Friday, July 27, 2018

Fun in the Sun

Thought for the day: If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in water. [Loren Eiseley]

There's something about the beach, about its salty scent, cawing gulls, and constant soothing rhythm of the waves that centers me and gives me peace.

There's also something about our grandchildren, about their boundless energy, giggles, smiles, and overall silliness, that does the same.

Put them together and you have a little piece of watery heaven. If only I could bottle that feeling... I could call it... Happiness.

Our long weekend with our older son and his family was absolutely glorious, albeit much too short. The Gulf Coast was oppressively H-O-T, but the water... aaaaah... the water was perfect. And therapeutic. We spent most of our time playing in it, but I did came out long enough to snap a few pictures when they started playing in the sand.

 Aaron is our unabashed Sheldon Cooper-like smartie. When we were back at the house, he and I played some of the new games purchased at the going-out-of-business sale held by Toys r Us. The games were new to him, but he learned them quickly, and had absolutely no shame about beating his poor grandmother.
Kymber's a girly girl who has already been in a beauty pageant. (Once was enough for her, though. She's done with all that, she says.) She's a smartie, too, and very wily. Definitely knows how to get her way.

Smarticus... the biggest kid of all.

Looks like Jaiden is about to run back into the water. No surprise there, because he's quite the waterbug. That little cutie to his right is Devyn, who's the youngest of the crew, but also the boss of 'em all. She's going to rule the world someday, the little stinker.
 Here's Devyn again. I reckon she was probably ordering the water to Calm down! Even the smaller waves had a way of catching her in the face when we were out in it.

Smarticus grabbed the camera and I grabbed Devyn so we could get at least one pic... almost... of her face. You'll have to trust me. She's adorable. Not that I'm biased or anything.

Our son and his lovely bride. (He's got a helluva lot of nerve having gray hair, doesn't he?)

Our son scooped up a small jellyfish in a bucket so the kids could get a closer look. In the bucket, it wasn't nearly as menacing-looking to them as the ones we encountered floating in the water. This little guy's tentacles were very short, too.

That's it. That's all the pictures I took this time around. What can I say? It's a lot more fun having fun than it is to waste time recording it for posterity. HA! Profound, eh?

P.S. The header picture was from an earlier visit, when we went to the Gulf so Grandma could get her feet wet. The kids got soaked. (Not my fault!) So we had to buy them all dry outfits before we could continue on to the museum in Pensacola. Lesson learned! We all wore bathing suits this time around.

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

I'll Fly Away

Thought for the day: What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly. [Richard Bach]

[image: morguefile]
It'd be kinda cool if we could eat and eat and eat until we're too fat to move, and then sleep for a while, only to wake up transformed into a beautiful creature. With wings!

Yeah, not gonna happen. With my luck, I'd morph into a cockroach. (shudder)

Anyhow, July 21 - 29 is recognized around the world as National Moth Week, so I thought this would be a good time to take a little flit around the Lepidoptera family with you. Although moths make up from 89 to 94% of this family,  most of us are much more familiar with butterflies. Why? Easy. They flutter through our gardens during the day and their brightly-colored wings are usually very beautiful. We associate them with flowers and summertime, and in general, most of us like them. Moths, on the other hand, tend to be rather drab and do most of their flying at night, and we associate them with devouring our trees and snacking on our favorite woolen sweater. (They really do need to get a better PR team!) However, like butterflies, moths also play an important role in plant pollination.

[image: seniorark]

Other differences between moths and butterflies:

  • Butterflies have antennae that are club-shaped with a long shaft, while moths have feathery or saw-edged ones.
  • Moths fold their wings in a tent-like manner to cover their abdomens, while butterflies raise them vertically over their backs.
  • Moth larvae develop in silk cocoons, while butterflies build a more hard-shelled chrysalis.
  • Moths have a gizmo called a frenulum, which couples their wings, allowing them to work in unison. Butterflies do not.
  • When you were a child, did adults dissuade you from handling butterflies and moths by saying they wouldn't be able to fly if you dislodged some of that powdery stuff from their wings? Not true. They actually shed that powdery stuff naturally. It's more like scales than some kind of magical flying dust. 
How about some spiffy pictures and fun facts?

[image: wikipedia]

The lime green luna moth has a wingspan of about four and a half inches, and it glows in the dark! (A built-in night light!) These critters are indigenous to Georgia, but I've never seen one. 

[image: wikipedia]
This hairy-looking guy is a buck moth, and he clearly demonstrates another difference between moths and butterflies. Moths are generally stout and fuzzy, while butterflies are slender and smooth. The larvae of this  Ewok-looking moth have hollow spines, which are attached to a poison sac, and their sting can cause itching, burning and nausea. This moth is also a rebel. Unlike other moths, this guy prefers to fly during the daytime.

[image: wikipedia]

Another day-flying rebel moth is this brightly-colored urania leilus of South America.

[image: wikipedia]

But the biggest rebel of all has to be this Castniid moth of Australia and Indonesia. Not only are they day-fliers, but they have clubbed antennae and brightly-colored wings. (Half of 'em, anyway.)

[image: wikipedia]

Recognize this? It's a tent caterpillar nest. These moths are more sociable than most, and build and share huge silk nests. Where I grew up in Maryland, they were very prevalent, with nests in almost every tree, and bazillions of the caterpillars lumbering all over the place on the ground. I used to kinda like them, until the boy down the street smashed several of them on top of my head. I never felt quite the same about them again...

The largest moth? That would be the Atlas moth, whose wingspan can be as great as twelve inches. The smallest? The appropriately named pygmy moth, which is a teeny 3/32 of an inch. Barely noticeable, right? Not so of this Atlas monster:

[image: wikipedia]

With wingspans measuring an average eleven inches, Birdwings are the largest butterflies. This chart shows males on the left and females on the right.

The smallest? Blues, which are between one quarter and one half inch in size. And, um... they're blue.

[image: wikipedia]

One of the coolest butterflies... and the queen of camouflage... has to be this dead leaf butterfly. Amazing, isn't it?

[image: wikipedia]

When its wings are open, it shows it true colors.

[image: wikipedia]
This is a gypsy moth larva. For a very brief while, our older son had one of them... as a pet. Larry the larva.

In the early seventies, my mother and aunt came down for a visit, and while Smarticus was at work, we went to Lake Lanier for the day. The place was absolutely swarming with an army of official-looking khaki-clad fellas, but we didn't bother them, and they didn't bother us. In the meantime, our son found the colorful larva and like most little boys, wanted to bring it back home. Well, (ahem) it turned out that those men were on the look-out for gypsy moth larvae... so they could kill them, because the little boogers are extremely destructive. And we, um, brought one home with us. Let's just say the holes we punched in the jar lid had verrrry sharp edges, and Smarticus, being the friendly fellow he is, yelled "Helloooooo, Larry!" to the larva quite often... while, um, shaking the jar vigorously. (What? The rude little guy refused to answer!) And that... was that...for the dearly departed hairy Larry.

I can't resist sharing this video with you. It's another one of the giant Atlas moth. I mean, what kinda person would let a moth do this...?

                                     I would NEVER! But a butterfly? That's a different story...

I'm flitting off to spend some time with our grandchildren, so I won't be responding to your comments right away. Trust me, I will not let our kiddos capture any larvae in a jar.

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Are We?

Thought for the day: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. [author unknown]

Huh! So It's Friday the thirteenth again. Not that any of you guys are superstitious, right?

Me, neither. Actually, I rather like the number thirteen, and the only superstition I harbor is a more personal one: never ever comment about how well the traffic is moving in Atlanta, because believe you me, it will revert to its normal bumper-to-bumper misery before you've even got the words out of your mouth. (It might not even be safe to think about it...)

I guess I could re-run one of my Friday the 13th posts from the past... or I could write about superstitions... but I don't feel particularly motivated to do either. I'm still having some difficulty summoning up my usual enthusiasm for just about anything these days, and as it turns out, my lethargy may be medical in nature. (It's called laziness.) My blood pressure is reeeeally low, for some reason. (Maybe I need to drive through Atlanta traffic a few times...?)

So I'm gonna do something a little different. (Who... moi?) I'm going to share a poem with you. It's one of the ones I wrote for Old Broads Waxing Poetic. 

I can't help but wonder if I'm the only one who feels like this, or if some of you have these same feelings from time to time.

[image: morguefile]

                                                               Am I?

                                                             Is it horrid to be happy
                                                             When so many are so sad;
                                                             And heartless to be filled with peace
                                                             When war’s all some have had?
                                                              Is it wrong to sing a joyful song
                                                             When others live the blues;
                                                             And crass to count sweet blessings
                                                             When some have none to lose?

Is it selfish to eat chocolate cake
[image: wikipedia]
When others have no meal;
And callous to be healthy
When some will never heal?
Is it hateful to be wrapped in love
When some are all alone;
And sinful to leap and pirouette
When others cry and moan?

[image: morguefile]

I lift my arms in gratitude
And admire the morning sun,
Humbled by this gift of life,
Thank God for giving me one!
Yet I know I wield Excalibur
While some hold only air;
Life’s a wondrous miracle,
But it isn’t always fair.

Is it enough to love our fellow man
And do our best to share;
Is it enough to empathize and pray
And to always to show we care?
It is in some ways troubling
And foolish to pretend;
In light of others’ suffering,
I ask of you, my friend ---

                                                  Am I heartless to be filled with peace
                                                  When war's all some have had;
[image: wikipedia]

                                                       And horrid to be happy
                                                       When so many are so sad?

You ever feel guilty about your good fortune? Please tell me I'm not the only one who makes do  rather than buy new, because I don't want to be greedy or self-indulgent. I mean... why replace our nasty-looking well-worn 40+ year old bedroom carpet when there are people in the world who have no carpet at all... or no house. Or am I just nuts...? (Maybe just a little bit.)

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

                          P.S. In case you're interested in some of those superstitions...

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Keep the Change!

Thought for the day: In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirits. [Albert Schweitzer]

Yep, it's that time again. Welcome to this month's edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group meeting... er, virtual meeting, that is. Today, writers all over the world will be posting about the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the ins and outs... of writing. We'll celebrate... we'll complain... we'll commiserate and help rekindle those inner spirits. Whatever we need, this is the place to find it. Humble thanks and a jolly tip of the hat go to Alex Cavanaugh, our fearless ninja leader and the originator of this fine group, and to all of the other fine folks who've worked so hard to make it the huge success it is today. If you'd like to join (It's FREE!) or would like to read some of the other posts, please go HERE

On the writing front, progress has been glacially slow lately. Sales of my new book have been anemic; and reviews, practically non-existent. (sigh) Makes it a tad more difficult to stay focused and maintain enthusiasm about writing books two and three. But fear not. My enthusiasm will return. It always does. Now if only my damned muse would return from vacation...

Let's move right on to this month's question, shall we?

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

When I was a senior in high school... you know, back in the Dark Ages... I contributed to and helped edit the school's literary magazine. After all these years, I still remember a poem my friend Bruce Troup wrote for it:

Change is never constant;
Constance never changes.
But all things change constantly.

Simple, yet profound, right? I guess that's why it's stuck with me for so long. 

Anyhow, to answer the question, of course my writing goals have changed. I used to think I was destined to be a great writer. Before I learned how to read, I made up the words and pretended to read books out loud. In second grade, a test we took to determine our potential career path (I kid you not!) said I'd be an author... and I believed it. In the summers, I concocted serialized fairy tales, and would sit in the shade of a tree and tell them to a group of neighborhood kids several afternoons a week. In fifth grade, filled with self-confidence, I entered an American Legion essay contest about Brotherhood...

[source: morguefile]

...and I LOST.

Talk about being one deflated puppy. Not even an Honorable Mention! I was crushed, because I'd worked so hard on that essay, and I thought it was so good...

PBBBBT! (That's the sound of my adolescent ego deflating.) Who was I trying to kid? I'd never be a writer.

Then my teacher, Mr. DeGrafft,  who was also one of the judges for the contest, took the time to tell me the judges loved my essay... but it didn't fit within the parameters of what the American Legion was looking for in a winning essay. They wanted rah-rah, Mom and apple pie feel-good declarations about our shared humanity and the inherent kindness of mankind.

 I, on the other hand, wrote about how people seemed to have an us vs. them mentality, so I thought the only thing that would lead to true brotherhood on our planet would be if we discovered a bigger adversary on another one.

Not exactly what they were looking for. But that wonderful teacher... that kind caring man...  rekindled my inner spirit by telling me why my essay didn't do well. He had so much confidence in me, he helped restore some of my confidence in myself. For that, I will always be grateful.

Since then, I've always been involved with some kind of writing, and like everyone else, my confidence levels ebb and flow. (Where's Mr. DeGrafft when ya need him?) Things might be at the ebb level now, but I'm pretty sure the drive will roll back in any day now...

So what's changed? I no longer believe I'm ever going to be a great writer. Nor do I dream about Pulitzer prizes and cheering crowds waiting for me at book signings. I don't expect to be accepted in every anthology I submit to, and I don't expect every story I send to a magazine to be published. Whether or not I ever had any innate talent is immaterial. I'm endlessly grateful for those teachers who instilled confidence in my writing and editing ability, but since I've gotten older, I've adjusted the bar to a more realistic level.

I write because I love to write, and I still love to spin a story. Do I still get discouraged? Sure, I do. But I'm a big girl now, (in more ways than one...) and I don't need affirmation and support like I did as a kid. (But I'd still like it every once in a while...)

That's why reviews matter so much to me. At their best, they show me that I've connected with another human being... and THAT is my overwhelming goal. When I feel a little low, I re-read some of the fantabulous reviews for Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, and I look at some of the wonderful emails readers have sent me...

and I smile with gratitude. Life is good... even if no alien forces have united us yet.

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