Friday, September 28, 2007

I’m OK. You’re OK.

“Are you OK? You haven’t posted a blog for nearly a week,” kind and dear gentle reader quizzed.

I wrote back, “One word. Doldrums.”

I guess that’s the quickest way to describe my mood of late. No, not depressed. That’s reserved for more serious states, which I’m not going to trivialize by being overly dramatic.

Like a sailing ship calmed by the lack of winds, I seem to be adrift. The dictionary defines doldrums as a sluggish state in which something fails to develop. And yet, there’s tension here like a hot and angry (why, the anger?) boil ready to burst. There I go. That sounded dramatic didn’t it? Change is coming. Change is inevitable. If I rail against this wind of change and her fickleness, what good will that do? Change must be embraced as an old and familiar friend, one who was so charming when I was young and who has grown wise with time and now returns to visit when I need her and sometimes when I don't.

In reality, I’m engaging in a period of readjustment. Four months is too soon for Springfield to feel like home. Six weeks is too soon not to miss college boy although he calls often enough for any helicopter parent. With fall and winter fast approaching, gardening no longer holds my interest. Instead of possibilities right now I see roadblocks. Excuses. And writing? To my ear, the words ring hollow and insincere as if I was trying to fill up a washtub with wisdom for myself one drop at a time.

I’m a nurturer and right now I’m searching. When I find it--whatever it happens to be, I’m sure the mood will change, and the wind will find her way again to my sails.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Somewhere Lovely

I need to be somewhere lovely today.

In my mind it’s about time for a trip to Italy. But as wise readers know, parents of college boys don’t go casually jetting off to the Amalfi Coast like a couple of Hiltons.

So, just for today, I’m wrapping myself in memories stored up from a couple of summers ago when I took this photo on a beautiful, cloudless day in Ravello. High above cliffs overlooking the sea, the Villa Cimbrone is famous for its “Terrace of the Infinite.” Writer Gore Vidal called it the most beautiful panorama in the world and since my travels have been limited, I give him this.

May you find a special and beautiful place to restore your spirit today, if only in your memories.

Friday, September 21, 2007

This Dog Can Hunt

Tired of the usual suspects? Unhappy with the candidates running for president? I have the perfect candidate for you—Monte the English Springer Spaniel.

Lobbyists will soon be flocking to Monte’s door, but all it takes is a good belly scratch and a treat for this candidate. Oooops! Hope there’re no incriminating photos. Monte will flop (but not flip-flop). And he is honest as the day is long. Have you ever known a dog to lie? Well, he does lie down on the sofa, but you know what I mean.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Beware the march of the pink ribbon is almost upon us. My emphasis this year is on encouraging women to get their mammograms on time. This is one exam that can help detect breast cancer when many cancers are in their earlier and more easily treated stages.Cafepress is again this year donating money from special breast cancer marketplace pages to a non-profit breast cancer charity.

Hail to the Chief

With plenty of time left in the political season, I’ve opened a new shop called “Hail to the Chief.” Here are the first three designs. Of course, I started with the three Democrats I think most likely to have a shot at the party’s nomination: John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I’m thinking of adding a token Republican just to see if any designs sell. Republicans have more money, don’t they? Republican readers, any suggestions? I was thinking maybe Rudy, Fred or Mitt. I’d appreciate your feedback since the mind of a Republican is rather foreign to this Yellow Dog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cats Rule

artwork from Colorful Joe

A favorite blogger of mine is also favored by several regular readers who are cats or at least they say they are. You never really know with bloggers. Miss Bee, or Auntie Bee to some of the felines, always has a picture of a kitty or two fashionably attired even though she is apparently catless herself.

So, today I explore the world of cat bloggers. If you think these are indeed miracle animals, you would be slightly wrong. To the uninformed, “beans” actually do the writing from the cat’s point of view. Some cat blogs have wonderful photos of cats in various stages of dress and undress. Where do these outfits come from?

Some of the kitties recount attempted escapes and trips to the vet for “hoo ha” surgery. But they are not about cats from a human perspective. They are about humans from a cat’s perspective. And let me tell you, we humans are real strange characters.

I can appreciate now how come I took adult first place in “Through the Cat’s Eye,” a juried art competition fundraiser last spring for the local humane society. My folk-style painting of Butch apparently wowed the judges who must have been as loopy as Paula Abdul on American Idol. I understand now that people love a cat with an attitude, and Butch surely had that. He didn’t take any crap from anyone. He was too much cat for our family, which 19 years later we realized. Now perhaps all cats do go to heaven but then there's Butch.

Recommended cat blogs:

Daisy the Curly Cat
Daisy has a devoted group of regulars, and some days there are over 70 comments, which is no small feat for the best of two-legged bloggers and even more outstanding for the four-pawed pundits. Daisy recently blogged about discovering that her tiara was plastic. Oh the disappointments a girl suffers!

Meezer Tails
Two gorgeous Siamese cats. For some reason, Siamese cats are quite vocal bloggers. I've been acquainted with two of these lovely cats in my life and both had a hard time being discrete with their opinions.

Skeezix’s Scratching Post

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why I Blog, You Ask

At its core, I blog to express myself and to improve my writing. A summer ago I started the Alabama Kitchen Sink with this post. I had just opened a shop and thought I could round up some business that way. Little did I know soon the blog would take on a life of its own with no purpose other than the writing and the connections it brought.

I haven’t been disappointed at all. So far I’m only met one person who reads my blog. After last spring’s moving sale, Rev. Jay came by my house in Alabama with a young deaf woman in tow. He was helping collect household leftovers to furnish her first apartment. I’ve since learned Rev. Jay and his wife have continued to mentor the young lady. Soon, she’ll fly for the first time to Washington, D.C. to visit Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University, the nation’s premiere school for deaf students, is itself another blogging adventure and is how I met Rev. Jay to begin with.

I’ve written about race and politics, and I pride myself on a civil response to anyone who disagrees since these two subjects can generate different points of view. I have, after all, sat down with the KKK’s Robert Shelton for an interview (okay, I was a student in J-class). My style would be defined as anti-shouting; however, I warn you that I do tend to climb up on my soapbox and I can get a little preachy. If you want shouting go watch Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly or Nancy Grace. So, if you visit with Miz Sheila, I expect you to keep a civil tongue if you want to tell me what you think.

People know I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat who first voted for George McGovern but who is unhappy with her party and doesn’t want Hillary Clinton to be the nominee. People know I’m a Unitarian who tries to be respectful of all faiths, even the snake handlers. Boy do my readers know about College Boy and his search for a college home. Readers have cyber-held this helicopter parent’s hand and reassured me that CB will learn to get himself up for class and he will be fine. And you what, everybody; you were right. Least so far.

Readers know I lost a beloved English Springer Spaniel named Samantha but gained an exuberant granddog English Springer Spaniel named Monte. I’ve shared photos of trips to Italy, Chicago and farmers markets and fairs. I’ve posted recipes for red velvet cake, puzzling questions and calls to action. You will know if you become a regular that I need to get back to the gym to keep the weight off I lost on the South Beach Diet, which I also wrote about last year.

And that’s a rather long-winded answer to a simple question.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Father’s Post 9/11 Thoughts

Tuesday night in a small church chapel on campus, we listened as a writer and father recounted how in the days following September 11, 2001 he watched his 19 year old son make the decision to sign up for the Army. Only after the young soldier was sent to Baghdad did the full impact sink it. The father and mother watched the news from their “nest” and comforted each other until one day a call home came from the son. “I’ve been shot, but I’m okay,” he said. The father related that the tone in the son’s voice was almost exuberant as if the son had witnessed a miracle, and I suppose it was a miracle that the Kevlar vest stopped the bullet and not the young man’s flesh.

After that day, doubts began to grow in the heart of the father. He started to question why he had not tried to stop the son from enlisting at all. He had periods of depression, and yet, each day he watched the news and listened to the reports of more deaths. Then one day another call came, and this time the voice on the other end of the line was official. “Are you . . .?” However, this was again a close call for the son who had been injured as his tank came under fire. Nothing serious—a mere bump on the head. But it could have been thought the father.

The son came home on leave, and the father watched as the son no longer fit in with the high school friends who were more interested in video games than hearing about the reality of war. He had changed. When the leave was over, the father could barely stand driving the son to the airport to catch a return flight to Iraq. As the days in Iraq dwindled down for the son and his service was nearly complete, a fellow soldier who had become a close friend died. The son brought that hurt home with him as he set about starting life afresh.

“I have two sons,” I told the writer as we connected after the reading. He replied, “You know those Army ads where the son says ‘I want to enlist’ and they say ‘talk about it’? Well, don’t listen to them.”

Note: The Army launched a new advertising campaign valued at $1 billion last fall with McCann Worldgroup. According to the Boston Globe, $200 million is guaranteed for the first two years of the five-year campaign. Army Strong replaces "An Army of One" and "Be all that You Can Be."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Uncle Jim

As a young roughneck in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas, places where fortunes were made and lost deep within the earth, he saw opportunity. At one point in his life, he invested his own money in drilling. As I understand it, he lost it all, and he was content thereafter to manage oilrigs for big corporations around the world. He worked in the Shah’s Iran in the halcyon days, Malaysia and anywhere else the oil flowed underground.

Last night my Uncle Jim died, leaving untold stories and a family who loved him and grandchildren who will come to know their grandfather only through the stories of others.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What the Fork

A few short minutes from Springfield’s main tourist spot, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, is the giant fork. I decided it was visit worthy, especially since husband and I were going that way to see a movie at the cheap theater anyhow.

Now this mega utensil is off the well-trodden path for sure. Hidden behind Noble, the advertising firm that owns it, the fork is barely visible from the main street in Chesterfield Village, a planned residential and shopping district. Since we had arrived early for the movie, I yelled to my driver, “Turn around. It’s behind that building.”

And that dear gentle reader explains the photo of Springfield, Missouri’s giant fork. Husband’s photo looked prettier than mine. He’s awfully indulgent of me, isn’t he?

As if this wasn’t enough about the fork, I will tell you that apparently the fork was once located at a nearby restaurant, and I guess Noble bought it when the restaurant went belly (couldn’t help it) up. They have a lot of clients in the food industry. Makes sense.

Well, anyway, tweren’t a sole around except us. Saturday afternoon in Springfield, Missouri. Not bad.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just Looking

We visited the local Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World over Labor Day weekend. Husband asked me along “just to see what they have on sale.” Now, I’ve been married to this man long enough to know he wasn’t simply window-shopping. He had in mind something and he was hoping it would be on sale.

This place is huge. Bass Pro has a presence in at least 24 states and Canada, but Springfield is the headquarters and is itself a tourist destination. So on a holiday weekend it was crawling with tourists, so much so I could barely find a parking spot between all the cars from Arkansas, Kansas and for goodness sakes, California of all places. If you’ve ever been to Ikea, you get the idea. Bass Pro Shops is the Ikea of outdoor stuff and clothes to wear while you are there or if you want to look like you are the outdoorsy type. I’ve never been to Freeport, Maine, to L.L. Bean, but I’ll bet that store is kind of like a slightly more upscale Bass Pro.

Lodge themed would be how I describe the place with a hefty dose of “natural” thrown in. That three-story waterfall complete with ducks and fish amazed all the small fry. Upstairs at the mega buffet, is another site worth the glass elevator ride or stair climb—a 30,000 gallon saltwater aquarium filled with colorful fish. Toss in stuffed bears and other critters, guns, boats, camping gear, turkey-frying equipment, fishing paraphernalia ranging from waders to rods and you get the picture.

We didn’t even get over to the next-door museum or catalog outlet and we left with nothing. Woo Hoo! How often can I go shopping with husband without spending nada?

Turns out husband was looking for a grill to attach to his boat. I’m going to worry if he starts looking at tents for the thing.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sharing a Painful Story

Okay, I didn’t intend to write again any time soon about depression and mental health, but I just read a comment from a new reader named Barrett who wrote about his attempted suicide on his blog, Huma B Post, after running across my post on campus mental health. Nearly five years ago, he tried to take his life. I’m glad he’s still here, and I’m glad life’s a lot better these days for him.

Barrett wasn’t the first reader to share a deeply personal detail with me. Another reader, a mother, wrote that her dear daughter had a different outcome when she attempted suicide. I was profoundly sad for I know this hurt will never go away.

Go hug someone you love today. Give a word of encouragement. We all need that.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Hello, Old Friend

She’s a bit bedraggled but she’s still Barbie. How many women of a “certain age” have tucked their Barbie away in a box just waiting to bring her out for a special little girl to love and appreciate? I came across my old friend this week down in the basement, which is hardly a fitting place for the young lady who once lived in a fine dream home, drove the coolest convertible and had a promising life ahead of her. After you graduated from Mattel U, oh sweet Barbie, did you fall upon hard times and the reality of middle age take its toll?

Nope. Not really. Barbie is going strong. She’s tech-savvy and quite at home today with a new generation of girls. Despite feminist critics, she’s shown that she is one tough cookie just like the girls who once loved to spend rainy summer days plotting adventures in faraway places and picking out what should be worn to them.