cleaning). I swung down to The Big Easy yesterday to say farewell to a friend and pick up my mother from the airport. Now I am back at my apartment, sipping on tea, focusing on the cool morning's peaceful air, waiting for the UHaul truck place to open. The next 48 hours will likely feel hectic. But this ain' my first rodeo.

Friday, September 28, 2012

active and passive (or passive and active)

When writing, I have always been instructed that active voice is better than passive voice. In sixth grade, I remember my teacher trying to explain the difference between passive voice and active voice by tossing a football around the room. "I tossed the football" (active). "The football was tossed" (passive). "The football has been caught" (passive). "Jimmy caught the football" (active).

Active voice packs a larger punch with less words. Active voice provides readers with more details. Active voice means less ambiguity. Authors must say what they mean and meant it. A lot of government documents (legislation, etc.) is written passively. (Did you see what I did there? I wrote in passive voice ambiguously about those government officials who write in passive voice ambiguously). Passive voice allows for the writer (or speaker) to leave out specifics.

When we choose to verbalize our identity, I believe we find it easier to use passive voice. "I am [blank]" rather than "I do [blank] " or "I [blank- verb-active]." I am a park ranger (my personal example this evening). We don't have to do as much explaining. We don't have to go into any detail. We get to place our own labels on ourselves. I will admit that "I am a park ranger" is easier to say and comprehend than "I engage the visiting public to a local park and interpret historical themes of places the federal government have deemed significant enough to preserve and be managed by an assigned agency all while wearing a shiny badge and funny hat." See? Practically the same, yet entirely different.

So as I branch out, as I move away from working for the park service, I know I will miss being able to respond to the question "what do you do" with the answer "I am a park ranger." In reality, my answer has never answered the "doing" part, just the "being" part. "What do you do?" "I engage people with themes based in history but that apply to all of the human experience." That part won't change, even after I stop being a park ranger.

And for the record, I write this in anticipation of my next several days and weeks. I have slowly begun to tell people of my decision, and thanks to the media that is of social sorts, more will soon find out. I have to prepare myself for the onslaught of shock that will happen when my friends and acquaintances announce "but you are a park ranger!" and then suggest that I can't "just leave!" (I have already had that idea presented to me). I worked in a park ranger position and love much of what I did. But I am more. I might do things differently, I will be the same.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Where is this road going?

"Where do you think your road is going?"

I have a journal with daily questions or statements designed to prompt thoughts. Today's question: "Where do you think your road is going?"

My answer? I don't know. And I am okay with that.

I know you have noticed my recent writing absence. I mentioned it before and planned on writing but life just happened. So I won't look to the past, I'll focus on my present while being mindful of my future. My present currently looks like this:

I am a twenty-something year old female. I am an American. I come from a family with a strong military heritage (my dad and brother are both active duty). I can now honestly say my hair is auburn, not red (and I have not colored it in nearly ten months). I love to create. I love to read. I love to learn. I love to think. I prefer chocolate over vanilla. Between Mary Kay pink, Pepto Bismal pink, and Barbie pink, I love them all. Actually, I love color. I understand that life is short and that in my limited ways, I can impact the world (even if that world is a small one). Henri Frederic Amiel said it the best: "Life is short and we never have enough time for gladdening the hearts of those who travel with us. O, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind!"I want to make more room in my life for hasty kindness. I think somewhere I've lost that.

My present (today) I work as a park ranger. But I will hang up my flat hat in three days to step down from working for parks to work for myself.

I know, I am a little shocked, too. But not really. I have many reasons for stepping down, many more for moving forward. Some opportunities are hazy, some have minor definition, and some are as solid as concrete. Where do I think my road is going? I have no idea. But I plan on sharing some of my trek here. Or heck, all of it. Life's an adventure, right? You never know where that road will take you, not completely. We have hopes and we make plans, but we can't guarantee anything.

I don't know where my road is going. This won't always be easy, but I am convinced it is for the best.

Next week, I move back to Tennessee (surprise, surprise). Part of my not writing was due to keeping my "news" on the down low. Part of it is related to all the craziness involved with moving/packing. And maybe part of it comes from the idea that if I put myself out there like this (to the whole wide world!), I am setting myself up to publicly fail. The whole wide world might get to see someone stepping in directions she wants to go, only to trip and get muddied up! I expect getting a little dirty and hope I don't get muddied up, but watch me: here goes [nothing] [everything] [that of which falls between] [all of the above].

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

enjoy yourself (it's later than you think)

I apologize for my recent disappearance. A friend of mine teased recently that I have been "vewwy vewwy quiet." I know I have been. I did not intend for so much time to pass before I wrote again, but I felt anything I had to say would have been taken negatively. If you ain't got nothin' nice to say, don't say nothin' at all.

I also felt the need to work through some of life without writing about it. It's that whole not-wanting-to-document-my-crazy thing. I am feeling much better, not so crazy (and I sense that you'll see me on top of my posting game soon enough). Fall is around the corner and no other season makes me feel like I am about to burst with joy at the color of orange or the thought of sweaters. Autumn signifies change.

I suppose for some, change is scary. It is filled with unknown and unknown is scary. I have never seen change as anything more than an opportunity. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't, but it is worth a shot. As an adult, I am more cognizant of why change should be scary, but I also don't let the fear bog me down. I think that resiliency comes from my upbringing as an Army Brat. I understood that every time we moved somewhere new, we did not know when we would leave again. That taught me to make the most of my opportunities. I am mindful that every day is a gift and may be my last. This has freed me to live my life while simultaneously weighing me down with the thought that I am not doing enough. I am working on letting go of that weight.

Life's too short 1) to live without grace, 2) to drink cheap beer,  3) not to enjoy the little things.

Holstee

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

untangling thoughts

Sometimes, I have so many thoughts tangled up inside of me that I just want to sit down and do nothing. But, if you know me, you know that I have a hard time with doing absolutely nothing. Instead, I do busy things to keep me out of trouble (and distract myself from my many thoughts). Today, those busy things included volunteering, working out, baking (cookies and chicken, not at the same time), repainting my nails (so that the polish is uniform code for tomorrow), crocheting, and cleaning my kitchen for the third time in two days. And I don't like cleaning my kitchen. I meant to call my grandparents (sorry, guys! I will call you tomorrow after work! I have even set an alarm!). I meant to wash my car. I meant to drop stuff off at the Goodwill. I meant to write.

What I want to write, however, is part of my tangles. They are tripping me up. So in the same manner that I prepare my yarn before a crochet project, I am laying out my thoughts before I write. Or trying to lay out my thoughts. Today, I escaped my thoughts. Tomorrow I will be super busy at work, for I already know everything I have to accomplish and hope I will be able to take a moment to breathe at some point during the day (I then have an alarm set to call the grandparental units! I will not fail this time!). I don't imagine much thought-sorting will happen. Maybe by Friday I will have had the time to untangle enough of my thoughts to write some substance.

Or maybe I'll just float away. I would like it if I could do that.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

wavin' flags

I started installing a temporary exhibit at the cultural center today. One of the first things I put up was a banner of flags that represented the Latin American countries (the exhibit is about the multi-cultural influences of Latin American countries in this region).

 
I had to do it over, as I realized I had hung it backwards halfway through my first attempt. Two thoughts dominated my mind while I walked up and down the ladder repeatedly to pin up each flag:

1. Why did I think lunges and squats were smart exercises last night? (Feel that burn!)




and

2. This:


Try not to get that stuck in your head. And yes, the song's list of countries is outdated...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

quick question

How did September get here so fast?


good news!

Autumn is just around the corner! Besides the fact that I absolutely love this time of year and its crisper weather, the color, the abundance of pumpkin spiceness, and the fact I get to break cute cool-weather clothes (well, not in Louisiana...), I have been given a new reason to appreciate the season: college football.

No, no. Don't get me wrong. I still dislike watching football. A lot. BUT. I have found that I can do things like go to the gym and grocery shop in peace on Saturday nights thanks to the sport.

That's what I call glass-half-full.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

this day will never happen again

I apologize for not writing at all this week. I have been non-stop.

And. It. Has. Been. Awesome.

I have bounced around the state of Tennessee, spending time in Rutherford, Chester, Davidson, and Stewart Counties (traveling through a few others). I have had the opportunity to visit family and friends and family of friends (and even some friends of family!). Between picnicking, overseeing tree-felling and chainsawing activities, trivia-ing, game of Life-playing, and moon pie-eating, I don't know where I had the most fun. 

My original plans included me traveling back to the Pelican State today and start back to work tomorrow. Then Isaac showed up. Hurricanes stink. This is the second time I have worked at a park in which a natural disaster totally disrupted (and shut down) operations. I feel odd about the whole thing. I don't like the not-knowing (who does?). I don't like the waiting. I don't like thinking that people could be hurt or killed by this storm. I feel guilty that I can't be helping from two states away (I still receive the "we need your help" emails from the American Red Cross). But I am glad I have a reason to spend a few more precious hours with my family. I got to go for an easy run with my sister today (and discovered that my foot is no longer in pain when I run, woop!). I got to spend an extra evening with my parents and their crazy dog. I will have an opportunity to hang out with my favoritest baby in the whole world tomorrow. I get to spend a whole extra day in my favorite state! 

I am trying to treasure these extra moments without worrying about what the storm has done or what it will do or how it will impact my upcoming work weeks (tentatively, work months if it is anything like that tornado). I am trying to hold onto the idea that this day will never happen again and I should live in the present. I do what I can. I think I am better than I was but I am certainly not where I want to be.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just a Little Excited

My days have been going something like this:

Alarm goes off. Wake up. [Hey! Next week I'll be waking up in Tennessee!]

Brew coffee and inevitably spill while pouring a cup. [Hey! Dad ALWAYS spills, too! I'll see Dad in Tennessee next week!]

Get ready for work. Polish boots. [Hey! Former supervisor in Tennessee would be proud that I still keep these polished!]

Drive to work. Listen to a mix of the Pistol Annies, Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Jason Aldean and other assorted country music artists on the way. [Hey! Nashville, Tennessee is a great town! I am excited to see it next week!]

Arrive to work. Prioritize day's "To-Do" list. See "Tennessee" sprawled across desk calendar. [Hey! I will be in Tennessee next week!]

Go about day. [Hey! Tennessee!]

Drive home. Shake my fist at abundance of bad drivers. [Hey! Tennessee!]

Check mail. [Hey! Tennessee!]

Get home and peel off uniform. [Hey! Tennessee!]

Go for run.* [Hey! Tennessee!]

Make dinner. Eat. Clean up. [Hey! Tennessee!]

Kill time before bed. [Hey! Tennessee!]

Fall asleep and hey, dream of Tennessee.


I may just be a little excited that I am leaving for the Volunteer State tomorrow. Well, like at midnight on Tuesday, but that is kind of like tomorrow. I just have to get through tomorrow, first. [Hey! Tennessee!]

*Sad note: I have hurt my foot and am currently on my 9th day in a row without completing this step. It is killing me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Writing

I don't really have a formula of how I write, but I certainly have consistent behaviors that I model in preparation to write (and while I am writing).

First, I have notes for ideas everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I don't suppose that is a very systematic method of gathering thoughts, but it is what I do. The backs of envelopes, the margins of "to-do" lists, dry erase boards, and Post-It Notes galore possess the ink scrawlings of my jumbled ideas. Sometimes I want to remember an idea or a quote. Sometimes I want to sort out a thought. But I am writing all the time. I don't read through books anymore, either. I usually have a notebook of some sort handy to record thoughts prompted by reading. It is constant. I can't seem to turn off my brain, even if I try.

When I am about to actually sit down and write, I have to get my blood pumping, first. I might play a song and dance a little. I might do some sit-ups and attempt pushups. Often, I will sit myself down after a run while my head is still clear to flush out my ideas. I am not sure why I need to spike my heart rate, but it works for me.

I also have to play my "studyin'" playlist that starts with Enya's Storms in Africa. I understand the complete cliche of listening to Enya when writing, but it is how I do. [Note: the video is cheesy as all get-out. Today is the first time I have ever seen this bizarre mess.] The playlist includes songs from The Shins, The Postal Service, Feist, Silverspun Pickups, and other similar alternative bands. I suppose there is a cliche in listening to alternative bands while writing, too. Next, I will be wanting to write out my stories on a typewriter while chain smoking. It could happen.

Then I just have to write. Sometimes it is something I am content with. Sometimes it needs many revisions. Sometimes I feel comfortable posting what I write the day I wrote it, other times I may revisit the piece several times over. I think I enjoy blogging because I know it does not have to be perfect when I publish it. Yes, it is published to the vast interwebs, but it doesn't seem as permanent as maybe a book (and I know I am not about to receive a grade, like for school papers). The lack of pressure makes it easier to write. I am not trying to impress anybody so I can just write.

There are days when I can take all the proper steps and do like I usually do, only to find the words get stuck. On those days, I just can't seem to type out anything. Maybe I don't feel like I have anything to say. Maybe I feel like I have too much to say. Maybe I feel that what I want to say will come across negatively (and my little Jiminy Cricket reminds me if I don't have anything nice to say, it should not be posted to the world via the internet). And sometimes, I just don't want to. But those days, I still try. I see this as a minor way to maintain a skill set that I worked very hard to develop while in school and will continue to improve over my lifetime. This serves as a way to at least maintain that skill set (even if only at status quo... I sense if I stop writing, I will lose the skill set, too). I also know this is one way I can discipline myself; without goals (complete with tasks and deadlines), I can see myself very quickly perishing without a vision. And I don't want that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Playing Tourist

I spent yesterday playing tourist in New Orleans. Usually when I go to the city now, it is either for work or to visit with friends Mid-City, so I rarely see the touristy stuff anymore. I forget how much fun it can be to play tourist. 

On Saturday night, we went out to see some of the Cajun country (hence the cowboy boots- I wanted to two-step). Then Sunday morning we rolled out of Acadiana and into the French Quarter. My friend pointed out "New Orleans is like the Disneyland for adults." She's right. No rides, but plenty of characters, food, and things to see. 



















Yep. I even found my flag. It matches the tattoo I also got on this trip.*


*Just kidding, Dad!





Friday, August 10, 2012

brief update

After a series of phone calls and investigations, I have received word that my missing friend is alive (even if out of touch). As with about 95 percent of the stuff I post on here, there is more to the story. But like everything else, I will leave it at that and express my relief knowing she is alive.

Tomorrow I have a friend visiting from out of town and we are hitting the Cajun dance scene (to include a barn dance) then headed out early Sunday morning to play "tourist" in the Big Easy. I'll be back on Monday morning, however, servin' 'Merica.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

a quiet summer morning

This evening I am giving a ranger talk at the library so I get to go into work a few hours later than normal. I had intentions of using my two extra hours this morning to go for a run or to knock out a "to-do" item, like wash my car or go drop off my recycling. But now that I am up, I just want to enjoy the morning peacefully. I have noticed how the sun hides its shine until just a little later in the day, tucking itself in a little earlier, too. That means 1) fall is coming, 2) temperatures should drop, soon, 3) fall is coming. It also means summer will be drawing to its own end, as well. As much as I love summer, I adore the fall.

This time last year, I was enjoying my summer days (my first days filled with free time in many years). I was also fretting about where I would work and what park would hire me. I definitely let summer slip away. I suppose I need to enjoy this summer, too.

So I am going to take my coffee in my favorite purple mug, sit on my front porch, embrace the quiet morning, and see how long I can last before the mosquitoes drive me back inside. Then I am going to sit inside and embrace this quiet morning before my week officially starts at work.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ups and Downs


I wonder why I don’t feel like I have heard as much on the shootings in Wisconsin that I heard after the shootings in Colorado. Is it because there were technically less victims? Is it because this one seemed less “senseless” because it wasn’t as random, being a specific hate crime? Is it all the other news-worthy excitement happening (between the Olympics and NASA landing its Rover on Mars, we’ve seen a fair amount of headlines generated)?

I am fighting to keep my chin up this week. It is necessary that I stay abreast of local and national news, but that doesn’t always inspire hope. The interplanetary news has been exciting, but I still think about that shooting. Why do we excuse a hate crime but find a crazy person with lethal weapons a mind-blowing scenario? Neither instance is acceptable, but our collective attention span has seemingly moved on. My heart goes out to the family members of those killed at Oak Creek.

I honestly have lots of good things going for me, many reasons to be thankful and keeping my face toward the sun. Projects at work move forward (albeit, slow… I still appreciate the forward motion). I keep running and that makes me feel good (even if it is just the endorphins making me feel that way). My apartment is STILL clean (shocker). Have you noticed the AWESOMENESS that is my new background on this blog? I get giddy looking at it. The one and only JLC over at Mild-Mannered designed the background for me. I love love love it. This weekend, I have a friend visiting me and we are going to play “tourists” in New Orleans on Sunday. AND [cue drumroll] I get to go to Tennessee in two weeks.

IN TWO WEEKS I GET TO GO HOME.

Home! That is probably the best part of my life right now. I generate personal positive vibes when I think of that trip, smiling just thinking of the family, friends, and places I’ll get to see that week. I have so much going for me right now! 

But then I have other things on my personal proverbial plate, too. The biggest one weighing me down is a missing friend. Yes, missing. I don’t know what happened to her. Her family doesn’t know what happened to her. The few mutual friends we have don’t know what happened to her. So my heart hangs heavy. I hadn’t seen her in over four years, but we kept in touch through text messages and emails. She had expressed being in a bad place (emotionally and literally) and then stopped communicating entirely. After hearing from her mom, I feel devastated. I can’t seem to focus on anything without thinking about her. What if something horrible has happened to her? What if that missing person report gets misfiled, misplaced, or labeled wrong? I knew she was having a rough time in life these past few months (well, last year or so), but now this? There is nothing I can really do but wait. Even with all my sunshine, there are still clouds. And these clouds lack silver linings.

You’ll have to excuse me if I operate on auto-pilot for the next few days (or weeks) (or months). This part of life's roller coaster hasn't been very fun at all.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Night Philosophizing


I have been wondering about the idea of courage. My mettle had been challenged recently. Courage comes from the same word for "heart" in French (coeur). To have courage is to have heart. Well, I have that (I think). So maybe something else is in the way? What could that be? Well, I suppose the opposite of courage.

What is the opposite of courage? My first response: fear. So I started thinking about the idea of fear. And I don't mean it in a "ahh, monsters!" kind of way. I am thinking fear as mental limits that I have created as a safety net. I let this fear define my boundaries. Fear of the unknown. Fear of potential. Fear of success. Fear of failure. If I limit myself, then I lessen the chance for heartache. "See! Look at me! I didn't have to work so hard and now I have reached my goal!" I let the limits keep me from stretching myself. I sit comfortably in my confined approach, not wanting to see how much further I can go.

But does fear play a role in courage? Isn't courage an active conquering of fear? Doesn't courage stare fear down and take command over fear? So if my own self-imposed boundaries are supported by my fears, it will be my courage that will break them down. I use my awareness of my fears to feed my courage. It will be my courage that allows for dreams to have life (rather than letting fear squelch them). It will be my courage that overcomes the fears disguised as emotional safety.

This is vague on purpose, in part because it can apply to many aspects of my life.

But I know there is something more there for me. I have to have the courage to chase after it.

I am on my mettle.


Changed my Mind

The official unveiling will be either tomorrow or Monday. Or even tentatively Tuesday. I find myself fairly regularly not having enough time after work to fit in everything I want to accomplish.

On a side note, I ran an eight and a half minute mile this evening. I have only ever done that one other time in my whole life.

Curtsy, curtsy.

Wait for it

I know I said I was done changing my blog's appearance, but recent developments have caused me to change my mind. The official unveiling will be this evening. Wait for it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Filming at Barataria







I went to the Barataria Preserve today to do some filmwork for a short video about exotic, invasive plants. Specifically, I am working with two interns to develop a video that will create public awareness about these problems, let people know what the park is doing about them, and ultimately remind folks how they can help contribute to solutions. The interns and accompanying ranger were helpful. I especially love seeing people passionate at their work. My eyes glazed over more than once whenever they'd drop their science-y lingo, but overall, we communicated. They took the time to explain what probably felt like basic science to them (sound familiar, Friend in the OK State?). I think I got enough material to make some quality products (we have an idea to do more than one video).




I also interviewed a local gentleman, somewhere around 75 years old. He told us of the many changes in the landscape (including changes related to these exotic plants clogging the bayous). I enjoyed listening to his stories.




Today is on my list of "good days."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Life as a Musical



So, I have this thing I have to share about myself: I live in a musical. I mean, I live in reality (just like everybody else), but I constantly have to fight the urge to spontaneously break into song and dance. Throughout the day, I can see the scene, where everybody's marks are, and the best steps for choreography. I can also hear where songs are going to best fit in.

My days usually go something like this:

I wake up and hear this (yes, Hugh Jackman sings to me):


As I clean up and shower, I wash my hair with this tune (yay, sister):


My route to work crosses a railroad track and traffic often backs up because of trains. I hear that whistle down that line and figure it's just Engine Number 49 (the only one that sounds that way, on the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe):



My arrival to work reminds me how I still consider myself the New Girl In Town:



That does not bother me, for I have confidence in sunshine (and rain):



Giving boat tours even becomes a production, particularly when I have to remind visitors of safety rules (please sit down, you are rockin' the boat):


At the end of the day, as one of our maintenance workers calls out "goodbye, ladies!" I start pickin' and talkin' a little (talk a lot, pick a little more):



Leaving work, all I can think about is how I have places to go and people to meet:


No matter how my day goes, I remember tomorrow is a Brand New Day:


Don't even get me started on what my days off sound like!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

apartment living

I concede that my last post was cheating and not really a substantial post. My apologies (again).

I don't even know if this one will count as a substantial post, either, but once upon a time a friend asked me to post pictures of my apartment so she could see what my new life was like down here (granted, she asked me this like eight months ago... better late than never, I suppose). I wanted to wait until I finalized some of my organization projects. Except, I have a short attention span and can't focus worth a darn. I started this organization project and lived with it for nearly two weeks spread out across my living room:



These pictures are the organized version of my organization project. I had a path I could navigate through. But then one day, I had a burst of organizational energy and swept through my apartment with the fury of something furious.



The best part of my apartment is relief from the heavy, sticky Louisiana summer when I open the door and step in. And maybe all the colors. I like colors.

my apologies

I apologize for my blogging attention deficit disorder. I know, I know. I kept the same layout and background for a solid two years AND THEN I decided to change the appearance of my blog like eight times in the past year. I think I am good for a while. I think.

I think.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Run the Mile You're In

"Good luck wit your mar-a-tawn-ning!"

I couldn't tell where the visitor was from; he had an accent, spoke on the phone a language that sounded Arabic, but replied "Florida" when asked where he came from. He was stamping his park passport book and I commented on his technical marathon shirt, the type they hand out at races that have the race logo and sponsors emblazoned on the back. We exchanged some running stories and I said that I wanted to run a full marathon, but have only completed a half marathon.

"It's mental," he told me, "you've made it half way already, so you can do the whole thing. The trick is to train your mind to overcome its own obstacles."

I appreciated the encouragement. And since I had a half hour to think on my run (and since it is no fun to run outside in the Louisiana humidity, I run on a treadmill... an excellent place to think for that is all you can do), I started thinking about the idea of mind-over-matter. I specifically thought about how that could (and almost should) be applied in life.

Oh, man! Another one of Elizabeth's how-life-relates-to-running analogies.

Sorry. You probably shouldn't visit me, neither, for I have running/inspirational quotes all over the place, too.

I not only have to overcome legitimate obstacles in life, but also overcome the obstacles I have created for myself. I am very good at creating those. So what do I do to train my brain to overcome them? Maybe start with acknowledging them. Maybe take a step back and take a deep breath. Maybe keep pushing.

That is what I realized about myself. I need something to work for, I need goals to work towards. When I run, I have a goal and I push myself because I know I am working for the goal. Training for the race, I run with the race in mind. Running during a race, I run to cross that finish line. Writing my thesis, I wrote to graduate. Working hard as a student-level park ranger, I worked to secure my "big girl" park ranger position. So now, I find I am stuck. Do I have a goal? What is my goal? And I will call this my "Mile 19." I am hitting a wall, but I know it is all mental. The run itself does not get easier, you just get better. This is just a part of my training. I just have to push through my own mental hurdles. And focus on my goal, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blogs and Blogging

In response to one blog post and in preparation for another, I thought I would take a moment to hash out my thoughts regarding... blogging. Actually, I think this will about the combination of both blogs and blogging. The "places" or published thoughts as objects and the act itself.

The other day, I read this blog post on the Mild Mannered site about blogs. If you've followed me over, well, anytime since I came back from the Pacific, you will see that I have often questioned my own blogging purpose. I have sometimes wallowed in my lack of purpose, in fact (so much that I created another blog more focused on some of my interests and studies so that I would have purpose and stop perishing without a vision). But I like what the blogger says about blogging. It's a hobby, it's for fun, it can be a platform, and it is a conversation. Actually, the conversation part was part of why I chose to create the other blog. I read all sorts of blogs about history and interpretation and I wanted to be able to jump in, too.

I have also been slightly interacting with other blogs via Mandy's Book Blogger's Club over at the Well-Read Wife. Mandy commented on my blog several weeks ago, encouraging me that my blog is my own space. Do what you want with it and be free of what others think was her advice. A while back, she decided to start a book club of bloggers- a group of people who might share the same interest. That was very brave, in all actuality. And I wonder if the club is working out like she planned? It has been a good experience for me and I appreciate her efforts. Indeed, the book club has introduced me to a wide variety of blogs and bloggers. That was a freeing exercise in itself (I usually follow history blogs, blogs of those I know, and the occasional food/fitness blog).

In the same initiative-taking spirit, that blogger who wrote about blogging decided to launch his own website, Classic Fiction Magazine, because he didn't like what was already available and decided to make it work for him. I'll call that brave, too. The site is fun to cruise through, too. It isn't easy to digitally publish yourself, even in the world of blogging. I think people can be very critical with little thought to you. It is easy to be critical of a glowing screen, forgetting that somebody created the content on that glowing screen. A buddy of mine, (okay, my [awesomest] brother-in-law [ever]) told me "write like you are emailing a friend" as a form of advice. While that is freeing (I often pretend I am writing my family, and that seems to help), it can also hinder. But somebody other than an emailed friend might read this!

So what?

I am contemplating writing a post for my History and Interpretation blog about the use of blogs by historic sites. I follow some pretty good ones and want to advocate for their use. And actually, I will probably borrow some of my arguments from the foundational ideas presented in the Mild Mannered post. So between thinking about what has been written about blogs and what I want to write about blogs, let's just say I had blogging on the brain. And needed to blog about it.

Thanks for following.

Adventures in Reviewing

Note: This is a about a book review of a book with adult language in the title. You've been disclaimed.

Assignment time! (Almost)

Mandy's Blogger Book Club
As promised, I am writing a book review of America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom by Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCain for Mandy Book Bloggers Book Club. Mandy of the Well-Read Wife provided copies of the book free of charge to 47 bloggers; I was one of the lucky bloggers! I am stoked to be a part of the bloggers book club. I was especially stoked when I got my book in the mail. 

I read the book in three days. If I had received it on a day off, I probably would have sat down and read through the whole thing (instead, between work and home duties, I had to break it down). The reading was light, it kept my attention, made me laugh out loud several times, and even provoked some thought.   Plus, I was reading to write a book review. That meant serious reading.

I’ll admit it, though. I have not written a book review in nearly three years. While in school, I wrote many reviews and felt particularly confident about my book reviews towards the end of my coursework. School assignments often also had some form of framework to operate within. Opinions “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it” were generally frowned upon. Rather, the review argued the positives or negatives in light of the field, the argument, the historiography, or other intellectual mechanisms. And if I chose to review a book negatively, I operated within the comfort of a classroom. My paper was not accessible to the world. My points could be debated within the class and generally, what happened within the classroom, stayed within the classroom.

This review is different, however. I am free to say what I want. But I also recognize that my thoughts will be published to the vast unknown that is the interwebs. Granted, I don’t imagine a number higher than a class population will read my thoughts on the book, but writing for the internet definitely changes my approach. I also consider myself a particularly positive person, generally seeking the good. I can relate to Meghan McCain’s continual approach to picking out the positives in her world. I keep tripping up on how to approach this review. Do I do it Reading Rainbow-style? Do I offer suggestions on improvements? Do I only say what I liked about it?

This whole reviewing thing is becoming much more difficult than I expected. Mostly because I am making this way harder than I need to.

So like I said, I enjoyed reading the book. There were many aspects to the book that made me want to talk to somebody about it, say, like in a book club. (Oh, wait…)  From the crocs and linen pants style choice of Michael Ian Black to the sad Waffle House scene to the distinctions described between Memphis and Nashville. Blogging is going to be different than an actual discussion, for I get to write my thoughts into space and may or may not have further discussion. I think America, You Sexy Bitch would be an excellent airplane ride book. It’s funny, it’s light, it will help any flight go by faster, and its style lends itself well to being interrupted during travel. Its content would complement a trip, as well (seeing as the foundation of the book is essentially about a road trip across the United States). I don’t think the book was designed to be more than the thoughts of two people as they rode across the United States (for Cousin John actually did the driving, Gumdrop). So maybe, I wasn’t expecting much more than some light summer reading interspersed with giggles. The book served as that. But then again, the idea of the book provides much potential: two people coming from different backgrounds, both claiming a different political party, to write about their shared experience of trekking across the continental U.S. in an RV. So maybe I was expecting a little more?

Based on a comment my [awesomest] brother in law [ever] made when talking about the book and reviewing the book, I decided to leave this post be (a post where I write about reviewing) and write a separate, official review. Consider this my preface post. I am historian, what can I say? I like using a lot of words.    

Calling It: My Official Review

Note: This is a book review of a book with adult language in the title. You've been disclaimed.

"You want to call it?" I ask Meghan.
"Yeah, she says."
"Me too," I agree.

Over a set of escalating dares made on Twitter, Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCain decided they should roadtrip across the United States and write a book about it.  A Democrat comedian and a Republican commentator? Sure. Add an RV, a crazy driver, a quiet, accompanying planner, and a pair of crocs, and you've got yourself an adventure.
America, You Sexy Bitch

America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom served the role of a humorous book discussing politics. The book provided laughs, showed some of the complexities of many contemporary issues facing these United States, and did so with a fairly harmless approach. This was one attempt at a particularly difficult task, however, and the authors provided some food for thought. I enjoyed reading the book, but I believe I am the audience-type the authors wrote for. Twenty-something year old abreast of popular culture who is neither entirely content with the political atmosphere of contemporary United States nor is offended by the use of colorful language sprinkled throughout the book. I got the humor and laughed out loud more than once. I will say, since I am reviewing the work and providing my honest opinion, throughout the work I felt the something lacking, something nagging.

The roadtrip begins in California, travels across some of the United States, and ends in Connecticut. Black and McCain do not make it to the Pacific Northwest, nor do they spend much time amongst the original thirteen colonies. They do try to find as many "American" places to visit (in a limited period of time) as a way to see different perspectives. Their first stop: Arizona. This starting point, McCain's home turf, gave Black a chance to experience a little of McCain's background and to shoot some guns. They had a big time and started to loosen up around each other over the day. I think I was most impressed with Black's linen pants and crocs matched up with a holster and cowboy hat. Sexy.

This early scenario in the book, however, reveals a little of what I felt was lacking. If somebody wants to show several sides of an issue, then the several sides should be shown. Black got to experience for himself the enjoyment of shooting weapons and they used this as a launching point to discuss gun control in the United States. But this only shows one side. How about having a conversation with a mother who lost her child from a bullet, after all the fun has settled down? I live within an hour's drive of Baton Rouge, a city that has higher homicide rates than New Orleans, New York, and Los Angeles. Regularly, pictures of a crime scene (accompanied by a body being wheeled out on a stretcher) are published in the local newspaper. Can one demonstrate the complexities of an argument with just an afternoon's worth of time? That idea resurfaces each time a new argument pops up. "There is so much more to this story!" I think. But the book kept my attention and I followed through.

The group (for Black and McCain travel with their driver, Cousin John, and their organizer, Nermal) travels up to Nevada (to experience Las Vegas), over to Utah (to meet Mormons), down to Austin, Texas (to meet the weirdos), and over to New Orleans before they start working their way through the Heartland and over to the East Coast. Their adventures are humorous. They meet some wild characters and begin to build camaraderie over the course of the month. Well, they build camaraderie when they aren't arguing politics, that is. Maybe the premise of the book was going to be explosive, anyway. Two people who disagree on almost everything decided to travel together in a smelly RV for a month. "Calling it" happened throughout the book. It became a game to see who could hold out the longest, not "calling it" until the other did so first.

This "calling it" attitude echoed throughout the book, beyond the game time between the two, reflecting the polar attitude of society. Giving in is defeat! I am right and refuse to bend down for anything (because if I do, then I am weaker)! Maybe, unintentionally, that is where my lacking, nagging feeling comes from. Black makes a point, "The argument doesn't resolve because these arguments never do."(p. 223) This nation is so big with so many people and so many backgrounds! Arguments don't get resolved. Rather, conversations happen. Or should happen. Black and McCain have several heated arguments (one that popped up throughout the whole book was about the phrase "freedom isn't free"), but they also seemed to have many enlightening moments, too (when they conversed and not argued). Sometimes, in moments where Black forgot to be his comedic self, he showed some real insight. Sometimes, when McCain wasn't defending herself or her background, she asked provoking questions, revealing complexities. Sometimes, they both quietly admitted at least understanding the other side a little better, even if not agreeing with it.

The traveling duo had limited time to complete this experiment, unfortunately. By hopping from city to city, I do not believe either got a true "feel" for the place. They tried to meet locals and mingle as much as possible, but they also lived up the stereotypes. The visit to Austin fulfilled the stereotype that people who live in Austin are an eclectic mix of odd (though the city promotes itself with the slogan, "Keep Austin Weird"). The visit to New Orleans fulfilled the preconceived notion that the city is there for people to get wasted and have a good time. The visit to Nashville fulfilled the stereotype that the city is a honky-tonkin' place run by country musicians in cowboy boots. Each of these places, however, are rich and complex and have more to them. Just like the richness and nuances of the whole nation isn't fairly represented with 14 stops, spending a day in a place does not necessarily mean you experience that place to its fullest. I suppose that was what the two were trying to show: this nation is ginormous with a crazy amount of diverse people. I could even argue that the book's planned outcome of showing complexity in this nation was reached, even if the designed method of hopping from place to place didn't get the reader there.

Regardless of the lacking feeling, I enjoyed reading the book. I think Michael Ian Black is hilarious, and I found myself relating to Meghan McCain quite a bit. I especially appreciated her comments about women in politics. It is difficult for people to deal with a woman who dresses well, wears makeup, and looks pretty AND be smart and strong and capable in the political world; society just isn't ready to handle that "hot mess" (to borrow the phrase from McCain). If you are looking for some humor jumbled up with some political opinions, take a gander at America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom. It is almost worth it for the linen pants and crocs, alone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Sting

Mondays are my Fridays. So as I was closing the gate to the park yesterday evening, I had an extra bounce to my step. I usually pull up past the gate, hop out of my car, haul the heavy beams to the "closed" position, and lock the gate, all while my car is running (the whole process should take less than 60 seconds). Last night, as my right hand was pulling the keys out of the lock, a waspy-type critter buzzed up against my hand. I don't believe it had time to land before I felt excruciating pain shoot through my pointer finger. My original motion that started as a "shoe-go-away"movement quickly turned into a "get-off" fling, then massive flailing and brushing by my other hand (because the sting felt like something was still on it).

[deleted expletive].

I stood there, doubled over in pain, my left hand pressed against my right, throbbing hand.

[deleted expletive, deleted expletive, deeeleeeeeeeted expleeeeeeetive].

I have never been stung by a wasp or hornet or bee or any other insect from the order Hymenoptera. They must have worked a deal out with the insects of order Diptera to make sure I get my fair share of bites (did you like how I dropped my sciencey terms and did not use the word "bug," Biologist Friend in the OK state?). I am also prone to many different types of skin allergies. One of the first thoughts to my mind was "I wonder if I am allergic to stings?" Followed by "I wonder how I will know if I am allergic to stings?" Followed by "I wonder what I am supposed to do with an allergic reaction?" Followed by the mental image of me sitting in a waiting room in my uniform. Been there, done that, would like to not repeat the experience.

I decided the best thing would be do go ahead and start home and look up some home treatments (and tentatively look up signs of allergic reactions). Okay. Just need to grab my keys and get going.

MY KEYS!?!

In the process of flinging the little monster away, I flung my keys, too. I vaguely remembered hearing them hit... something. My mind was a little preoccupied during the moment of "The Sting." So, while holding my burning hand, I looked for my keys as nonchalantly as possible. It is amazing how a close examination of the pavement shows the similarities in color of a set of work keys. It is also amazing how years of looking at I Spy books had not prepared me for searching for my keys. At one point, I called a coworker to let her know I seriously needed to get rolling (for I could see my finger swelling and wanted to treat it as soon as I could). As I was about to announce defeat, I saw them dangling over a gutter drain cover. I had flung them over my head, about six feet behind me. I am also particularly grateful that they did not fall into the drain. Ew.

My finger is still slightly swollen and feels a little tingling. But it looks like I have survived the ordeal. I will live to see another day. And hopefully, never another sting.

Today is my Saturday. I am going to write today. It's on my "to-do" list. I have some draft posts I want to revise. I have some ideas I want to hash out. I also have a book review overdue. Chores are begging me, too. Maybe I can play up my hurt finger enough that my dishes will feel sorry for me and wash themselves.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

contemplating

I read this article yesterday. I think it sums up how I feel. In my own little quiet corner of the world, I struggle with the pain, the sorrow, the sadness, the sympathy, the grief, the disquiet, the unease, the solemnity, and the tragedy of the shooting in Colorado.

There are no words, really.

So over these past two days, I haven't felt like writing. The many ideas swirling around my head were stilled by this news. I will write again at some point in the near future (tomorrow, even, who knows), but for now, I want to contemplate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

volunteering

I currently volunteer with the American Red Cross. Sometimes, when people ask me why I do what I do, I brush it off with my standard "to keep out of trouble" answer. I was asked today why I volunteer and I stated "to keep off the streets," like my regular smarty-pants self. Immediately after, I realized there is so much more to it. Usually, I help out at the office doing the endless tasks it takes to manage a volunteer force. Spreadsheets, copies, phone calls, organizing, filing, you name it and it is probably something that needs to be done. 

No, I don't thrive on making sure the ten massive "Shelter Operations" binders have all the correct documents (in order) or monotonously typing information in a database. I do thrive on positive attitude, a willingness to serve, and dedication. The people who work and volunteer for the American Red Cross have those things in spades. My few hours every Wednesday afternoon brighten up my whole week as I get to work along side some amazing people. 

I think volunteering also serves as an exercise of getting over myself. I go even on days when I don't want to because I've made the commitment. I never regret going; even those bad attitude days get turned around after I leave my shift at the office. Maybe the positive vibes come from the doing for something bigger than myself. I feel slightly macabre admitting that working for an emergency relief agency reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for (seeing how quickly everything can be taken away when a disaster strikes). Seeing the other volunteers give so much of themselves selflessly inspires me, too. I will always have my own luggage to haul around, but so does everybody else. I like that my load feels lighter on days when I am helping to lighten others' loads. 

 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Life = Complete

I made it! I made it onto the Rangers Pointing at Things Tumblr! My life is now complete, my destiny fulfilled.

That is all. For now.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

When I Grow Up

Over the course of my life I have rarely finished the statement "when I grow up, I want to be a ..." in a consistent manner.* I have ended that statement with a variety of occupations including (but by no means limited to) teacher, astronaut, archeologist, costume designer, paleontologist, pilot, baton twirler, forensic scientist, and (of course!) a park ranger.

Here's the thing: growing up sounds so boring. And I am not going to do it. 

Whew! So glad I got that off my chest! I understand that still I have to do grown-uppy things. After work, I ran, ate dinner, and did dishes. But I also decided to style my hair in a faux-hawk, add glitter to my nail polish, broke out all of my colored pens to write out some outlines for upcoming blog posts (black ink is so boring!), and will probably pop in a movie after I finish writing, staying up way too late. Why? Well, just because. 



*Note how I never wanted to be a nurse or a doctor or anything that meant somebody else's life depended on me. 

**The other grown-uppy things I did this evening included not eating ice cream for dinner and making my "to-do" list for the upcoming week... So maybe it is too late and I am already all-growed-up... Alas.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Things I Tell Myself

I made myself a chocolate milkshake this evening, complete with real ice cream.

I threw in a spoonful of peanut butter because that is how I rock and roll on Saturday nights.

I will call my milkshake my "Sanity Instiller." Or maybe "Soul Food." And tell myself that since the milkshake was created for sanity's sake, its calories will be easier to burn.

Madam Feisty

I tried talking myself into a stellar day this morning. While I pounced on the day with attitude, I still ended up having to deal with troublesome visitors. Well, really just one troublesome lady. This particular elderly lady felt the need to feistily challenge me after her walk through the museum. "How do you know what you are saying is true and how do I know you aren't just making that up?" she asked. Then she decided an underhanded insult would be a comfort by telling me how she learned anybody who uses the phrase "that is a good question" does not actually know answers. I cleared my throat many times while maintaining my fake, Barbie smile on my face.

"Well, ma'am, we have been trained in the history and I have read many books about the topic. I am not just making it up."

"You are just saying those things so I leave you alone."

I answered in the negative, that it was my job, (but, yes, all while wishing on the inside that she would have left me alone). Then I wouldn't have felt so shaken after she left. "You don't like your job, do you?" she asked.

Ma'am. I work hard and I do not make stuff up. I usually do like my job, contrary to my elderly lady visitor friend's perception, I just have a harder time when grilled by the brutal intensity of an eighty-two year old. I understand my role as a public servant and want to do my very best. I would like to think under the circumstances, I handled myself well. But I am definitely fighting the urge to go find, buy, and drink a large chocolate milkshake to salve my wounded pride.

I still might go do that. All in the name of sanity.