Friday, February 27, 2015

The Icy Fingers of Spring

Thought for the day:  Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. [Anthony D'Angelo]

On Valentine's Day, Smarticus and I went for a nice long walk at Freeman's Mill Park. In addition to the gorgeous old mill,  there's plenty of paths around the area, and even a small waterfall, as seen in the header. And let me tell ya, it was a bee-yoooo-ti-ful day, too. Just look at that clear blue sky. It came in a package deal with a few cotton candy white clouds, a gentle breeze, and pleasant temperatures. Yep, spring was in the air, baby.

Love was in the air, too. We found this in a clearing just before the falls: a heart formed with red roses, framing the words, Will you marry me?

Awwwww, how romantic. (I hope she said yes!)

That was on Saturday, mind you. Monday's weather was a whole 'nother matter.

Only in America do we accept weather predictions from a rodent, but deny climate change evidence from scientists. 

Let me preface this by saying, just two short weeks earlier, a crowd of over-zealous early risers ventured to the Yellow River Game Ranch to witness this year's weather prediction from Georgia's resident rodent... groundhog General Beauregard Lee. The fat furry general thrilled the crowd when he waddled out of his mansion at 7:33 AM without seeing his shadow. Woo HOO! An early spring! (No big surprise, because spring almost always arrives in Georgia before its official calendar date.) Nonetheless, everyone went home happy, secure in the knowledge that our warm weather was here to stay.

And then, OOPS! On the sixteenth, winter popped in for an encore visit. Ice storm! Trees just north of us were coated with so much ice, they toppled, often taking out power lines with them. Lots of people without electricity. C-c-cold. NOT spring-like at all.


The newspaper even showed a picture of a fella ice-climbing on a frozen waterfall in north Georgia!

Nope, NOT spring-like at all.

Except for a few stray flakes, we fared pretty well that time. But earlier this week, winter made another call, and we got (gasp!)

(Yeah, I know. Compared to the mountain of white stuff some of the country is buried under, calling what we got snow is kinda like that line from the Crocodile Dundee movie when he's accosted by a punk with a pocket knife. Just before pulling out his own enormous blade, Dundee laughed, and said something along the lines of, "You call that a knife...?)


Still, our General Lee has a terrific track record, darn it. His predictions have been correct an amazing 94% of the time. Lee's so good, so reliable, he actually has honorary degrees from two (count 'em... TWO!) state colleges. From the University of Georgia, he has the esteemed DWP, Doctor of Weather Prognostication, and from Georgia State University, a doctorate of Southern Groundology. So HOW, I ask you... HOW could he have gotten it so wrong this time?

                                                        We decided to go find out...

General Beauregard Lee's mansion
So off the the Yellow River Game Ranch we go with slingshots under our coats.

"YO! General Lee!" I yelled. "I'd like to talk with you!"

Nothing. No fat furry critter. Not a sound. Nothing.

"Aw, come on," I cooed, while putting a pebble in the sling. "We don't blame you for totally blowing the forecast. We just wanta (heh heh) talk..."

Still nothing. Nary a sign of our favorite rotund rodent.

Because (gasp) the rascally rodent... wasn't home!

The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears. [Bill Vaughn]

Alas, it seems we weren't the first to pay him a visit, and evidently, others weren't nearly as nice as we are. Can you believe it? They actually blamed that stinkin' fat rat for our wintry weather.

So the sly critter made tracks out of the park and waddled to the nearest watering hole. Probably felt darned sorry for himself as he sucked down a few grasshoppers...

And now? Now, I hear that rat is enjoying some nice spring weather, just as he predicted. In Florida.

Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while. [Kim Hubbard]

Oh, fear not. Spring WILL get here. Eventually. Besides... There's one good thing about spring snow; it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor's.  [Clyde Moore]

                                                      Seeeee? What'd I tell ya?

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush.  [Doug Larson]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Skeletal Beauty

Thought for the day:  I prefer fall and winter, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape--- the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn't show. [Andrew Wyeth]

A few years ago, I used that same thought for the day, and followed it with a post about winter, in which I said, "While I do appreciate the imagery of Wyeth's words, I don't think winter will ever be my favorite time of year. Yeah, sure, the landscape's bone structure does possess a certain stark beauty, I suppose. I'll give him that. Then again, some people probably consider a skeleton to be a thing of beauty, too. As for me?  I've always preferred a bit of meat on my bones.

When I look at the barren trees, stripped naked, and stretching their lonely branches against a leaden sky, I long to see them covered with leaves again. I miss the bazillion birds who flitted on every branch of every tree in our yard last summer, and I miss their cacophonous symphonies.

Yup, I guess I'm more inclined to second Robert Byrne's sentiments, who so eloquently opined, Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours."


Whattaya know? I've kinda changed my mind since then. Lately, I've been deeply touched and uplifted by the beauty of the barren trees around me. Yeah, beauty. I mean it... if the whole world were an art gallerythey're like Mother Nature's sculptural designs. Without leaves, their forms are so much more evocative against the sky.

What a severe yet master artist old Winter is. No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.  [John Burroughs]


Just look at the massive gnarled branches of this old tree. It reminds me of a marvelous many-armed monster sprung from the pages of a Stephen King book.

In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous. [Aristotle]

I recently took a leisurely stroll through town to admire the majestic trees and beautiful homes. Isn't this one a beauty?

Trees adapt to their environment in amazing ways, don't they? Even when most of their branches are amputated to accommodate telephone and power lines, what's left of their misshapen bodies somehow manages to keep on growing. When struck by lightning or felled by a chain saw, new growth miraculously springs from the remaining stump. Even when erosion exposes most of their roots,  they defy gravity, and stubbornly cling to life on deteriorating hillsides, cliff tops, and beside rivers. Each year, autumn strips them of their leaves, and winter's harsh winds and weather assail them, but they continue to stand tall. They withstand the ravages of time, weather, and man... and burst into joyful bloom all over again in the spring.

Of winter's lifeless world, each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer's secret
Deep down within its heart.  [Charles G. Stater]

Heck, if you think about it, trees are... heroes. They persevere, serving as visual symbols of strength and hope. And, hey! Not only do they LOOK good, but they're also very helpful...


Like if you get lost in the woods, they're only too happy to point you in the right direction.


I understand trees can also be extremely helpful if you can't quite remember what number follows three...

(You'd be surprised how many perfect numbers and letters you can find in the branches of a tree.)

Okay, I know some of you still don't see beauty in the dreary shades of Febru-weary, and you're more than ready to see the world decked out in her colorful spring finery again. Wanta know how to make it get here faster?

To shorten winter, borrow some money due in spring. [W.J. Vogel] 

Relax. It'll be spring before ya know it, even if you don't borrow any money.  The early buds on the trees... and the flowers... say so!

Like the daffodils. They're in full bloom all over the place here. Here's one I spotted while walking through town. Others are pushing through the soil nearby, and I expect this brave warrior (the point man) will be joined by the rest of his forces within the next couple of days. In the meantime, this one defiant daffodil is providing a single splash of sunshine in the otherwise drab landscape, kinda like a sweet kiss on the cheek from spring.


And soon, all of nature... including the now-bare trees...  will be dancing the ballet that is spring.

Every winter,
When the great sun has turned his face away,
And earth goes down into a vale of grief,
And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
Leaving her wedding-garland to decay--
Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses.
[Charles Kingsley]


Rejoice. Even in the midst of winter, there is still plenty of beauty... and hope... to be found.

The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful flower of all. [Walt Disney Productions]

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all.

P.S. Want a little something to perk up your winter? How about a FREE book? Not long ago, I told y'all about T.B. Markinson's latest book, Claudia Must Die, and quite a few of you expressed interest in reading it. Now, for the next few days, (the 20th to the 23rd) that same book's e-version will be available for FREE through Amazon. In the U.S. you can get it here, and in the UK, snag it here

Huh? You can't remember what the book's about? Okay, fair enough. Here's the blurb:

Claudia doesn’t feel like herself anymore—she feels like prey. Her husband’s hired goons have stalked her all the way to Boston and will only stop their pursuit once she is dead.

Divorce is not an option. Instead, she has stolen a bunch of her man’s money to disappear into another life.

In order for Claudia to live, someone else must die. A lookalike college student becomes the target capable of freeing her from an awful marriage.

The plan goes horribly awry. Instead of murdering Claudia’s double, the assassins shoot the woman’s lover who is the cousin of a powerful Irish mobster. Claudia becomes hunted by all involved. Can she survive? Should she? 


Sound good...? It IS. (And pssssst... it's free!)

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Smells Like Love

Thought for the day:  If love had a scent, I don't think it would smell like chocolate and roses. I think it'd smell more like baby powder and pot roast. 

Okay, guys, consider this your own personal public service announcement: tomorrow is Valentine's Day. There. You've been warned. As if the advertisers would let you forget, huh? They've been bombarding us with reminders for more than a month. I dunno. Seems to me that's an awful lot of pressure to put on one little ol' day, don't you?

Anyhow, so how do you like my love monkey? I'm not talking about Smarticus; I'm talking about that cute little stuffed monkey in the picture, which he gave me for Valentine's Day a few years ago. If you squeeze his belly, he gives a wolf whistle, and says in a dirty ol' man kinda voice, I go bananas over you!  Again, I'm talking about the monkey, not Smarticus, although come to think of it, it's just the sort of thing he would say. That's why it's such a perfect gift. Forget about jewelry and furs, and all that jazz. A gift that makes me laugh wins me over every time.


Then again, chocolate ain't bad, either. After all, a box of candy is never the wrong size, right? Although it came close to being too large one year. Smarticus bought me a box of chocolates big enough to cover the entire top of the coffee table. I kid you not. Whew! Talk about a LOT of candy! It took me almost a whole hour to eat it all. (Just kidding. It took more like seventy minutes.)

I'll never forget some of the romantic cards and gifts Smarticus has given me over the years. (sigh) We were all of twelve or thirteen the first time he wrote a poem (just for me!) in my autograph book. It went like this: Roses are red; violets are blue. You've got a shape like a B-52. I mean, doesn't that send shivers of sheer delight up and down your spine?

We weren't much older than that when he extended a lovely decorated box toward me, smiled seductively, and told me to open it. When I did, I found a barf-worthy severed finger lying atop a fluffy bed of cotton. It was his finger, of course, stuck through a hole in the box bottom and doctored up to look as disgusting as he could make it. Yeah, I know. Smarticus was a bit of a farticus in those days.

But, what can I say? I married him anyway. How could I not? He's a gen-u-ine original, and even after all these years, he still knows how to make me laugh, and still knows how to make my heart sing.


Talking about original, have you ever wondered who this St. Valentine fella was and how he came to be associated with a feast day devoted to love? Or why we associate the day with the color red... with red roses in particular... and why we exchange Valentines?

Well, then, you've come to the right place.

Our man Valentine was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius the Cruel, an emperor with an unholy affinity for declaring war. In fact, this dude's wars were so frequent and so unpopular, it got to where very few men were joining the military. The emperor, who was evidently just as stupid as he was cruel, decided the only reason men weren't rushing to fight his wonderful wars was because they were too darned attached to their wives and family. So he came up with a solution. He banned marriages.

Oh, but fear not. Our hero priest continued to perform marriage ceremonies in secret. That is, until the mean ol' emperor found out about it, and had him killed. By beating, stoning, and then beheading. (Talk about overkill.) Valentine died on February 14, 270. (Ah, HA!)

Legend has it that he left a special note for the jailer's daughter, and signed it... from your Valentine. 

So, why the color red, you ask? For obvious reasons, blood red is the color of martyrs. And thanks to the martyred St. Valentine... it also became the color of love. Red roses represent Venus, the goddess of love. And if legend is correct, Valentine himself sent the first Valentine card. St. Valentine's feast day was established in 496, but it didn't become recognized as a lovers' holiday and big day of romance until ten centuries later, when popular belief held that the fourteenth of February marked the start of mating season for birds.


So, if you consider Valentine's Day to be for the birds... you aren't entirely wrong.

At right is an example of a 1909 Valentine's Day card, which I found on Wikipedia. As a young girl, I remember buying big fancy cards for my mother... complete with scented stuffed satin hearts and lace around the edges... for the exorbitant price of thirty-five cents. My sweet Smarticus has sent me a bunch of beautiful cards over the years, but he'd still probably be more comfortable with one that said: Roses are red; violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, and so are you... The roses are wilting; the violets are dead. The sugar bowl's empty, and so is your head.

Just kidding. He's actually quite the romantic. (But I sure am glad he didn't know about St. Valentine losing his head over love when we were kids. The finger was bad enough.)

Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you never met.

Love is the thing that enables a woman to sing while she mops up the floor after her husband has walked across it in muddy boots.

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. [Franklin P. Jones]

You can't blame gravity for falling in love.  [Albert Einstein]

Lots of things are considered aphrodisiacs... like big red juicy strawberries, and rich dark chocolate... or better yet, big red juicy strawberries dipped in rich dark chocolate...

Um, where was I...?

Oh, yeah. I wanted to tell you guys about one of the best aphrodisiacs of all time. Wanta put your lady love in the mood? Do the dinner dishes. I tell ya, nothing is as sexy to a woman as seeing her man tackling a load of dishes  while she's in the easy chair with her feet propped up... eating strawberries dipped in chocolate. Or if ya reeeeeally want to make her weak in the knees... clean the toilet bowl. 


Anyhow, whether you ignore the day, celebrate it in a small way, or go reeeally BIG... Happy Valentine's Day, y'all.

You know... it's a shame we don't celebrate love...  every day.

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. Looking for another kinda love... like the love of a reeeeeally good book? I recently had the honor of reading the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Linda Grimes' third book The Big Fix. Love, love, LOVED it! It won't be released until May, (sorry!) but if you haven't read the first two books in this awesome series yet, (In a Fix and Quick Fix) now's your chance. These books are fun, adventurous, laugh-out-loud sexy romps, and unlike anything you've ever read before. Trust me... they are pure unadulterated FUN. Linda has out-Evanoviched Evanovich. Check 'em out. You may even be able to find them in your local library. 

Never go to bed mad--- stay up and fight.  [Phyllis Diller]

Friday, February 6, 2015

Inspired by Happiness

Thought for the day:  When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy." They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.  [John Lennon}

John Lennon certainly couldn't have said the former King of Bhutan didn't understand life. That's the king's quote about Gross National Happiness there to the left. Pretty astounding, isn't it? And in that beautiful Himalayan country, the last Buddhist kingdom in the world, happiness is still the measure of success. Dontcha love it?

I first heard about Bhutan's
 happiness quotient from some amateur radio friends who visited there on a DX-pedition, and then gave numerous presentations about their experiences when they returned to the States. I found the attitude about happiness to be inspirational when they first told us about it, and I still do. How deliciously ironic, then, that a Bhutanese blogger recently gave ME a blogging award... for being inspirational. (He obviously missed some of my posts... HA!) Allow me to introduce you to this fine, obviously discerning (HA!) young man.  Dumcho is a thoughtful, intelligent... and I dare say, happy... physics teacher, and I'll bet he'd love it if y'all would visit his blog and say hello. Again, thank you, Dumcho. I really do appreciate it.

I only have to fulfill a few requirements. Show the award to y'all. (Check!) Notify the person who gave it to me. (Check!) Tell you guys seven things about myself. (Wilco, in just a sec.) And finally, nominate, link, and notify fifteen other bloggers.

Um, I'm gonna stray from the last requirement. I already know how an awful lot of you feel about blogging awards, so I won't put any of you in the position of refusing yet another one. Besides, how in the world could I possibly limit the very inspiring description to only fifteen of you? Impossible! In your own way, each of you inspire me. So let's do it this way. If you're willing to accept this award, and wanta do a post about it, go for it! If you'd rather not, I understand, but waaaait a second: you don't get off that easily. How about telling me at least one new thing about yourself in the comments? Please? (It'd make me happy...)

                                        Almost as happy as this awesomely  happy Bhutan video

Okay, stop tapping your toes now. It's time to learn seven fun facts about me. Ready?

1.  The poor widdle wasp was helplessly trapped in a mud puddle, alive, but just barely; and his movements, feeble and ineffective. So I did what seemed like a great idea to my 8-year-old mind. Scooped him out of the water, cradled him in the palm of my hand, and gently blew on him to dry his fragile wings. Worked, too. Before he flew away, I'd like to say he thanked me somehow. I'd like to say he did an intricate little butt-wiggling wasp dance just for me, but he actually did exactly what wasps are wont to do. The little ingrate stung me. It didn't make me regret helping him, but it did teach me a valuable lesson: Do whatever good you can in life, but be prepared to receive the occasional sting.

2. A friend and I broke my parents' bed by jumping on it. She (the chicken!) headed for the back door, and I headed to the basement to find some nails. The monsters I hammered into that bed frame were four inches long or better, and I used a mess of them, too. Fixed that bed but good. At least, that's what I thought. In the middle of the night, a loud KABOOM came from my parents' bedroom. When the cursing started, I didn't exactly wet myself, but I did lay in my bed with eyes wide and heart pounding, saying my we-who-are-to-die prayers. But ...  nothing happened. Even when they discovered those ridiculously over-sized nails, they never ever suspected me. Years later, I finally told them the truth. I was married, had a kid, and figured the statute of limitations should have me in the clear by then. Besides, I was moving seven hundred miles away the next day.

3. For our high school drama class, two friends and I performed You Gotta Get a Gimmick. Once. When we told our teacher what we were planning, he asked us to do our routine for him after school. So our one and only audience was Mr. Adams and a small handful of fellow students. We got an enthusiastic response, but our teacher decided it wasn't appropriate for us to do. Too bad. We were reeeeeally funny. Not familiar with this song? It's from the Broadway musical Gypsy. (I was the gal who "did it with a switch.")

Youtube videos are being difficult, so here's another link:  You Gotta Have a Gimmick...

4. The first time I flew in an airplane was a flight all the way from Baltimore to Chicago to Honolulu. After we left Chicago, the plane got caught in such horrific turbulence, it felt like we were on an airborne roller coaster ride or free-falling elevator. How bad was it? Even one of the stewardesses was barfing. Me? I kept crocheting. Because I had no point of reference, I didn't realize the flight was so awful. Besides, Smarticus had been in Vietnam for nine months at that point, and we were meeting for R&R. Short of the plane falling apart, it was all good to me.

5.. I used to be an avid bowler, and at one time, bowled on three leagues every week, two handicapped, and one scratch. Best game I ever rolled was a 261, but I blew the game by opening in the tenth frame. Only needed a mediocre score in the third game that night to break my first 600 series, but I didn't do it. Barely managed to break a hundred. That's me ...  Mrs. Consistent. One interesting lesson I gleaned from bowling, though. My average was always higher in the scratch league than it was in the handicapped ones. Perhaps it's human nature to rise to the level of one's competition? Or maybe if we expect more of ourselves, we're more likely to deliver.

6. For my fortieth birthday, a bunch of our fabulous friends pooled their money to treat me to a glamour make-over with Liz Claibourne. Yeah, I know, right? What awesome friends! Anyway, this make-over included a hair cut and style, massage, manicure, facial and make-up, the whole works. Even got a fancy schmancy lunch, complete with a flower and glass of wine. Talk about pampered! When the overhaul was complete, I barely recognized myself. The areas above my eyes and upper lip were blood red and sore as all get-out, thanks to the oh-so-delightful waxing Ms. Claibourne recommended. (Never, never, NEVER again!) Looked like the make-up had been smeared on with a trowel, but hey! It was different! The hairdo was a bit fussier than my usual  run-a-comb-through-it-and-go style, and it was as stiff and hard as a motorcycle helmet. But again, different. Before I left, the people who'd worked so hard on me all day wanted to know where I was going that night to show off my new look. To tell the truth, I'm not sure they believed me, but what can I say? It was bowling night.

 7.  We went to the horse races once. It was at Timonium, Maryland, and the we was my husband, parents, mother-in-law, aunt, cousin, two sons, and me. Through sheer dumb luck, I won enough cash to cover food and drinks for all of us, with money to spare. I actually picked the first place horses for all three races in the trifecta, too, but didn't know enough to bet them all at once. I made each bet individually. Had I bet them all at the same time, I would've won a ton of money. Because I kept picking winners, my father bet my pick in one of the races. The horse came in dead last.

There ya have it. Not terribly inspiring, I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed them, nonetheless. Tell ya what. I'll even throw in a bonus fun fact. (shhhhh) Smarticus had to marry me, because he lost a game of pool with my father. True story. The deal was, the loser had to keep me. (Real flattering, right?)  I can only hope my dear husband, after running the table, intentionally blew his shot on the eight ball...

                                      Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

NOTE: The header picture, which comes from good ol' Morguefile, depicts some prayer flags found in Bhutan.

The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises. [Leo Buscaglia]

Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.  [Maya Angelou]

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.  [Groucho Marx]