Friday, June 24, 2016

The Land of Cotton Ain't Forgotten

Thought for the day:  The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. [Robert Green Ingersoll]

It's an understatement to say some die-hard Southerners never lost heart over losing the Civil War... or the War of Yankee Aggression, as they prefer to call it. They stubbornly cling to remnants of the past, while biding their time, whistling Dixie, and waiting for the South to rise again. But you know what? There's still a place where the Confederacy never exactly fell.

Most people are aware of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia, but did you know there's also a Lost Colony of the Confederacy? A place where the old Confederacy is still celebrated, and many of its symbols continue to flourish? It's reeeeally in the deep south, Sooooo far south, it isn't even in North American. It's in... Brazil...

[image from widipedia]

Brazil's Emperor Dom Pedro II, as seen in this 1865 photo, was a staunch ally of the Confederacy, and after the Civil War, he offered subsidized passage to any Americans willing to emigrate to Brazil. That allowed this clever man to offer disgruntled Southerners an escape, while also enabling him to import some American prosperity. In what amounted to a voluntary exile, thousands of Confederates, who considered themselves war refugees, accepted the generous offer, and embraced Brazil's cheap land and legal slavery as an opportunity to recreate the way of life they'd enjoyed prior to the war.

Not all of the Southerners stayed, though. Some weren't too keen on Brazil's liberal race relations. Even though Brazil was the last country in the Americas to outlaw slavery, when the Deep South defectors arrived in Brazil after the war, they were shocked to find that blacks there had the right to vote, run for office, and hold positions of leadership over whites.

But those Southerners who DID stay... thrived. And continue to thrive today in the town of Americana, where residents celebrate the heritage of their ancestors by holding an annual festa, replete with rebel flags, Confederate uniforms, hoop skirts, fried chicken, and buttermilk biscuits.

 Just as the Southern drawls eventually faded, those who continue to celebrate their ties to the Confederacy are generally unaware of any connections between the Old South and slavery. In a country in which 51% of the population identifies as either black or mixed race, there is no debate over the use of Confederate symbols. To these celebrant Brazilians, those symbols represent family, unity, fraternity, and friendship.

In a nod to the past, festival attendees sing and dance to music of the Old South.

Legal tender during the festival is, of course... the Confederate dollar.

The overall creed of these revelers? Heritage, not hate. 

And their motto? To live and die in Dixie.

So although it may be far from U.S. soil, the American Confederacy lives on in Brazil, and probably will for many years to come. Why? Because those festivals also raise money to preserve the cemetery where many former Confederate soldiers and their families... the ancestors of these Brazilians... were laid to rest.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Like Lassoing a Leech

Thought for the day:  A cat determined not to be found can fold itself up like a pocket handkerchief if it wants to. [Louis J. Camuti]

It's true. Cats have an unsurpassed talent for squeezing into the most ridiculously unexpected places, and anyone who has ever had a cat knows this. Put a small box, bag, or other container within their reach, (which is essentially anywhere) and it's a cinch they're gonna contort their bodies in some weird science-defying way so they can claim this new favorite place as yet another handy spot to take a nap. Even funnier? Have more than one cat, like we do, and only toss one box onto the floor. Talk about tag team wrestling...

Cats can provide endless hours of entertainment. Ours do. They're very sweet and cuddly, too. Except for when it's time to clip their nails. NOT one of their favorite things. Especially Dot, the gray tabby. No matter how loud she's purring or how cuddly she's being, if I foolishly make the mistake of saying clip, cut, nails, or anything that even sounds remotely like any of those words, she screams, leaps from my arms, and heads for the hills. (Or to wherever the hell it is she goes when she vants to be alone.) That I have survived clipping their nails for this long without ending up shredded and bloody is nothing short of a miracle.

But two things I have never attempted to do with our cats is give them a bath... or a pill. (shudder) I fervently pray I never have to do either one of those things, but just in case, I thought it'd be a good idea to be prepared, ya know? I figured there had to be a most efficient method for carrying out these responsibilities with the least amount of muss, fuss, and bloodshed. Now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I think I'm ready to give our girls a bath. Endlessly helpful person that I am, I will now share some of these well-researched cat-washing tips with you.

It's a pretty safe bet that your cat won't be happy with the whole distasteful idea and indignity of you daring to give him a bath, unless, of course, you're planning to lick him clean with your tongue. Supposedly, some cats actually like being in water, but it'd be wise to assume your cat ain't one of them. Chances are, your precious ball of fluff will be going on the defensive in a most offensive way.

Whatever you do, don't attempt to bathe your cat in an open space, because chasing a cat is a race you're doomed to lose. Cats may have the advantage of speed and a total lack of concern for human life, but, theoretically, we humans are smarter, so it's up to us to pick the bathing spot wisely. It's best to choose a small bathroom, and the smaller, the better. If it's larger than four feet square, I hate to tell ya, but you're gonna have to get into the tub with your cat. And close the sliding glass door. (As you can see, a shower curtain doesn't quite cut it.)

Be advised: cats have claws, which they aren't afraid to use. Even if you keep those nails trimmed, or the cats regularly wear them down by shredding your favorite leather sofa, those claws can still do some damage. Not even a martial arts master is impervious to the flying claws of an angry cat, so you'd darned well better dress accordingly. Heavy canvas overalls tucked into leather boots, steel-mesh gloves, an Army helmet, hockey face mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket should just about do the trick.

Okay, ready? After putting water into the tub, you're going to have to fool your cat. (Come on! We're the smart ones, right?) If your furry friend doesn't look at you suspiciously and head for the hills as soon as you even think about giving him a bath, pick him up nonchalantly, and stroll leisurely toward the bathroom. To assuage his distrust, which is surely mounting at this point, try crooning to him, or humming his favorite show tune. (from Cats, of course)

Once you're in the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In one fell swoop, shut the bathroom door, get in the tub, slam the sliding door shut, dip the cat in the water, and hit him with a big blob of shampoo.

In case you never noticed, cats don't come with handles, so don't expect to hold onto a wet soapy cat (who's screeching, and fighting you tooth and nail) for more than two or three seconds at a time. When you do have him, give him another shot of shampoo and scrub like crazy. When he squirts out of your arms, he'll fall into the water, and (ta-DA!) rinse off the soap. (I think the world record for successful cat latherings is three, so don't expect too much.)

Now, you've gotta dry the cat, which isn't nearly as difficult as bathing him. That's because by now, your cat more than likely will be firmly attached to your leg.

Now, just open the drain with your foot, reach for your towel, and wait. Once the water has drained, it's a simple matter to reach down and dry the cat.

With any luck, your cat should be relaxed enough to be removed from your leg in a day or two. Unfortunately, for the next several weeks, he may not talk to you, and will probably spend an inordinate amount of time sitting with his back to you. You may think this is an expression of anger, but not so. He's plotting ways to inflict the maximum amount of bodily harm the next time you decide to give him a damned bath. 

Cat's Diary: I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason, I was chosen for water torture. This time, however, it included a burning foamy concoction called "shampoo." What sick minds could invent such a liquid? My only consolation is the piece of thumb still stuck between my teeth.

Then there's this other way, which definitely has some merit, especially for the more cowardly of cat owners. It doesn't involve the tub at all, and is called the flush and fluff method:

1. Thoroughly clean the toilet.
2. Add the required amount of shampoo to the toilet water, and have both lids lifted.
3. Obtain the cat and soothe him while you carry him toward the bathroom.
4. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids (you may need to stand on the lid so that he cannot escape). CAUTION: Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as his paws will be reaching out for any purchase they can find.
5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a 'power wash and rinse' which I have found to be quite effective.
6. Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.
7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.
8. The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet, and run outside where he will dry himself.

 The Dog

OR...  We could simply drop our cats off at the local groomer's place. Yep. I think that method gets my vote.

To bathe a cat takes brute force, perseverance, courage of conviction, and a cat. The last ingredient is usually the hardest to come by.  [Stephen Baker]
 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. Also, a very Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there.  

P.S. I have absolutely no idea why the font has decided to go microscopic on me for part of this post, or why this big-ass space has suddenly appeared between lines. Attempts to fix both issues were as pointless as me trying to wash our cats. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

As Years Go By

Thought for the day:  Time can be spent, but it can't be bought, so we've gotta spend it wisely. (It isn't always on our side...)

Last Saturday was our high school reunion, but Smarticus and I didn't spend all day driving to Maryland so we could attend. It wasn't our hundredth, but in human terms, it was a pretty big milestone. Fifty. (gulp) Fifty. (Maybe we'll attend our hundredth?)

To celebrate that rather auspicious half-century mark, I offer you the following poem about reunions. (Author unknown.)

Every five years, as summertime nears,
An announcement arrives in the mail,
A reunion is planned; it'll be really grand;
Make plans to attend without fail.

I'll never forget the first time we met;
We tried so hard to impress.
We drove fancy cars, smoked big cigars,
And wore our most elegant dress.

It was quite an affair; the whole class was there.
It was held at a fancy hotel.
We wined, and we dined, and we acted refined,
And everyone thought it was swell.

The men all conversed about who had been first
To achieve great fortune and fame.
Meanwhile, their spouses described their fine houses
And how beautiful their children became.

The homecoming queen, who once had been lean,
Now weighed in at one-ninety-six.
The jocks who were there had all lost their hair,
And the cheerleaders could no longer do kicks.

No one had heard about the class nerd
Who'd guided a spacecraft to the moon;
Or poor little Jane, who's always been plain;
She married a shipping tycoon.

The boy we'd decreed 'most apt to succeed'
Was serving ten years in the pen,
While the one voted 'least' now was a priest;
Just shows you can be wrong now and then.

They awarded a prize to one of the guys
Who seemed to have aged the least..
Another was given to the grad who had driven
The farthest to attend the feast.

They took a class picture, a curious mixture
Of beehives, crew cuts and wide ties.
Tall, short, or skinny, the style was the mini;
You never saw so many thighs.

At our next get-together, no one cared whether
They impressed their classmates or not.
The mood was informal, a whole lot more normal;
By this time we'd all gone to pot.

It was held out-of-doors, at the lake shores;
We ate hamburgers, coleslaw, and beans.
Then most of us lay around in the shade,
In our comfortable T-shirts and jeans.

By the fiftieth year, it was abundantly clear,
We were definitely over the hill.

[Hmmmph! How can we be over the hill when we haven't even reached the top yet?]

So how did we spend our time in lieu of pretending a bunch of old farts and fartessas still look just like they did fifty years ago? We spent it with youngsters... four of our grandchildren. Rather than feeling old and (hmmmph) over the hill, we played and laughed and felt... young. Okay... young-ish. 

This summer, while our son and daughter-in-law are at work, their kiddos will be spending weekdays at karate camp, which is like a totally cool daycare, with karate lessons, and all kinds of other sports activities, field trips, and adventures. So while waiting for the family to get home, Smarticus and I visited the Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus. We'd been there before, but there was a new exhibit there that we hadn't seen: the Maple Leaf.

This paddle-wheeled steamer, which was built in Canada, (explains its name) and contracted by the U.S. Army during the Civil War, was sunk by a Confederate torpedo, and now rests at the bottom of the St. John's River, near Jacksonville, Florida. This shipwreck contains the largest collection of Civil War military and personal items in the country, and some of the recovered 130+ year-old items are currently on display at the museum in Columbus.

Plate and eating utensils.

Various recovered weapons and other items.

And of course, there was lots of other stuff to see at the museum, too...

Anybody know what this is?

It's the iron hull plate from the Civil War ironclad the Monitor. It was recovered in 1998, and weighs about 375 pounds. [This cool piece is currently on loan from the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia. Very nice of the Yankee aggressors to share, don't you think...?]

Okay, I don't want to screw up by making this post too long...

So I'm gonna drop anchor on talking about the museum, and move on to the kids.

Kymber looks surprised to have won her school's Student of the Year award, doesn't she?

L to R: Kymber, Devyn, Jaiden, and Aaron. Yeah, Aaron is the hambone. Also the one who's fascinated by weird facts, so you know I had fun telling and showing him about some of the disgusting things I know.

Now, thanks to their weird grandma, the kids know about lizards that squirt blood from their eyes, animals that break their own bones as a means of self-defense, beetles that squirt toxic liquid out of their butts,  a toxic bird called, appropriately enough, the patooie, and  they even saw pictures of dead cockroaches clad in tiny costumes. (Which used to be on display at a cockroach museum in Plano, Texas.)

Weird grandma? Maybe, but also a very happy one. No question about it. These kids conquered me and my heart a long time ago, and they still take it hostage every time we visit.

An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that, you start to age quickly. [Gene Perret]

But ya know what? It is totally worth it...  and one of my favorite ways to spend time.

How about you? Have you attended any of your class reunions? (We went to one... our thirtieth. There were a bunch of old people there...)

Do you, like me, ever look at other people your age and think they look much older than you do? If so, you'll appreciate this joke:

While sitting in my new dentist's waiting room, I noticed his diploma on the wall, and seeing his full name on it immediately brought to mind a tall, dark-haired, handsome boy with the same name, who'd been in my high school class nearly 50 years ago.

Could this dentist possibly be the boy I had a secret crush on in high school?

When I saw him, I quickly dismissed that possibility, because there was no way this gray-haired, balding man with the deeply wrinkled face could have been my classmate. He was way too old. Or was he?

After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he'd gone to Dundalk High School.

"Yes, I did!" he said with a smile.

"What year did you graduate?" I asked.

"In 1966," he said. "Why do you ask?"

"I was in your class!" I exclaimed.

He looked at me closely. Then, that ugly, wrinkled, old, fat, bald, gray, decrepit SOB had the audacity to ask, "What did you teach?"


Smarticus included the following in an email of funny stuff he sent me recently, and it puts some of the changes that have occurred in the past fifty years into perspective:

1966: Long hair
2016: Longing for hair

1966: KEG
2016: EKG

1966: Acid rock
2016: Acid reflux

1966: Moving to California because it's cool
2016: Moving to Arizona because it's warm

1966: Trying to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor
2016: Trying NOT to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor

1966: Seeds and stems
2016: Roughage

1966: Hoping for a BMW
2016: Hoping for a BM

1966: Going to a new, hip joint
2016: Receiving a new hip joint

1966: Rolling Stones
2016: Kidney stones

1966: Screw the system
2016: Upgrade the system

1966: Disco
2016: Costco

1966: Parents begging you to get your hair cut
2016: Children begging you to get their heads shaved

1966: Passing the driver's test
2016: Passing the vision test

1966: Whatever
2016: Depends

                                          ( For the record, I still like the Rolling Stones...)

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Keep on Keeping On

Thought for the day:  Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don't count on harvesting Golden Delicious. 


After five years of blogging, I still enjoy it, but sometimes my brain freezes up on me when I'm trying to think of something new to write, so why not go with something old? After sticking my nose into the archives, and digging through some of my earliest posts, I picked this one, which originally ran in March of 2011, with the title Grant's Mouth to God's Ear.  It may not be the greatest, but it isn't too big of a booger, either. I was so new to the blogosphere when this first appeared, it didn't garner a single comment, so maybe it'll fare a little better this time.

NOTE: Since this post first appeared, I've published a novel, and worked with a bunch of terrific gals to put together a poetry book to benefit CARE International, so there has been some progress. I'm currently working on another book, the first in an expected trilogy. (If you're gonna dream, ya might as well dream BIG.) I no longer think it's likely that I have another 25 years left, but I might. Who knows? I've already outlived my mother and both grandmothers, so I'm already enjoying some pretty nifty bonus years. Doesn't matter how many years I have left; it's all good. And the original premise of the post remains the same: never give up. And carpe the hell out of each diem.

[Gee, no wonder I was able to post so many times a week back then... the posts were a lot shorter!]


Thought for the dayThat which we persist in doing eventually becomes easier, not because the nature of the thing changes, but our ability to do it increases.  Heber J. Grant

That's a great thought to hang our hats on, isn't it? If we keep working at it long enough, hard enough, it'll get easier. No promise of actual success, but ... easier. To tell the truth, as difficult as it is some days to pick the perfect words out of my brain, I'd be pretty darned happy with easier.

Things don't seem to get any easier for those mules, but they just put their heads down and keep on pulling that cart, no matter how heavy it is, or how far they have to travel. As writers ... no, as human beings... we have to train ourselves to do the same. We have to assume the stubbornness of those mules and keep on plodding. Oh, and have you ever seen how a mule flicks away flies with a flick of his tail? We've gotta do that, too. Don't let petty annoyances or rejections bite your ass; just flick them away and try again. Keep on going.

Ah, but suppose we never make it to our hoped-for destination, you ask? Suppose the wheels fall off the cart, suppose we collapse? It's a sad fact, but not all of us who work hard at something will succeed. Let's say I have another twenty-five years left, and suppose I spend those twenty-five years writing books that never make it to publication. I say, so what? If I DON'T spend the next twenty-five years writing, I'll STILL end up twenty-five years older, won't I? That's the same argument as when someone says he's always wanted to be a doctor, but, oh dear me, if he goes to medical school now, he'll be forty years old when he graduates. Well, if he doesn't go to medical school, he'll still be forty years old, only, more's the pity, his dream will still be unfulfilled. Where's the positive attitude in THAT? I say, as long as we're here, let's do what we love. Let's follow that passion. The very act of doing may be enough of a reward in itself.

Okay, you got me. So, maybe I am a tad full of caca. Sure, I'll admit it. I'd like to find a modicum of success with my writing. I'm no spring chicken, but I'd like to think I can still lay a golden egg or two before I head for that great big deep fryer in the sky. So, I'll keep at it. But the bigger point is, I'm enjoying it. And as long as it's enjoyable, I'll keep on doing it. We may not be sure of the destination, but we should always... always... try to enjoy the journey. After all, we may not pass this way again.

And who knows? If the flowers in this picture are stubborn enough, and hopeful enough, to bloom in the midst of rubble, maybe we can, too, my friends. Maybe we can too.


Gonna add a little something here. Not exactly your typical motivational video, but I think it's terrific. Never... ever... give up. And cheese... better eat cheese. (Right, Crystal?) Are you pursuing a dream right now? It's never too late, you know. As long as we're still on the right side of the sod, it's never too late. Keep on trucking.

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