Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have Yourself A merry Little Christmas

Hello dear Bloggers,
I hope your Christmas is merry and bright, you have lots of Who hash and roast beast, you get to rock around the Christmas tree, you don't shoot your eye out kid and cousin Eddie doesn't come and make your sewer explode. Here are two poems I wrote about Christmas a couple years back.


It won't be the same this Christmas

without a small mountain of your gifts

still sporting price tags of black and white.

We'll miss you shaking your head, saying,

“It doesn't seem like I bought enough this year.”

We'll miss the apple cider, cookies, and canine chews

the silly hats, your snowman pins, and Christmas sweaters.

It won't be the same this Christmas,

certainly not the same at all,

not without you repeating things half-heard around the dining table

nodding between bites of turkey and pumpkin pie, saying,

“I didn't just fall off a turnip truck, you know.”

This Christmas, we'll be without your stories

our history, we used to think

we'd maybe heard, just one time, too many

but now would like to hear again,

now that you can't be here to narrate.

“Remember this,” you'd say,

“remember, when I die dead.”

It won't be the same this Christmas

no, not the same at all.

This Christmas, we won't all be together,

not like before, or maybe ever again.

We will be merry and bright, though

unwrapping, feasting, laughing

as the old year slips away toward the new.

Should you look down from a flickering star

don't be fooled, not even for a minute.

We may pretend we don't notice your empty chair,

but we will notice, and remember.

We will miss you this Christmas.

Nancy Wayman Deutsch 2007

Christmas Is

Christ child's coming, bringing hope and grace

Holly and green mistletoe and joy on every face

Reindeer leading Santa's sleigh across a moonlit sky

Icy lanes and frozen ponds with skaters whizzing by

Singing songs and carols around a sparkling tree

Tapers glowing softly on gifts for you and me

Memories of Christmas past with those we wish were near

chuckling at fond anecdotes and brushing back a tear

Angels watching newborn babe and wise men from afar

Smiling in the silent night beneath a golden star.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hello Bloggers. Ho, ho, ho, Holly Jolly...Christmas is only a few more days away now. I've had two successful parties: the first a dinner party for 60 Rollins College folks and the second a sit down dinner for twelve for Danny's birthday. The house has been decorated inside and out for several weeks. Mailed all the cards and letters. The gifts are all purchased and wrapped and placed under the too brightly lit tree in the living room bay window. Fa la la.

My food for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners will be purchased tomorrow. Been to Sea World and ridden The Polar Express. Have eaten my way through multiple cartons of Egg Nog and Barnies White Christmas ice cream. La la la la.

Bought new cold weather clothes and laundered the old ones in preparation for our anticipated post Christmas RV trip north. I've stopped the paper for the trip days, alerted the neighbors, and will inform the police tomorrow. Chili's boarding is set. Is there anything I've forgotten? Ah yes, to pay the beginning of the month bills early so they won't be late when I return. My energy and cheer is coming back now that most of my December duties are done. The only hitch is the weather.

We'd planned a Western Georgia and North Carolina trip. Visiting family in Atlanta, then New Years in Asheville and a winter visit to Biltmore. But an unusual blizzard hit NC last weekend dumping 15 to 20 inches of snow and closing some mountain highways. More snow and freezing rain is expected. While I grew up in Western Pa and experienced many cold winters, I never learned to drive until after I moved to Florida. I've never driven on a mountain road in summer or winter. Dunno how to cope with icy road conditions. Ain't gonna learn this year folks.

So, at this point we just plan to go to Atlanta. Unless they get blizzards and ice storms there too. Then, might rethink the days off: south Florida or north Florida or Savannah. Who knows I may end up watching Avatar in an air conditioned theatre instead of running around Stone Mountain. Best laid plans are oft unravelled by Mother Nature. I'll keep ya posted. Meantime, have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pictured: Rollins Theater students: JG Lantigua, Emily Killian, and Shannon Lynch

Okay, okay, I know I haven't been here for awhile. What have I been doing with my time, you might ask, since I haven't been writing? Hello! It's DECEMBER, right? As usual, I've been organizing my personal equivalent of the invasion of Normandy or Hannibal's trek over the Alps to annoy Rome. Christmas prep for me is really like a general fighting a war. Takes me a week to decorate the house including a super cleaning frenzy (I typically ignore dust during the rest of the year since it comes back, anyway). Then, I usually do a couple of big parties. Spend three days in uber-shopping. Wrap the gifts haphazardly but put them under the main tree in artistic perfection. Send cards, newsletters, and pictures to all the folks I should have kept in better touch with during the year. Then, I fight off a cold. By this time, it is, uh around December tenth...just like today. So, know you know. But, that isn't exactly the main subject of this Blog. So, here goes: the subject is the theater, my dears, and what I learned about life from being a part of it.

This week, a couple of things happened that got me thinking about the past. My past. My college past. In the theater. First, I hosted a home dinner party on December 7th for Theta Alpha Phi (National Theater Honor Society) at Rollins College. Early December is when the new inductees are, well inducted, and the Annie Russell Theatre Guild sponsors a dinner in their honor, attended by students, professors and ART staff, and Guild members. About sixty gathered around my pool. This event is always a whole lotta work but the theater and the students are close to my heart. Danny and I always attend the plays at Rollins and as each year passes are more and more impressed with the caliber of performances and production. The students are intelligent, sophisticated, and always a joy to have around. And, as a former Rollins Player, I know first hand how committed they are to the Arts and how hard they work at perfecting their craft.

I well remember taking classes all day and rehearsing pretty much every night. Then performing the play and starting the process all over again. I missed a lot of sorority meetings and beach days and got to most of the frat parties late. But, I loved pretty much every moment in the theater and wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

I had a long ago letter (written by me to a friend) given to me early this week which was the second thing that made me reflect on my college past. The letter reminded me that I actually started my college years at Eckerd in St Petersburg, majoring in English Literature with a general idea of becoming a drama critic like one of my grandfathers. I got bitten by the theater bug the summer of my freshman year and decided pretty much on the spur of a July moment to transfer to Rollins and shift my major to Theater Arts. I ended up getting my first degree in English, but that's another dull story you are not going to have to read here.

My practical mother said, "Its nice that you are studying theater dear, but maybe you should take some education courses too, so you can actually get a job after." Turned out she was right since I didn't go off to New York post graduation to earn my Tony's and fame if not fortune. Why didn't I? I don't know. I wasn't the most or the least talented of my group but I was talented enough to make it legit and in those days good looking enough for stardom as well. The kid could sing, too. I will say, since I need to come up with some answer that is at least partially plausible, that I lacked the ambition and the compulsion. Maybe, okay, I am a little on the lazy side, too. I like short term projects as opposed to long ones which tax my concentration. I probably lacked the guts to 'starve in a garret' as well. In any case, I ended up working for a bank for awhile which was pretty boring, went to grad school, got married, and became a teacher. Used the education courses, thank you Mom. Later I was a psychometrist, a museum docent, and a volunteer and fundraiser for the arts. Finally, a writer but never an actor.

A couple of years ago now I ran into a theater professor from my Rollins days at an Art festival event and asked him if he remembered me. He did. He remembered my pre-married name and ticked off about five parts I played at the Annie in about a minute and a half. This was, I thought, pretty impressive memory skill since my college days are long long ago in a galaxy far far away. He asked me, "How have your used your theater training?" I told him I am a writer not an actor but that I have used what I learned in every single thing I have ever done since I left my student days behind.

So, here's the crux of the Blog. Wake up! Take notes. Here's what the theater gave me. First, confidence. Confidence to take on new things and risk making a total fool of myself. Confidence to laugh when I slip and fall and pick myself up and actually make it look like I meant to slip in the first place. Confidence to shrug my shoulder and go on. Confidence to go for the laugh and not get it. Confidence to look critics in the eye and smile or thumb my nose if I want. Confidence to give a speech for a hundred folks or so without reading a single note card.

Second, I learned to pretend well. Pretend I happy when I am not. Pretend to feel well with a migraine. Pretend to know what I am doing when I don't have the first clue. That happens almost daily. In my long life, I have pretended to be so many things. I learned in the theater to observe how people convey or hide things via body language, talk, use technical terminology, etc so I could pretend to be a teacher, PR person, confident hostess, or whatever was necessary. Pretend while I actually learned on the job as it were. To paraphrase Willy S, All the world's a stage and men and women merely players. Improvisation kinda goes along with this. And I actually had classes in it. When stuff goes wrong in real life and it does a lot, the ability to improvise is actually a survival skill.

I learned physical skills too. Good posture, how to move gracefully despite my really huge feet, how to speak so that my voice would bounce off the back walls of the room if necessary. I still know how to walk through a crowded room and get the attention of everyone in it without a word, time my first remark, enunciate, and take control of a meeting with eye control. Thank you, theater.These skills saved my bacon many times. What I didn't learn too well, is how to fade into the background. I just can't stay quiet long enough. (Insert laugh here) Fortunately, a career in espionage was not a desired or necessary option.

Speaking the speech as it was pronounced to me (Hamlet) taught me to appreciate the spoken language which I feel helped me write poetry. I am usually complimented on my adept use of dialogue and dialect in my short stories and novels which I think was a benefit of theater training and study. My writing is heavy on scene which is no doubt a by product of theater study as well. When I write a scene, I actually visualize the characters acting it out in my mind which helps me insert the little bits of physical business and description. And then there is plot. Ain't no story without plot, which has to have a story arc (Beginning, middle, end). Who wants what, who gets in the way, how does the hero get around the antagonist are essential elements in story craft. And, don't forget to kill some of your darlings. That's drama. That's entertainment. I studied Shakespeare, boys and girls. 'Nuff said.

So that's it for now. Some of what I learned in the theater. Mommy and Daddy didn't waste their money. These days, I watch, enjoy a good performance, and applaud. Yesterday, as a Guild member, I 'adopted' the three talented, smart, and charming students pictured above. I am not really sure what the adoption means as I haven't been given any direction on it. Will have to improvise, I guess. TTFN Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Ox is Slow But the Earth is Patient

I heard that line in a movie somewhere, sometime: it wasn't one of mine. I snorted at the time I first heard it I think, but I never forgot it. Forgot the movie though. The line sorta kinda describes my state of writing being right now. Slow, slow, slow. Dragon book is stuck in the muck of my not so creative mind these days and it seems I will seize upon any and every excuse not to write. "I have to do laundry. My acid reflux is too much. I need a nap. I have to look over the Christmas decorations and see what is usable." Blah, blah, blah. I do hope the earth really is patient. Just call me OX.

So here's some other great lines from movies that resonate with my un-a-mused state and stagnating manuscript:
"Game over, man. Game over! What the f-k are we gonna do now, man?" (Aliens)
"Ask yourself, Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?" (Dirty Harry)
"You'll shoot your eye out kid." (A Christmas Story)
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." (Gone With The Wind)
"I have a bad feeling about this." (Star Wars)
We'll always have Paris." (Casablanca)
"I'll have what she's having." (When Harry Met Sally)
"Come with me if you want to live." (Terminator)
"Show me the money." (Jerry Maguire)
"I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." (The Godfather)

I am imagining a scene with my muse as we sit across a battered table from each other looking over my sad 180 pages. It is late at night and raining.
MUSE: (shaking his head) That's it? That's all ya got, kid?"
ME: )pointing at the manuscript) I have a bad feeling about this. Its going nowhere. Maybe I should just try to write vampire books with silly shallow teenagers and one dimensional characters and no real action.
MUSE: (nodding) Don't forget the bad dialogue and too much narration. Like that nice Myer girl. Made a zillion bucks last year I hear. Everybody loves Edward it seems.
ME: Yeah, I'll have what she's having. Show me the money. I wish. But, I can't write that sort of stuff. So, I guess its just game over, game over, man. What the f-k am I gonna do now, man?
MUSE: Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. I'm going to Disneyworld to hang out with Tinker Belle.
ME: No, don't leave me. How will I write without you?
MUSE: (shrugging) Well, we'll always have Paris.
ME: What does that mean? We've never been to Paris. We'll always have rewrites, though. If you just don't give up on me.
MUSE: (Pointing to my desk and laptop.) Oh okay, come with me if you want to write. Sit down there at your desk and ask yourself, do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk? Just listen to what I say and you'll write your heart out, kid.
ME: (eagerly)Go ahead, make my day!
MUSE: Okay, kid, I'm gonna make you an offer ya can't refuse.

* * *

I am ready for my close up, Mr DeMille. But, my manuscript isn't. And the damn muse is cavorting with Tinker Belle I think.

Live long and prosper. (Star Trek)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shut up Whoos, Bah Humbug, and all that gobble gobble...

Well, my little Bloggers, it looks like the holidays are fast approaching again. Sorry to say, this year the Christmas girl just ain't feelin' the love. Never mind that its still in the 80s two weeks before Thanksgiving which always makes it a stretch to imagine Santa and the reindeer and Frosty et all...right now I just can't summon up the magic no how. I feel like the Grinch nervously drumming his fingers and saying, "I must find a way to stop Christmas from coming!"

Now granted last Christmas wasn't one I remember with fondness. It was just stress stress stress. That could be part of the issue I'm having contemplating a new one coming. Last year, I somehow got committed to hosting two big parties in one week which put me into a mondo decorating frenzy as early as Thanksgiving. By bed time on the evening of the second party I was suffering from a major nosebleed that I feared wouldn't stop, but fortunately did in thirty minutes. Several times in December I had stressful encounters with ex-family that harshened my mellow. And like pretty much everyone last year, I was actively worried about the worsening recession and political atmosphere in our country. Unlike most folks, the promises of change made by President Elect Obama did not fill me with a whole lot of hope, although there was perhaps a tiny spark inside that said, "Well, maybe this time..."

Flash forward a year. Change to the nation has not come. Washington DC is still full of the usual hot air, special interest manipulation, pork, and chaos. Partisanship trumps good sense. I doubt there will be much 'goodwill to men' in the halls of power. Locally, the same folks who were out of work last year at this time still are. The housing market has continued to worsen till the majority of homes with for sale signs are short sales and foreclosures. For those who need or want to sell, drop your asking price several HUNDRED thousand from what it would have been back in 2005...big ouch. We are still at war in Iraq and in Afghanistan and we are not winning. Those of you out there in Blogland who believe that the health care bill passed by the House will pass the Senate and if it does will actually provide better, cheaper, and more available health care for all, raise your hands. I don't see any hands raised from where I sit. And how's your investment portfolio these days? Retirement looking good? Seen any bailout money trickle down to your neighbors, friends, and community? Yes, we can? Uh, maybe not.

So, where's the hope and love we're all supposed to feel at this time of year?

Now, while I am grousing and I know I am, I also count my personal blessings. For now, I have an income. I can keep my home. As far as I know, I have no dread diseases. My kids are happy, healthy, grown up, self sufficient, and have beautiful children of their own to create the Christmas magic for. Publix has egg nog ice cream and peppermint bark is appearing in the stores again. I am looking forward to getting out of town the week between Christmas and New Years and hopeful that the change will jump start my enthusiasm fro 2010.

I'm also gonna take it easier over the holidays. Doing the party for Rollins (for the second and last year) but not doing my personal party (only the 3rd time skipping it in 30 years thus far). Not decorating as much as usual inside or out. 'Grinchy Nancy' is not even gonna light the luminarias on the neighborhood light up night this year. That one because I am still angry at my neighbors over the RV left in the driveway overnight gonna turn you into Code Enforcement thing. My neighbors aren't particularly friendly 364 days a year so I've had it with the faky holiday cheer from them. (For those of you who don't live in Florida, unfriendly neighbors are the usual thing in a place traditionally transient.)

So, bah humbug. That's what I'm feeling.Somebody else carve the roast beast this year. I'm tired. Sorry but that's the way it is.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Acts of Violence

2009: We live in violent times, no matter where we live. Every day reports of calculated or random and senseless acts of hatred and violence are reported on the TV news, in the papers, and online. We avidly watch violence acted and re-inacted in teleplays and movies and video games. Husbands kill estranged wives, wives kill estranged husbands. Parents kill their babies. Children are abducted, raped, and murdered. People are tortured and blown up in the name of Allah or because they worship Allah. People kill other people for greed, in displaced anger, and sometimes for no reason that anyone can discern. To some degree, we have become desensitized to violence. We say "What a shame" then shrug and go out to dinner. It doesn't seem quite real. Not until there is some connection that makes it seem real.

Yesterday, a man shot multiple people at Ft. Hood in Texas. I hate to admit this, but I said, "What a shame" and turned the news channel to a show on Home and Garden Network. It didn't hit home. But, today, just before lunch, a forty year old man named Mark Rodriquez entered an office building at the Gateway Center just fifteen minutes from my home near Orlando and opened fire on the workers at an architectural firm, Reynolds, Smith and Hill. Six people were badly injured. One has died thus far. All of a sudden, the senseless violence became very personal. When I saw the news, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut. I locked my doors. I suddenly felt unsafe.

I know the area. I know people who work there and live nearby. I drive past that building frequently. My lawyers' office is on the top floor. I wondered if he was a victim. The prep school my daughter attended is within walking distance. Police locked it down. A hotel that many friends have stayed in is across the street. The building where the crime occurred is not in a slum or area generally considered unsafe. I was reminded, as I sat glued to the TV for the next hour and a half, that no place is guaranteed safe anymore.

Here's another recent example. On Halloween night within walking distance of my home a middle aged man finished dinner with a female companion at an upscale restaurant along Park Avenue. As he made his way to his car, two men in Halloween costumes accosted him and attempted a robbery. Apparently the victim resisted and he was repeatedly stabbed with knives. He is still in the hospital and the perps remain at large.

Today's apparent nutcase was identified by an office worker and apprehended after several hours by OPD at his mother's apartment east of the city. He told police he did it because, "They left me to rot." He was referring, as far as I can tell, to having been fired or laid off two years ago by the company. Times are hard. I feel for the folks who have it tough. But that hardly justifies murder. I feel no sympathy for Mark Rodriquez. Whatever his troubles were he made the choice to do evil. His statement shows a lack of personal responsibility. Maybe he's just plain nuts. Nobody knows yet. But, he took at least one life in anger. I hope he gets justice and that the justice is harsh.

As for me, I was lucky not to have an errand at 1000 Legion Place this morning. I was lucky not to be out to dinner on Park Avenue on Halloween. I am grateful that my kids and Danny were safely somewhere else today when Mark Rodriquez made the choice to take out his personal agenda out on innocent people with a smoking gun. We were all lucky. This time. Six other people weren't lucky. Tomorrow, it may be my turn. My family's turn. Or your family's turn. In 2009, we live in violent times.

Here's a weird postscript: About the time the shootings occurred and the perp was racing away in his SUV, I was out walking my Rottweiler/Catahoula dog, Abby. She is the 'sensitive' one in the Mutley Crew. It was a beautiful sunny peaceful day. All of a sudden, she jumped up in the air, looked around, tucked tail and literally dragged me home. She was so upset, I didn't try to stop her. Probably totally coincidental, but from now on I am going to pay attention to her reactions to things much more closely.

That's all for now friends. Orlando's most recent killer is behind bars. The soldier run amok in Texas is behind bars. But, who knows what other snipers and killers, and robbers are lurking in dark corners? In conclusion, as they said on Hill Street Blues, "Be careful out there." Watch your backs. Be alert. Always. Good night, and good luck.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Howl-o-ween

Trick or treat! Here's some recent photos of the day we met Laura and family at Sea World to celebrate Halloween Under the Sea. It was Bailey's first time there and PJ really enjoyed the Shamu show as well as seeing the cast members dressed up in watery halloween style for the holiday... as well as filling up his bag with chocolate goodies.

Tonight's the big night tho: PJ will cruise his neighborhood dressed as Bumblebee in Transformers and Alex is the Blues Clues dog. Bailey is a baby butterfly. Photos will be posted soon.

We brought in gyros and potato salad from Athena Chicken. We've lit the pumpkins and the spooky candles. Halloween music is playing in the other room. We're watching Dexter on DVD, eating candy, and waiting for the doorbell to ring. Its almost dark. Let the revels begin. Have a fun and safe night. Happy Howl o ween.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October Update

Hidey Ho, Boys and Girls

I uploaded some recent photos as you can see. The first is my beautiful grand daughter, Miss Bailey Lynne Brown, at six months. After that are scenes of: 1. our favorite new eatery at Flagler Beach, The Flagler Fish House, a small place where you pick out the sort of fresh fish you want from a cooler display, decide the method of cooking and sauce you want, and order it. Table service, dandy seafood dip n homemade chips and killer desserts too. Fish tacos and shrimp grits available as well. Yummy! 2. Danny's mom, Charlotte, on the almost always uncrowded dog friendly beach 3.Danny and Ginny snoozing on the RV sofa after a run down the beach at warp four after seabirds.

Random thoughts:
I was reading this morning in the paper about the latest shenanigans in DC over the health care bills. I shook my head. The lawyers and lawmakers in Washington are so far removed from the 'real' Americans no matter what they say or how hard they try to understand we the people. I venture that not a one of them has lost their job and been unable to find another. They have affordable insurance cause they get government backed insurance and discounts and perks and a healthy salary from politics and whatever other jobs they have or had. They haven't lost their home to a bank or been personally f***ked by a credit card company. Fixed incomes? Not for politicos. So, they say public option then no public option and lets fine people if they don't buy insurance. Sure, lets fine the guy who has no job, no house, and is in credit card debt for the rest of his life. Give him a tax deduction on taxes he isn't paying on income he' not getting or cant pay anyway. Yeah. How many ways can you spell clueless?

I read that they are giving President Obama a Noble prize. Now, I have nothing personally against the President but I have to say for what?!! What has he done? Lets see: we are still in Afghanistan and Iraq and we're still not winning. The economy is still in the crapper. Iran thumbs its nasty nose at us and continues to push their agenda of hate to all non Muslims. Affordable health care is still an improbability. Retirement investments and indeed all investments are still poor. We, as a country, are even more in debt than we have ever been. Chicago didn't even get the friggin' Olympics despite the millions we taxpayers paid to send Obama to Denmark to do an unnecessary speech. Nobel prize to Obama. Cause he looks good in a suit maybe. Cause he said, change is necessary and, ye we can. Talk is cheap even if nothing else is these days and apparently a Nobel prize is as well. If ya wanna give out prizes for good intentions, well, there are plenty around. But, don't results count anymore? Oh well, at least nobody is giving out anything to Mr. Im-a-dinner-jacket. And by the way, doesn't a head of state know about the use of a razor and a tailor to fit his dinner jacket properly? Iran's head dude looks more like Ackmed the taxi driver. At least our President looks presidential!

Why does anyone care about John and Kate? What a waste of time and money. They are less interesting than my neighbors.

How 'bout them Steelers?! 'm drinking my morning coffee in my yellow and black Steelers mug every morning and wishing I was in Pittsburgh where the highs are between 60 and 70 instead of in Florida where the weather is still trying to be July. It is 95 again today. Walking outside is like walking in a bowl of soup right off the burner.

I am writing and it is getting better. Credit Woodstream writers workshops for jump starting my enthusiasm again.

No vet visits this week. Can ya believe that? Last week end Ginny accidentally ripped out her stitches and had to have staples put in. But this week was peaceful.

New sy-fy shows again on Friday nights, thank goodnes. Bout time. Reading a good book, The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss. I recommend it.

TTFN Live long and prosper.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hey bloggers,
Someone pointed out that I haven't written a Blog in awhile. So, here's a report. I have been busy climbing the Matterhorn, accepting an Emmy, curing swine flu, and learning to make cupcakes and lump free gravy. Just kidding, but then you knew that. I can't make cupcakes.

I guess I really have been busy, but I am not sure what I have accomplished. Been writing in fits and starts on the dragon book. I'd like to say its going well but I feel like I am going in a circle and not making much progress with the storyline at all. Kinda like James Joyce when a friend asked him how much he'd written that day and Joyce said he'd written seven words. The friend exclaimed, "But that's a lot for you!" and Joyce replied, "Yes, but I don't know in what order the words go in."

I've tried to organize my house a little. I've straightened up bedroom closets, kitchen closet, linen closet, and garage and it doesn't look any different. I am awash on a river of clutter. I just really need to get rid of a ton of stuff I don't use and don't want and the idea seems over whelming. The very thought sucks energy out of me. More fun was going to Michaels and Target and buying some Halloween stuff and decorating the house with it. More stuff! Insert sigh here.

During the week days I've been taking the dogs to the vet. I have been to the vet at lest seven times in the last 30 days. Really. You don't even want to think about my bills. I think I have about seven different kinds of medications I have to give each day, too.

I have been suffering from acid reflux for over a month now and yes, I know I should probably go to a doctor. That doesn't mean I will until it gets a lot worse. I've been slogging liquid antacids, chewing Tums, taking Prilosec, and trying to eat a low fat diet. Unfortunately, I love Mexican, Italian, and Greek cruisine and am addicted to coffee. I dream of chocolate. INsert another sigh here.

We've spent our weekends since I last blogged either going to various beaches or spending time with my kids and grandkids. Pictured in this entry are PJ and Chili, Laura's new puppy (Great Dane) named Clyde, and myself going down the giant slide at PJ's recent birthday party. This week end, we're off to the beach again, this time Flagler, with Danny' mom, Charlotte.

I am getting a little less discontent with Florida as each week passes. Maybe I am just resigned to the realities of the economy and all the improbabilities of a move. The fact that it (the weather) was a little cooler the past several days has helped elevate my mood. I am hoping summer weather is gone for the year...or a least for a week or two.

So, there's the update. That's all, folks. If I had to name it, I would say 'Status Quo'. Hopefully, I can come up with something more exciting soon. Say you don't care if its true or not and I'll get working on it!

Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Well, it has been a little over a month since my trip to the north and my longing to not be here in Florida has not decreased a bit or twit. I walk out into the extreme heat and humidity, either stuffed up or dripping from allergies with my head hanging lower than it should, frustrated and longing to go home where the view from my windows is mountains and hills, the pines look like Christmas trees instead of cocktail sticks, where I can breath the air without suffering, and wear a sweater instead of sweat. Enter a sigh here. There's nothing to be done about it and I don't like feeling so powerless. So, color me discontent.

With the economy the way it is, selling my house is not a viable possibility. Yeah, I know. The voice of reason keeps telling me that. Folks aren't moving into Central Florida. They are moving out. 50% of all houses for sale are in foreclosure. At least mine is paid for and at least for now, I can pay the taxes and household expenses without selling my soul to the Devil. I should be grateful even if I am understandably angry that as my house's value goes down the real estate taxes go up. I am grateful. Just restless. My life is tick tick ticking away and I want to enjoy it before it is tick tock gone.

I tell myself that moving to the beach would be a good compromise and it probably would be. I am going to look further into possibilities in North Florida. Close enough to drive back here and see my two daughters and their hubbies and three children whenever I want. Somewhere where the sea air helps my allergies. Somewhere with a different view. Ocean is good. I like sand between my toes. Even if visions of my hilly childhood home place continues to haunt my dreams.

So here's the plan: spruce up the back yard as soon as it is cool enough to work out there. Touch up paint the nicks and scratches inside. Clear out the garage and organize the storage room nearby. Watch the market. Hope that change is on the horizon.

On another tack, I hope to complete my dragon book before another birthday rolls around. I've got a lot to do. So, ttfn. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Here I go.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Love Thyself And Love Another

A poem I wrote a long long time go. Not my best effort but some truth none the less. Sadly, the people who really need to pay attention to these things rarely ever do. As the saying goes, don't let the door hit you on the way out...too hard anyway.


Better the riches of the heart than the riches of the world.

Ignorance is no excuse.

We all have the same chance to learn.

Pause a moment, be patient and kind,

or you may get the fate you’ve earned.

You’re not alone on the planet

which doesn’t revolve just for you.

If you think only of yourself

your dreams won't really come true.

The way that you deal with others,

is the way they will deal with you.

Today you may be on top of the world

yet tomorrow, the payment comes due.

For meanness feeds on meanness,

and hatred gives birth to more hate.

Put a smile on somebody’s face

and you’ll alter your own state.

What matter fortune and power

if you find yourself alone?

You're not entitled to condescend

at work, or to family at home.

Ignorance is a poor excuse.

Now is the time to change.

Though the hour is growing late,

your life can be rearranged.

For riches and beauty will fade away.

No one will care at the end.

The truest immortality

is the memory of a friend.

December 2001

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reflections and Musings

Some recent pictures from my iPhone taken at Cocoa and Vero Beach. We've taken the Parakeet to the beach on the past two Saturdays, partly to escape our ever present inland pollen allergies and partly with an idea of exploring areas for possible relocation in future. Of course, relocation now is highly improbable if not impossible due to the economy and the fact that Danny has a steady job. You don't just give up a job in this economy in hopes of finding another somewhere else.

I was pleased by some of the housing deals possible at the beach, particularly in Vero, but shocked when driving up A1A from Melbourne to Cocoa at the for sale sign on literally every other beach side house. Too much economic desperation there to be a good short term investment, even if my house here would sell. Which it won't. Folks are defaulting on loans and moving out of Florida, not in. Flagler seemed to be a little more stable if you stay away from Palm Coast, but that is only after a superficial study. I've lived at the beach before (in SC) and loved it and could see doing it again, particularly since we have an RV as an escape pod during hurricane evacuations, but am planning some future mountain trips as well for enjoyment and research. For now, I have to be grateful I have a paid off house as a safe haven during a time of recession and privation for so many folks. Thankfully, I also have antihistamines, nose spray, and aspirin. Cause I need em.

We had a fun week end over Labor Day: in addition to the beach trek we had dinner with several friends we don't get to see often enough on Friday. In fact, one, we hadn't seen in nearly three years. He asked, "What's new with you guys?" and I reflected that a lot has happened in the past several years. I had the sorrow of my mother's death, a daughter's marriage, the other daughter's divorce and happy remarriage, the addition of three grandchildren, two books completed and published, paid off the house, renovated the house, bought an RV and took my first real long vacation in fifteen (yes, fifteen) years in it. Danny finished a degree in IT, got a job at UCF, and his stepson has a son. Yeah, as the saying goes, life is what happens while you're waiting for it to happen.

We also got to have dinner with daughter Laura and her happy clan and met Amy and her family at the mall. Baby Bailey wasn't so happy actually, since she was sick again with ear and conjunctivitis infections, but Alex enjoyed playing hide and seek in the mall shops and keeping his parents in constant motion. I am looking forward to seeing all my kids and grandkids at PJ's seventh birthday party next Sunday at one of those bouncy slidy places, too!

I slogged on and finished the 4th and hopefully last book in the Twilight series. Read em all on my iPhone on the Kindle app! The last part of the 4th book was by far the best in the entire four, except that the abrupt maturity change in Bella and Edward was awkward. Instead of acting like spoiled teens they suddenly became mature functioning adults physically and intellectually. More interesting to me, but from a technical writing perspective, too fast and jarring. Liked the almost nonstop action even if the foreshadowed big fight never happened. In my opinion, Stephanie Meyer isn't really a good writer in so many technical ways, but she is a successful one and popular. I really respect that, knowing how hard it is to get published these days.

Well, that's it, folks. Dog agility starts this week and writer's workshop cranks up again next Monday. It may not be Fall on the calendar but as far as I am concerned its here. I can't wait though, until our next trip out of state on the Parakeet, hopefully Christmas week. TTFN

Thursday, September 3, 2009

More bits n bytes

More thoughts on vampires, werewolves, and humans. I am still reading the 4th Twilight book on Kindle and have decided that I like Bella even less than Edward. Technically, the book moves well and reads easy and it is interesting, but I have never really been a fan of spoiled self indulgent adolescent girls or( vampires it seems, either). I was never really sold on the character of Bella but when she really did choose to become a vampire and reject her humanity and mortality she lost me entirely. Her half human half vamp baby girl, Reneesme, totally creeps me out and the name is probably the dumbest one in recent literary history. Thought I had to read these books since that's what the kids are reading these days but frankly my dear, like Rhett, I find I really don't give a damn. I sorta hope somebody stakes Bella Cullen. Dunno if I will make it to the end or not. I just don't like these characters and I don't think I would have had any more patience with them at twenty.

Almost a month has passed since I returned from the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains and I am still very restless and dissatisfied with late summer in Florida. Still sick of the heat and humidity and boring flatness of the landscape. The oak canopy feels claustrophobic to me. The sun feels too hot. I am really annoyed with sweat. I think, dear bloggers, I've just been here way too long. (Uh, most of my life, right?)Really, I do know how nice a place this is. There's no logic to my feelings. But, I wish, how I wish, I could be in the mountains where I could breathe without sneezing or itching or stuffing up. My constant allergies almost disappeared completely there. And now the late summer/fall hurricane season has begun. The lightning strikes have been so severe this week that several houses in the area have burned. A new worry: the summer storms didn't used to be this bad. Global warming again?

Ah, well, it is Labor Day week end, starting tomorrow. I am trying not to think of how pleasant it would be to have days in the low seventies and nights in the low fifties and no dang mosquitoes. I am going to eat barbecue and corn chips con queso and bake the cookies that come in the shape of school buses. TTFN.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

BIts n Bytes

Went to the beach last week end. (Cocoa). I enjoyed it a lot. Beach=good.

I used to have a house on Hilton Head Island in SC right across the street from the beach and I walked on it every single day when there. For at least an hour. When I wasn't swimming laps in my heated pool or riding my bike on the miles and miles of bike paths. I loved the beach. Winter, spring, summer and fall. My favorite walking time was after dinner for the hour before sunset. With my dogs, of course. Akita, Nikki, was particularly fond of chasing the ghost crabs that popped out of their sandy homes at dusk to scramble for the ocean. I probably could happily have lived there forever, but fate ruled otherwise and I've been full time in Central Florida since 1991. If I could sell my inland home and could afford as a nice house on a Florida beach, I could be talked into moving. Alas, beachside housing is no longer affordable for me. Fortunately, it's only an hour drive.

At this stage in my life though, I really would like something really different. Like a mountain home, which would be affordable if I could actually sell my present one, and for more than a dollar ninety eight cents! Will the economic miasma ever end? Sigh.

I am still so sick of the steamy weather, the bugs, and the constant allergies I seem to suffer from here in Central Florida. I even am coming to dislike the tall oaks hanging overhead dripping with Spanish Moss. Seems, after the mountains, creepy. But, it is September. Summer's over and cooler weather is only a month or so away. Hopefully.

I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I began to read the Twilight book series. I have actually enjoyed them. Stephanie Meyer may not be a literary giant, but she knows how to keep a reader's interest in stories that have very little if any action. And success like hers must be admired by a writer! I am personally glad when any writer inspires young people to actually read a book cover to cover, but I have to comment that I am a little concerned with the reaction of young women to the characters of Edward and Bella. Young teens who don't have the benefit of experience have been selecting mates since caveman days based on hormones and always will They either hit it lucky or the get divorced/break up. Hopefully, they learn from this and make better choices later in life.

Young women moon and sigh over the 'good' vampire, Edward. And like Bella, seem to equate him with the tragic dark anti hero Heathcliff in the 19th century chick lit novel Wuthering Heights. Which most of the girls haven't and won't read. In Charlotte Bronte's melodramatic but classic book, Heathcliff was a cruel and selfish man, insensitive to the feelings and needs of others and totally obscessed with the equally vapid, mean, and self centered Cathy who dumps him and marries for status and money. They ruined each others lives and the lives of pretty much everyone around them for the sake of their twisted obcession which they mistakenly saw as love. Young girls who love drama and being the center of it, sigh over this, and will probably pass over all too many good guys for their own Edward. Who will, like Edward, turn out to be selfish, controlling, and abusive.

Don't buy the argument? Well, Edward tells Bella who she can and cannot see, call, or visit. He actually has her kidnapped by his sister and held against her will in one book to prevent Bella from seeing his rival freely. He showers her with presents...but always what he thinks she should have not what she expresses a liking for, and is always at her side, day and night, unless he is away briefly 'feeding' on mountain lions and bears. Bella, being totally convinced that he is an 'angel' (her term not mine), desperately fears that he will stop loving her and leave her if she ages so she decides to give up her life and her mortality at eighteen to live forever at his side. Even if she can never grow up, have children, sleep, eat, or feel normal human emotions anymore. Even if she has to give up her family and friends. Forever. This, along with an eternity of blood craving, sounds pretty yucky to me.

Edward is the classic template of the handsome guy who just loves you so darn much he has to be with you every single second and always knows what's best for you. No matter what you say. Cause, he's prettier, smarter, and graceful and has been around the block a few times. Who turns out a few years later to be an emotional or a physical abuser. And young girls, thanks to Twilight, think he's model guy. When a guy who really cared about her would say, "Sure Bels, see whatever pals you want to, drive a truck if you'd rather not have a Mercedes, we don't have to get married if you aren't ready...oh and gosh darn it, I would never ever do anything to hurt turn you into a vampire with a bad temper and insatiable cravings for human blood."

Its a story and as such is fine. But, take it seriously and a whole new crop of twenty somethings will be showing up with bruises on the outside and inside at abused women's shelters before long.

I am reading book number four now and am hoping that Edward will turn out to be a better vampire and man than I think he is being written as. That Bella will grow up enough to realize that her humanity is a blessing not a curse and begin thinking beyond her hormones and romantic dreams of the tortured Heathcliff. I hope the writer has something wise to show young girls after all. I'm rooting thus far for the Werewolf, Jake, who even if he gets a little hairy now and then is a better bet. I mean with Jake, Bella can be herself whatever that turns out to be, still eat chocolates and drink good wine , take a nap in the afternoons, and look forward to a time when she can play with her cute lil grandkids. That's what I want for my own daughters and that's the way I'd write the book.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Some further reflections on my latest obsessions

Photos: Flagler Beach, Florida and Bedford, Pennsylvania

'Lo, Bloggers.

Yesterday, I took Danny to the new urgent care center down the street cause he was suffering from vertigo and fatigue. Since there have been some cases of Swine flu where he works, he was a little concerned. Luckily, he does not have the flu. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I happened to pick up a magazine dedicated to life in the Carolinas and I read all about the various cities and places to move to up there. Last night I checked some real estate listings and pics of homes in Western NC and SC and while I really liked the lower than Florida prices and mountain views and puny real estate taxes, the idea of moving up there did not touch my heart strings like the idea of relocating to Pennsylvania did several weeks ago during my visit. They were just pretty places to me. Pretty as my current town of Winter Park is.

I reflected on it just before I fell asleep last night and realized that I have seen many beautiful places in my life in many states and countries. I learned to love Hilton Head in the half dozen years I lived there part time and appreciated its beauty immediately. In fact, I pretty much like all beach towns. Switzerland and Austria were breathtaking. France was beautiful too. So was West Virginia. Austin, Asheville, Charleston (SC), Savannah, Minneapolis, and San Francisco are some of my favorite American cities with great appeal and quality of lifestyle.

Only two places visited immediately felt like "home" though almost at first sight: places I knew that I could happily move to and where I felt strongly that I "belonged". Those two places were Western Pennsylvania and England. The first probably because I was born there and am a 12th generation Pennsylvanian, although most of my life has been in Florida. I really would fit in there from entitlement if nothing else. (Lol.) The second, no doubt, felt so homey from hearing many many stories from my mother (whose hobby was Genealogy and who traced her English kin to 850 AD) about our long history as a family in England before beginning the process of emigrating to Pennsylvania in the 1680s. Culturally, our family was British, despite the heavy Scotish and German infusion of root stock over many generations in America, and every time I visited England I felt very much at home there both with the terrain and the people. I visited Germany several times and felt no such pull. And Scotland, although I am an admirer of her culture and my own Scottish ancestry, just doesn't have enough forests for my taste. That I feel so much affinity for English history and culture and Pennsylvania's colonial history I attribute to the power of storytelling to children. It certainly also jump started my fascination with history in general.

So, my conclusion is that unless I move to one of those places that tug at my heartstrings, which would be difficult for the first and implausible for the second, ( thanks to the immigration and government policies of the past several decades, England isn't as English as it used to be and I probably wouldn't feel as at home there anymore), Central Florida will do just as well as anyplace else. As long as we can maintain our present quality of life and the ocean doesn't rise and swallow us up.

We do have lots of sunny weather and the beach is only an hour away from my town. Of course, I don't like the hurricanes and mosquitoes (who would?) and the consistent unfriendliness of neighbors here is disappointing, but at least I know how to deal with the weather and bugs and have been ignoring (most of) my mostly transient neighbors for fifteen years just as they ignore me with no real diminishment in the quality of life that really matters. And I do enjoy the theme parks which are close by, yet far enough away, that the tourists don't come to my little oak canopied town. Heck, most of them think junky International Drive near the parks with one chain restaurant after another is Orlando since that's all they usually see. Which is all right with me since it doesn't make it hard to get a dinner reservation in Winter Park.

And of course my family is here and not likely to pull up stakes for other parts. So, with the real estate situation what it is and especially since it would be a major undertaking just to move down the street from my present location, and I am lazy...uh...a personal energy conservationist, I guess I will stay put and count my sunny day blessings. I guess I better stop looking at Pittsburgh real estate listings and hit the beach.

PS: We're going to visit Virginia next summer. My parents and I used to go there pretty much every other year when I was little. I remember I really loved those trips. I may come back wanting to move there too. Who knows? The ox is slow but the earth is patient.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hello Bloggers,
We had supper at daughter Laura's house on Saturday where I took these pictures of little Bailey Lynne with my iPhone. She is now five months old and is developing quite a little personality as you can see for yourselves. I hadn't seen her in almost a month due to being away and all the various evil bugs the Brown family has been passing back and forth between themselves recently. Laura made home made bread, salad, and chicken enchilada chowder for dinner with brownies topped with chocolate chip cookie dough for dessert. She is a good cook. Six year old PJ was excited about starting school on Monday (today). He is a big first grader now and proud of the Transformers backpack that his Aunt Amy gave him. Seeing kids and grandkids was delightful and helped ground me in Florida soil a bit again. Although I still dream of Pennsylvania at night. I mean that literally.

Danny says we might not like it so much up there come a January blizzard and he's no doubt right, but I just feel like I've been berthed here much too long. Everyplace is too familiar and I've "done it all" too many times. We should probably go to the beach next week end if the weather is sunny which will further anchor me to Florida soil, uh sand. I do love a beach. And renew Disney passes later in the fall. Recapture Uncle Walt's magic. Its been about three years since our passes ran out.

The RV road trip was a great success though. As I said in previous posts, I don't like to travel by commercial airlines or in cars. I have no real affinity for hotels either. I didn't travel when I was alone (ie before Danny) cause, well, I hate being in unfamiliar places alone and hate programmed tours with people I don't know and may not want to and where I am on somebody else's idea of a schedule. Especially if it involves early morning departures. I didn't want to leave the dogs behind, either.

I do like to see new things and new places though, as well as revisit those I haven't seen in a long long time. Ergo, the RV was a great idea. My hotel was with me the whole time. So were the dogs. I could sight see, sweat, park in a restaurant parking lot, shower and change, exit vehicle and go right into a spiffy dinner. Which I did one night. The dogs were right there in the air conditioned RV where I could check on them if desired.

I could move around the vehicle while Danny drove. Read, sleep, be on the computer, take pictures out the windows. And there was no need to stop and exit for bathrooms or food. If we ate in a restaurant and had leftovers we could store them in the RV fridge for another meal. Handy that. Also handy was fridge for late night snacks of my choosing. Microwave, gas cooktop, and coffee maker, too.

The campground facilities we stayed in were much nicer than I had expected, too. And easy to find on the spur of the moment. They weren't expensive, averaging $25.00 night for parking pad, electric, water, sewer, and cable hookup. Most had nice pools and nice wooded walking areas, some had fenced dog parks, miniature golf, cafes, etc. One had log flume rides, a fishing lake, a outdoor movie, hayrides, and a nightly dance. Another had food delivery to your RV. One had free breakfast and gym use at the next door hotel.

The trip was economical on fuel too, since we averaged 15 to 17 miles per gallon on diesel. All in all, a good way for me to travel. Now that I have a taste for it, I cant wait for the next trip. Danny says I will probably want to move wherever that is for awhile, too. We'll see. Maybe in the end I will just turn into a 'gypsy' with a Florida home base.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pennsylvania Dreamin

Well Bloggers,
It has been about ten days since I returned to Florida from my trip to Pennsylvania. I am still overflowing with longing to be up in Pennsylvania instead of back in Orlando. Now granted I went there in summer which is one of their very best seasons and returned to Florida during our very worst season, when the humidity makes you feel like you are in a mug treading warm soup every time you leave the house. When the mosquitoes are particularly bloodthirsty and numerous, spiders manage to get in the house no matter what, and its freakin' close to 100 out most afternoons before the nasty thunderstorms roll in. Our summer is equivalent to their blizzard time. One thing you can say in Florida's favor though is that no matter how hot it gets, you can leave and go someplace. Not so easy in the north where you can actually get snowed in for a few days at a time.

My children and young grandchildren live here. I love the beach: which is only about an hour away no matter whether I go east or west. I enjoy the theme parks at Disney, Universal, and Sea World. I have a lot of friends here. A good life. You betcha. No complaints. But, having said that, if somebody was to knock on my door and offer to buy my house for a fairly decent price, I'd be out of here ASAP right now. Logical or illogical wouldn't matter. My roots are up north and having realized that so dramatically, I want to go home. Have a white Christmas. Enjoy the changing leaves in Fall and the tulips and daffodills in Spring. Breathe air that doesn't make me constantly sneeze. Live on a hill. Drive to the mountains instead of the beach. Not live in a tourist mecca.

If you haven't been there you wouldn't know, but Western Pennsylvania is breathtakingly beautiful. Pittsburgh, where I was born, is a clean progressive city full of very friendly folks with every cultural advantage (thanks to old Robber baron fortunes) a person could want. Full of stunning parks. Three rivers. Great public transportation, free to seniors. Lots of hospitals. Higher educations centers such as Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Chatham College, Washington and Jefferson University, and Robert Morris College. With great athletic teams (Go Steelers!). Housing is much cheaper than here and not cookie cutter boxy boring. Job market is better. Schools are better. (In my old township, 98% of all public school students go on to four year colleges) People stay in one place a long time there. For a reason. Its a "Family" place.

Before I went back, I'd forgotten just how unfriendly people are in Florida by comparison. I think maybe it is the transient mentality, or the divorce rate or something else altogether. I don't know. But, I have never been invited to a neighbors house (socially) more than two times the entire 14 years I have lived in my present neighborhood. People wave and smile but its not the place where everybody knows your name. My old neighborhood of 15 years, also here in the same town, was not much friendlier either. If you want friends you meet them through interest activities around these here parts, Pardner. Not on the street where you live. Course I live in Winter Park, which rightly enough has a uppity yuppie image and contentious folks who fight on every single community issue. Other parts of Orlando might be better.

In any case, sigh, according to this morning's newspaper, Florida is losing population. It is one of the worst real estate and job market places in the whole USA. Selling my house and leaving the state is probably only pipe dream. Maybe for the best since the first big blizzard might find me begging for the Sunshine state again. Yes, I'm stuck to my seat, not just because I've sweated to it, either. I can only dream of green hills, pine trees that are full and lush, woodland critters in the yard, lightning bugs and snow for Christmas. But wait, I have an RV that my unfriendly neighbors hate...I can at least travel to the mountains of Pennsylvania again. West Virginia and North Carolina too. As much as I want and Danny's job allows. Mountains will be there waiting. That will have to do.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rediscovering Roots

Some random thoughts regarding our recent trip:

Despite the fact that I only lived in Pennsylvania for the first fourteen years of my life and have lived in Florida pretty much for the rest of it, I discovered upon entering the small town in the Laurel highlands that my mother's people came from, that my roots run deeper than I would have believed before. I felt like I was truly home at last. After too many decades. Why did I wait so long? I don't have a good answer to that. I was busy. Life happened, I guess. But, mostly, I didn't think to go before my mother died and left a note requesting her ashes to be interred back home where she was born.

But, I did find myself strongly drawn to the Keystone State with a lift of spirits that began as we crossed the Maryland border into Central Pennsylvania heading west and the feeling intensified in Bedford County. It wasn't just the half remembered but instantly recognizable and familiar cadences of the speech of the folks living there or the houses made of field stone, soft faded pink brick, and white clapboard. It wasn't just smell and sight of the Scotch Pines or the Blue Spruce trees and the rhododendrons and mountain laurels or the way the earth went up or down but was never flat for very far. It wasn't the lightning bugs that made me smile remembering the classic American summers of long long ago. It wasn't being among folks with pale complexions and blue eyes and yellow hair just like mine. Folks who spoke of 'GW' and meant Washington not Bush. It was partly those things, yes, but it was something more.

I found the answer in the old cemetery just outside of Schellsburg as I gazed at some of the graves and headstones of my great grandparents four times over. The graves and the stories of the bones within whispered the history of my very own people: Millers and Colvins, Mortimore, Sill and Galbraith: those tough as nails Scots /Irish, English and German pioneers who had the grit to leave the familiar and the mundane and the safe behind and move into uncharted territory and make it their own. The graveyard and the church built in 1806 with its faded headstones, weather scarred, some leaning a bit to the side, has a spare, stark uncompromising, startling beauty, just like I envision the people it shelters once had.

I've always loved history. History is stories, some true, some maybe not true about people and what they do. History is about all our ancestors. I am just lucky to know a lot of the specific history about my own family. Complete with pictures, drawings, Bibles and journals and physical artifacts.

Some of Mother's people came over from Scotland and England in the 1680s to settle in the Philadelphia area and move westward with the generations, losing their identity as pacifistic Quakers, becoming gun toting Methodists and Presbyterians, fighting in the Revolution and Civil War until finally stopping at the golden triangle of Pittsburgh. My mother's parents were the last to settle in the Steel City, leaving Bedford in search of new jobs in the wake of the Great Depression. My daddy's family came over from Germany in the 1850s, the last of my folk to leave the old world for the new.

Mother's family had been joined in the Bedford area the 1700s by the German branch of the clan. When moving westward in search of new land and new experiences, they traveled the first highway through the wilderness, no doubt in the famous Conestoga wagons carrying the Pennsylvania long rifle. The highway, carved out of mountain rock, was the one ordered by the unpopular King George III of original tea party fame to move George Washington and General Braddock and their red coated soldiers west to drive the French out of western Pennsylvania. It was was the very same route Danny and I took several hundred years later. That gives me a shiver of wonder. Too travel a road walked on by my ancestors.

At Chestnut Ridge in Schellsburg, I looked at the headstone of my great great grandfather, James Hervey Miller. It read, LT in the GAR (Great Army of the Republic/Union Army), veteran of the Indian War. Nearby, the headstone of his son Major Dr. William Sill Miller, veteran of World War I and the trenches of France and Belgium. Down the hill and across the road, were ancestors who had been there so long that the lettering was rubbed off their stones. Then, I looked at the headstone of my own father, Sergeant William Harry Wayman, US Army Air Corps in WWII. And placed flowers on my mother's newly dug grave. I belonged in that place, I felt, the way I could never belong in FLorida where I am a transplanted 'daffodill', simply living from day to day. I could never put down deep roots in La Florida's sandy soil. My children would disagree, but then, they were born here.

I understand now why my father, who never wanted to stay in Florida, chose to be buried in that little Pennsylvania mountain cemetery with Mother's people, even though his family was from Pittsburgh 90 miles to the west. I could breath easier in the mountains than in the heavy jungly humidity of central Florida. I could almost see the lifeline stretching from the land to my own heart.

We drove further west to Pittsburgh the next day and with a little help from Google maps found my white clapboard and fieldstone childhood home. As I gazed upward at the Scotch Pines and Blue Spruce trees that formed a grove in the front yard and nearly blotted out the sky, I again thought about my father. He was pretty handy: he built the house's second story himself. He crafted the fieldstone wall that ran along one side of the house next to the driveway out of foundation stones from his great uncle's farmhouse. The stones of the large chimney that decorated the house front also came from Heinrich (Harry) Geib's farm. And those tall pines were the Christmas trees of my young years. I don't know who lives in the house now, but I am grateful that they chose to keep the trees: a living legacy of my dad. Like me, those trees have deep roots in the Pennsylvania soil. Time was short and I didn't get to visit my Wayman (Weimann) and Geib kin in the Mt Lebanon cemetery my dad rejected or stop by the craftsman style home my grandmother Wilhemina lived in for seventy years. Next time I'll make it a priority. For I know now what I should have known before: the literary quote is wrong. You can go home again. I did. I will.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pennsylvania Trip Photos

Some more random photos from our trip: all taken on iPhone. Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pennsylvania Trip

First picture: me in front of Ft Ligioner
picture 2: clowning at Ft Necessity
picture 3: dinner destination: A haunted mid 1700s tavern in Bedford, Pa
picture 4: the house where i was born i n Pittsburgh. Pine tree behind me was one of our Christmas trees.
picture 5: an old Schellsburg, Pa house
pictures 6-10 at Chestnut Ridge Union Cemetary, Schellsburg, Pa.

Hey bloggers,
We're back from our first ten day road trip in the Winnebago. We went up I75 from Orlando through Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland into the Laurel and Allegheny mountains of Pennsylvania, which was our destination. The reason for the trip, as you probably remember from earlier posts, was to keep my promise to inter my mother's ashes in the historic Schellsburg Cemetary where her people have been buried since colonial times.

It was wonderful in the mountains! No biting bugs (except horse flies in Virginia), cool nights in the low 60s, very little rain, misty mornings, breathtaking scenery, friendly people. We enjoyed seeing the wildlife: eagles and hawks, owls, deer, beaver, wild turkeys, rabbits, gophers, groundhogs, chipmunks, and red squirrels. I got to see lightning bugs again in the evenings when we stopped at the various KOA and Jellystone camp resorts. The dogs loved their nightly campground walks in the woods.

After the burial and searching the Chestnut Ridge Union Cemetary for family grave sites and viewing the old church, built in 1806, we explored the picture postcard towns of Schellsburg and Bedford. (Could be stand ins for Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls fans)We spent the next day at Old Beford Village, a recreated colonial town of 37 authentic buildiings, and had dinner at the Jean Bonnet Tavern circa 1756 which was a stagecoach stop on the first National Highway (toll road) built by George Washington during the French and Indian War. The tavern is certifiably haunted. So was the log and fieldstone house adjacent to our campsite in the Shawnee Sleepy Hollow Campground. The owner told me he had to have the ghost exorcized when it assulted his teen age son, apparently over a choice of loudly played music.

We drove the historic route to Ligonier where we spent part of the next day touring Ft Ligioner (French and Indian War again) and went on to Pittsburgh where we visited the house in Upper St Clair township that my Daddy built after WWII. We lived there from my birth until I was 11. The house in good shape and not too much changed, although the woods that once bordered it are developed. The giant Scotch pine and Blue spruce trees that form a grove in the front yard are our former small Christmas trees!! Old' red dog' driveway has been paved but we saw a ground hog skulk down it to disappear around the garage.

Danny was interested in seeing the neighborhood since I've written so much about it in my Birdy Grace and Annie stories. The wall I fell over into the 'Bundy's' driveway is gone as is the shed I was once locked in by a neighbor boy. The woods of the story The Clearing are no more and the old Baldesberger and Hayes farms are gone, having become upscale housing areas. My 'arch enemy' Ricky's house is just the same.

We reflected that Western Pennsylvania is indeed 'guns and Bible' land. From my point of view, as a Pennsylvanian, that is not at all a bad thing. Outside of the big progressive city (Pittsburgh) area we spotted few Barnes and Nobles or Starbucks. Instead, a whole bunch of mom and pop restaurants, lots and lots of working farms of planted corn and dairy cattle, and every town no matter how tiny had a roadhouse bar, a pizza place, and a soft serve ice cream stand. It is also beautiful countryside. Nothing is flat for the most part. We enjoyed driving along a road to suddenly spot a colonial log cabin with split rail fence or an early 18th century farmhouse. Most are still inhabited.

We camped that night high in the hills above Washington Pa, south of Pittsburgh proper where we saw my Daddy's college (Washington and Jefferson) and toured the circa 1760s house that belonged to the leader of the Whiskey Rebellion ( Bradford house) and the early 1800s house belonging to Dr Lemoyne which was the first stop on the Underground Railroad. After that, we moved on through the scenic Laurel Highlands route to stay at a Jellystone Park in Mill Valley (Ohiopyle State Park area) that made me feel like I was in the film Dirty Dancing. They had an outdoor theatre, a fishing lake, a teen dancing pavillion, three pools, a log flume ride, a miniature golf course, a train ride, hayrides, and cabins for rental. The place was humongus! People were making smores and having fun and it was obvious that most were there for a week's vacation. Near the campground in Bear Run is the amazing Frank Lloyd designed house Fallingwater. After seeing Fallingwater we moved on to see FT Necessity (More French and Indian War) and the Mount Washington Tavern built by George Washington. Did you know he was one of the major whiskey distillers in Colonial America? Not just a surveyor, soldier, General, President, and plantation owner. GW was a man of many parts.

By the way ,up in Western Pa, the name 'GW' refers to George Washington, not George Bush. If you're Pennsylvania born, you pronounce it George Wershington.

After Pennsylvania, we took the mountain route home through West Virginia, which wins my personal award for most beautiful mountains I've ever seen. Loved shopping for West Virginia craft items too. Danny got vertigo driving the hairpin turns three thousand feet up. We counted 50 deer in one ten minute period. It was memorable and I'd go back there in a minute. But not in n January!

I took about seven hundred pictures and have posted a very few here. I will post more in coming days. I am tired and glad to be home but miss the hills, mountains and cool cool air. Florida is too damn hot.