Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why It's Hard For Me To Read Travel Blogs

Tiananmen Square, China. Trust me, EVERY travel blogger has been to China and makes it seem cliche.

I consider myself a pretty adventurous person, and I definitely LOVE to travel. So you'd think that I'd devour travel blog posts like an intercontinental buffet. But I don't. I subscribe to a few that I really like, written by average Jo's (mostly women) who travel when they can. Those posts almost always lead to more blogs and more blogs and suddenly, I'm miserable.

I can't decide if the travel blogs depress me because I'm envious, jealous and smitten with bad cases of wanderlust after I read them? Or if it's because so many of them detail journeys to far-flung corners of the world that I don't imagine ever exploring. The locales in these blogs are always exotic: Angkor, Egypt, Antigua, South Africa, Marrakesh, Manitoba, etc., etc., etc.. And the events are always over-the-top extreme adventures that involve living alongside the locals: walking with cheetahs, carving up a whale, teaching English to South American children, harvesting crops in Chile, etc., etc., etc..

This is not how I travel.

These blogs exclude me and categorize me as someone who takes trips instead of someone who "travels." And so I cannot relate.

I (finally!) have four weeks of vacation a year and have to make that coincide with my family's work and school schedules. I have limited funds and know that most of my trips will involve getting to my destination and back in about a week. My primary objective is to see as much as I can of whatever city I'm visiting. And as much as I like meeting people in the locations that I travel to, there's not much time to do so if I'm going to see all the sights as well.

Most travel blogs leave me feeling very inadequate. I sit and read them and my shoulders slump. I would love to board a ship to Antarctica as much as the next guy. But my next trip is likely to be within a 7-hour drive of Ohio. I'm probably not going to get mugged as I leave a hostel, or find myself crowded off the road by oxen. I will wander into quirky little museums and eat at hole-in-the-wall mom & pop restaurants. I'll hit all the tourist attractions and take loads of pictures. But the reality is that I'll get home before my postcards do.

I'll blog about my trips and immediately begin planning the next one. But they won't read like the travel blogs that chronicle the lives of those nomads who've chucked it all to travel the world. I wish I were one of those gypsies, but I'm not. So I stay away from their blogs. Instead of slurping up their travel tales and licking my lips as I savor each detail, their smorgasbord of adventures makes me depressed that I seem eternally stuck on a 4-weeks/limited-funds diet.

Boy, do I need a vacation...

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Perfect Day

by Mike


The sun was shining and there was a slight breeze. Not strong, just enough to take the heat off. He could feel the sweat drying almost as soon as it started under his arms. He was glad that he had brought the shirt with him. With both of the excursions they had planned, he really did not expect to be wearing it but he had it with him anyway.
Good thing, too, since as soon as they showed up for the parasailing, the guide told them it was canceled due to high winds and, more importantly, the loss of a boat. The guide was extremely apologetic, offering them a refund and a free lunch at the diner of their choice. She had also clued them in on the many other activities on the island. Her parting words to them were to check back towards the end of the day and see if they could get on a later run if the boat was fixed.
They had gladly accepted her terms and set off, sure that they could find things to occupy their time. Holding hands, they set off down Duval Street. First on their itinerary? The Hemingway House.  They had heard of the six toed cats and needed to see them. He had actually never read anything by Hemingway. Not in high school, college, not even now as an adult. She commented that she had read a few but was not really interested. But still, they were here and had to see it.  They arrived right at the end of a guided tour and made their way around the property, marveling at everything still standing.
From there, they made their way to the Southernmost Point. Off they went, past the military base, cemetery, various watering holes, taking pictures of everything they saw.  It was true what they said: Key West was definitely an interesting place with interesting characters. They stopped a few times to grab a drink and some Key Lime Pie. Before the end of the day, they hoped to find some conch soup or fritters.
As they walked, she asked him a few times what he was playing with in the pocket of his swim trunks. Quickly removing his hands, he just commented that he had an itch. Now with the sun setting, they decided to head to Mallory Square to see the awesome sunset that everyone spoke of. He quickly fingered the pocket of his trunks again when she was not looking.
They found a spot on the wall overlooking the ocean and turned around to see the end of a street performance.  It was captivating, two jugglers using fire and various apparatus to perform. Amazingly, the show ended with no one getting burned. Turning back towards the sea, he thought of how right this was. How perfect. They did not need to talk all the time; they just held each other and cuddled. It was almost as if each one knew the other’s thoughts. He looked at her as her long brown hair blew in the gentle breeze.  They watched as a clump of clouds drifted in to cover up the setting sun. They were going to miss the end of the day. She laid her back into his chest and sighed as he stroked her hair.
As they sat there, he looked through their pictures, glad to see that they had gotten a picture of the mile marker 0 on Route 1. Of course, they had gotten the end sign, not the beginning on the opposite side of the road. He smiled and flipped through the rest of the pictures.
She sighed again. He laid the camera down and felt his pocket for the twentieth time that day, breathing a sigh of relief as he felt the bump in there. The clouds cleared and it looked as if they would get their sunset after all. The end of a perfect day.
She adjusted herself and looked up at him. Her brown eyes were caged in by her hair. She smiled, wistfully. He thought she looked contented. He had known this day would come. Ever since they had met back at the last New Year’s Eve party. He had known they would be here now on this New Year’s Eve. He smiled back and stroked her hair, bending down to kiss her.
She stiffened; afraid they would miss the sunset. Looking out, he saw a pair of birds cross the sail of a sailboat. The sun set below the horizon and everyone clapped.  He clapped as best he could with her in his chest. She just looked off into the horizon.
He gently sets her up as he moves in front of her, saying he needs to talk to her.  She looks at him and says the same. They went back and forth on who should speak first. They finally agreed to go at the same time, on the count of three.
One…He reaches in his pocket. She inhales.
Two…He kneels. She tears up.
Three…“Will you marry me?”  “I think we should end it.”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

END

My husband and I are doing a fiction exercise. We've both crafted a short relationship story to go with this picture. My story is below. I'll post his tomorrow.




The Florida sun beat down on Brent's head, pounding pressure into his skull. He felt sweat trickle down his temple as he practiced the lines in his head. It's not you; it's me. It's not you; it's me.

Valerie walked out of the souvenir shop with a smile on her face and a plastic bag in her hand. She skipped toward him and delightedly grabbed his arm. "Wait until you see what I got us!" She kissed him on the cheek and reached into her bag.

It's not you. It's me. Brent recited to himself.

Valerie pulled a wad of colorful material out of the bag and held a shirt to her chest. Her bracelets clinked with the motion, bringing Brent out of his reverie. "I got one for each of us," she squealed. "Do you love it?"

Valerie bounced in place as Brent took in the airbrushed palm trees, a sunset fading into the water beside them. With growing horror, he read the words painted in fanciful script: Key West Is For Lovers and inside a heart over his grilfriend's breast: Valerie & Brent

She giggled with pleasure as his eyes locked on the bright pink heart that bore his name. It seemed to pulsate and grow the longer he stared. It wasn't until he felt the brush of soft cotton against his arm that he realized Valerie was holding a blue t-shirt against his chest, too. "Here's yours. Put it on!"

Brent moved his hand toward the shirt that Valerie was pressing against him, but his sweaty hands did not fold around the fabric securely and the shirt dropped to the sidewalk. He watched the exasperation and dismay cross Valerie's face and knew what was coming: another pouting lecture in which she accused him of not loving her. They went through this every day, and he prepared himself for the reassurance that he'd have to dole out for the next few hours, when suddenly he noticed the street sign above him. END. It was an omen; a prophetic, if tangible sign. It's not you; it's me ran through his mind.

He picked the shirt up from the ground and held it out to Valerie, whose bright beachy smile was already turning sour.

"Listen, Val. There's something I need to tell you. I should have said something before."

Valerie placed her hands on her hips. The wadded-up sunset turned upside down in her hand resembled a frying egg now. Brent fixated on it as he delivered his prepared statement.

"It's not me. It's you."

He held his breath as he realized his mistake. Valerie's eyebrows shot up above her designer shades as her mouth formed an 'O' of surprise and then quickly gave way to the straight line of a set jaw. "What did you just say?"

Brent stared at the END sign above him. He hadn't noticed the skull and crossbones beneath it, but studied them now. He focused on the red stop light behind it, then watched it turn green. He took a deep breath and held the blue shirt toward the girl before him. The same annoying, whining, shallow girl whose calls he avoided and who was familiarly furious with him again. Traffic started moving and Brent raised his voice to be heard.

"I said, it's not me. It's you." Then he pushed the shirt into her hands and walked away.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Non-Laminated Lists


Remember the Friends episode in which Ross finally narrows down his list of five celebrities that he could sleep with without Rachel getting mad? He whittles it down by taking Isabella Rossellini off and then runs into her at the coffee shop. Rachel tells him to go for it anyway, and sits back to watch.

My husband saw this picture of me with Troy Polamalu and said, "I suppose you're going to add him to your list." It actually hadn't crossed my mind since it was really just a wax dummy. Then I re-considered. He is a good looking guy, and he does have great hair. But no. I'm too much of a Bengals fan to cross that line.

Besides, my list isn't quite as rigid as Ross'. In fact, my husband and I change our lists almost daily, depending on what TV show or movie we're watching. We don't ever actually write the names down, and I don't think we've held ourselves to five celebrities. Let's put it this way: our lists aren't laminated. They're not even written down, and if they were, they'd be in pencil and we'd always have an eraser ready.

Some of the stars who would make my list: Jason Ritter, Zac Efron, Kevin Bacon, Ryan Reynolds, and Robert Pattinson.

My husband's list would include: Mila Kunis, Marcia Cross, and Sophia Vergara.

My son's list, interestingly enough, includes only one name: Emma Stone. I found that very intriguing.

But again, our "lists" are not exactly lists. More like droolfests and daydreams during movies. We're not foolish enough to get stuck in an awkward situation like Ross did if a parade of stars walked into our favorite coffee shop. We'd just tell them they're on our lists and they'd just have to trust us.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Too Great A Burden



Steps outside the old Butler County Courthouse in Ohio.
 

and so the masses of misery,
discord,
vengeance,
tears, and venomous spit
eroded the crowded path to justice
with heavy feet and stomped-upon hearts
these burdened souls
carrying pain up and down
back and forth,
angry and defeated,
cycling maliciously
until splintered,
the steps to justice
cracked.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Smile Seeds

I am having the best kind of day, reconnecting with old friends that I've missed more dearly than I realized. They made me think of this description we concocted once in a workshop. We thought up the idea of 'Smile Seeds' and then jotted down some ideas of what that phrase meant:

  • Nuggets of goodness
  • Potent little gifts
  • Cultivating beautiful potential
  • Flitter in, flitter out
  • Sow joy
What 'Smile Seeds' really translates into is:
Friends

And today my smile seeds are blooming.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Like, Omigod!

Today is 80's Day at my daughter's school. She told me last night and I was like, "Omigod! I love the 80's!"

The 90's were okay. The 70's? Gag me with a spoon. (I never actually said that.) But the 80's? Totally tripindicular!

I practically ran to my closets, sure that I still had some clothes from the 80's. But which fad? Should we go Madonna, or preppy? Prince, or punk? I personally was more of a prep in the early 80's with the striped Oxford shirts layered overtop of the Izod polos, both collars up, and shirts tucked into colorful Chino's. Boat shoes on my feet, of course.

That style lasted a while, but then there was also the phase of parachute pants and long, winding belts worn loosely, with asymmetrical tops that snapped up the sides and then folded over to create a sort of triangular collar.

There were the jeans that zipped up from the bottom, akin to the skinny jeans of today. Topped with scrunchy socks or bandannas tied over top of our jeans around our ankles. Totally tubular.

While I rooted through my closet, my 11-year-old stood behind me and had the nerve to ask, "Mom, do you want to look on the Internet so you can see what they wore in the 80's?" I know what they wore in the 80's! I triumphantly pulled out a shirt, a jacket, and a pair of pants that I still had. She rejected them all and said she wanted to wear an off-the-shoulder shirt like she'd seen in a picture while she was researching it at school. So, we were going with the Olivia Newton-John Let's Get Physical look.

Okay. That would work. We scrounged through her closet to find some appropriate clothes and did a pretty good job. But I insisted she wear my old socks and scrunch them down. Yes - I still had socks from the 80's.

Better still, I had a banana clip, a big hair barrette, and colorful cloth hair scrunchies from the 80's, too. She wanted me to do her hair in the morning, but she had no idea of the time involved in getting REALLY BIG hair styled. It took a good hour every day when I was in school, and I don't have nearly enough product to hold every hair on her head in place. Fashion took effort in those days. Lots and lots of effort. She decided on a side ponytail instead.

Last but not least, the 80's included a lot of accessorizing. Costume jewelry, belts, hair clips, bandannas, gloves, etc. I still had all my earrings (I'm starting to sound like a hoarder) and found some that matched a clunky necklace and bracelet because if anything, the 80's was about matching.

Oh, how I wish I still had ALL my clothes (and my figure) from the 80's! I just loved those looks. Izzy left for school looking like she had on a pretty good 80's costume. Guess what? So did I.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Big Year Would Be A Little Different


Ooh! A rare something-or-other!

I just saw a blurb in a local college magazine that mentioned Greg Miller's recent visit and presentation on birds. He spoke to biology students and then to the public about his experience tracking birds and as his role as the bird expert during the making of the Jack Black/Owen Wilson movie "The Big Year" which chronicles his story and two others.

Of course, the story was told in past tense, which drove me crazy. That could only mean one thing -- I missed it!!

I read The Big Year a few years ago and was carried away by the story. It tells the true tale of three birders who were actively living a "big year" -- trying to spot as many rare birds as they could. As someone who has never, ever had any interest in birds, the whole thing seemed a little cuckoo to me. I mean, they spent thousands upon thousands of dollars, trekking all over North America just to get a fleeting glimpse of these rare birds.

They followed websites and electronic alerts when a rare bird had been spotted somewhere. Then they'd book a flight, or jump in their cars, and leave their jobs and fly off with their binoculars to spy a bird in a tree, jot it down in their notebooks, and go home.

It was fascinating.

I love it when I stumble upon subcultures I never knew existed, and this was one of them. There's a whole community of birders living various sorts of big years, whether in their states, their countries, their continents, or the world. It amazes me to think of it. But I was totally enraptured while I read the book and even found myself paying a little more attention to the cardinals that nest in my backyard every winter.

So then I thought - could I do it? Could I suddenly learn a little about my fine-feathered friends and go in search of those elusive creatures? Could I spread my wings and fly off to the migration routes of the world?
It seemed such a flight of fancy, and only lasted about a minute. I didn't even make it through the bird house at the zoo before I was bored and forgot what birds I'd already seen. No 'big year' for me.

But I sure would have loved to hear Greg Miller speak.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Poe Toaster


We visited Poe's grave on a trip to Baltimore in April, 2005. I did not remember there being roses on his
tombstone until I pulled up this picture again. We didn't put them there. Alas, I am not the Poe Toaster.


Last Thursday, January 19th, was Edgar Allan Poe's birthday. I was not in the literary 'know' and  did not realize that someone who is commonly referred to as the "Poe Toaster" left Poe a birthday gift of three roses and a half bottle of cognac every year.

It is reported that this tradition began in the 1960's and has been carried on by more than one person. The last occurrence of Poe Toaster visits was in 2009, which would have been Poe's 200th birthday. Though Poe fans have staked out the downtown Baltimore cemetery where Poe is buried, the identity of the Poe Toaster remained unknown.

Poe Museum officials believe the era of the Poe Toaster is now over. Poe's mysterious visitor will remain as mysterious as his death. I can only tell you this: it wasn't me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter 24-Hour Short Story Contest

Once again I entered the WritersWeekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest  in which entrants are emailed a topic at noon on Saturday and have until noon Sunday to write a story. Here was the opening paragraph this time:

Blue ice stretched to the horizon, fading into the blinding rays of another waning winter sun. She shivered violently as the shifting mass groaned under her feet. She instinctively glanced down, looking for cracks under the transparent sheen. Suddenly, she tensed and dropped to her knees.
Desperately clawing at the ice, she screamed.

As always, we're advised not to go with our first idea since many other people may come up with the same one. Take a moment to think about where you would take this story.


Mendenhall Glacier
Juneau, Alaska
 
My initial reaction was that she was about to fall through the ice, then just as quickly I got the idea that she saw the keys to her escape boat sinking below the ice and knew she'd be stranded. Then, like my husband, I imagined she saw a body below the surface. My daughter thought she might have seen her pet. Then my husband offered the idea that she was straddling a fissure on a glacier. I liked that one.

But part of the fun of these contests for me is sitting down and brainstorming with my daughter. So we did that and she came up with a storyline that I would have never thought of on my own. I went with that one. I'll share it on my blog in about six weeks after the contest has been judged.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Things That Happen While We Sleep





 We had a visitor last night while we slept. We might never have known if it hadn't snowed. Now there's evidence.

 Our dog didn't bark. We didn't wake. But while we were sleeping, it snowed, then iced.

 An animal circled our cars and came up the walk to the front door, right beneath the window where our puppy lay sleeping.

 Who knows what else occurred right beyond our windows while we slept?

 Only the snow can tell us.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vote! Make Yourself Heard


Dr. Sharon M. Draper
Miami University, Ohio
I had the privilege of hearing award-winning author and educator Dr. Sharon M. Draper speak at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event at Miami University on Monday. She had a lot to say about the work of MLK, Jr. and the need for us all to continue working toward his dream. Most importantly, she told the college students in the audience, they need to do something.
She brought history alive, taking us back to the political activism of the 1960’s and MLK’s fight for the black man’s right to vote. What astounds her, she said, is that it is now 2012 and we still need to fight for the right to vote. The voting rights of college students are being disenfranchised and she urged everyone in the room to do something; to get involved; to make a difference and fight for what is right.
Put that way, I was stunned. I started doing some research online to see exactly what changes have been made to voting eligibility of college students in this Presidential election year. I had no trouble finding pages and pages of information. And all of it points to Republican parties trying to thwart the surge of votes by groups that have historically voted along Democratic lines. I was appalled. Not surprised, but appalled. A few startling facts I discovered:
·         The new laws are requiring voters to present government-issued IDs, such as a passport or drivers’ license. However, many states will prohibit out-of-state drivers’ licenses; thus, excluding more students from being able to vote.

·         25% of African Americans lack a state photo identification, as do 15% of Latinos, but by comparison, only 8% of white voters. Other significant Democratic constituents -- the elderly of all races and college students -- would be disproportionately impacted.
In a December 27, 2011 New York Times (NYT) editorial, it is noted that:
·         Seven states have already passed strict laws requiring a government-issued ID (like a driver's license or a passport) to vote, which many students don't have, and 27 others are considering such measures. Many of those laws have been interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state driver's licenses from being used for voting.
·         Paying out-of-state tuition may exclude college students from being considered local residents even with that state driver's license, so they may be denied the right to vote on election day.

As someone who has served as an Ohio poll worker at half a dozen elections, I wondered what procedures had been put in place this year to stop college students from voting, and found very little. But, that may be because I was already aware of the steps necessary to register to vote and then what information must be presented on election day. Ohio law reads as follows:
What are the qualifications to register and to vote in Ohio?
You are qualified to register to vote in Ohio if you meet all the following requirements:
1.    You are a citizen of the United States;
2.    You will be at least 18 years old on or before the day of the next general election. (If you will be 18 on or before November 8, you may vote in the primary election to nominate candidates, but you cannot vote on issues or party central committees until you are 18);
3.    You will be a resident of Ohio for at least 30 days immediately before the election in which you want to vote;
4.    You are not incarcerated (in prison or jail) for a felony conviction under the laws of this state, another state, or the United States;
5.    You have not been declared incompetent for voting purposes by a probate court; and
6.    You have not been permanently disenfranchised for violating the election laws.
You are eligible to vote in elections held in your voting precinct 30 days after you are duly registered to vote in this state. You may request an absentee ballot during that 30 day period.

May a college student register and vote from his or her school address in Ohio?
It depends. A college student may vote using his or her Ohio school residence address if the student does not intend to return to a different permanent address. When a college student registers to vote from his or her school address, the school residence is considered to be the place to which the student's habitation is fixed and to which, whenever the student is absent, the student intends to return, and is considered by the student to be his or her permanent residence at the time of voting. Any other previous residence for voting purposes is no longer valid. It is illegal for a person to register and vote from two different addresses.

So, is Ohio making it tricky for college students? Yes, to a degree. To Dr. Draper’s point, if students don’t like the changes made to voting rights in Ohio or any other state, they need to do something about it. I would urge that they educate themselves and others to ensure that they are registered to vote somewhere before the voter registration deadlines pass for this election year. Whether they register to vote and cast their votes as residents in the county where they attend school, or obtain absentee ballots and vote back home, the important thing is that their voice and ballot count somewhere.
As people educate themselves they need to learn the voter registration deadline, what documents they must present for their voter eligibility, what identification is needed on the day of election, and how they can vote to make themselves heard. What some people may not know is that they can show up at the polling place and insist they get to vote, but unless all of the criteria is met correctly, their vote will not count when the votes are tabulated.
If nothing else, that is one fact I learned as a poll worker: if someone shows up at my precinct, but does not have the correct ID, or doesn’t appear in my poll book, or has identification that doesn’t match our information (different name or address), we still let them cast a provisional ballot, but it doesn’t count if it is determined that the voter voted in the wrong precinct.

I am doing my part here to educate those in Ohio. Voting guidelines, registration information, and absentee ballot requests can be found here: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/upload/publications/election/vig_2012.pdf

Wherever you are, whoever you are, educate yourself! Make sure your voice is heard!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

College Hill Coffee Company

Yesterday I was posed this question: What was your most peaceful moment today?


It was meeting my friend for breakfast at Cincinnati's College Hill Coffee Company. I love that place! They offer wonderful coffee and food in a cozy atmosphere. They also have artsy gifts for sale and you are surrounded by beautiful decor as you sit and sip your coffee.

Even the bathrooms are beautiful. I choose College Hill Coffee Company as having the best bathrooms in Cincinnati. My picture here doesn't quite capture it, but it's so pretty in the Ladies' room that you almost want to take your coffee in there to relax. The walls are bejeweled; there are crystals hanging from the ceiling, and the comfy little loveseat just begs you to grab a book and relax. Though hopefully no one does that, because other people may need to use the facilities.

College Hill Coffee Company is my winning choice for coffee and ambience in Cincinnati. And it was definitely where I enjoyed the most peaceful moment of my day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

'Jeopardy' Jeopardy

Display at the Atlanta Cyclorama, Georgia

Alyssa logged onto her computer. Tonight was the big night. Tonight she'd qualify once and for all to appear on the game show 'Jeopardy.' She'd aced the auditions at the convention center. She'd slaughtered her friends and co-workers playing Trivial Pursuit. She was a walking font of information.

Two minutes.
One.

Dollar signs and fame danced before her eyes. She imagined herself ringing in, answering question after question until even Alex Trebek had to concede that she was the 'Jeopardy' queen. Alyssa had been dreaming of this for years.

10 seconds.
9
8

Alyssa cracked her knuckles.

1...

This. Is. Jeopardy!

The categories flashed up on her computer screen:
  • Astrophysics
  • Minor Characters on Bonanza
  • Obscure African Art
  • The Biology of Iguanas
  • Tuna Canning
  • Civil War History

Her heart sank. She shut down her computer, then went into her living room and flipped on 'Wheel of Fortune' to see how she could qualify to be on the show.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I've Got A Splitting Headache

That should be the title of this painting, shouldn't it? Or the title of my autobiography. There are few days when the phrase isn't apt.

Don't feel sorry for me. It's just a way of life. Literally. I had to keep a headache journal about 25 years ago and discovered that I have headaches approximately 20 days out of every month. Oh, they're not all that bad. Some are minor reactions to change in barometric pressure. Some are sinus-related. Some are caused by food allergies to nitrates and tannins. Some are hormonal. And then some are the mother of all: migraines. Those are the ones that really affect my day. Some migraines are accompanied by excruciating sensitivity to noise and smell. Lights bothers me, but not quite as much. And then there are some that make me nauseated and wishing I could pound my head against a wall just to have a solid focus for the pain. Sometimes they come in quick clusters and shoot through my head like an icepick. That's actually what they're called: icepick migraines. Those aren't fun.

What drives me crazy is when people around the office notice I'm not smiling and then leap on me with concern: Are you okay? What's wrong? I tell them I just have a headache and they tell me I should go home. Really? Every day? It's tempting...

I know they're just being nice, but for those of you who don't suffer from chronic headaches, or -- even more unimaginable to me  -- don't suffer from headaches at all (like my father), let me just tell you: we don't need people making a fuss over us. We just need to be left alone and be quiet. In the dark. With a washcloth on our heads. And lots of aspirin and migraine medicine nearby.

That's manageable, isn't it? 

Sigh...Manageable or not, that's life for the headache-inflicted.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Ghosts of Kings Island



The TAPS crew of Ghost Hunters recently investigated rumors of spirits haunting Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio. As a local resident, I was sure that they'd be looking for the spirit of Tower Johnny, but in fact, they were only interested in searching for 'the girl in the blue dress' --  the spirit of a 5-year-old girl buried near the park, who died in the 1800's.

The show started by providing a little history. Before the land was turned into an amusement park, it was the site of an ammunitions factory that exploded in 1942 killing a hundred people. Somehow, Ghost Hunters segued that into the story of a little girl, Missouri Jane, who they believe is the girl in the blue dress haunting the park. (I didn't understand the connection between the two. Or why they mentioned the ammunitions factory at all.)
Since Kings Island opened in 1972, there have been reports of a little girl in a blue dress being heard and seen in the International Restaurant, and near the White Water Canyon ride. The TAPS team captured the voice of one, perhaps even two, children on EVP, and felt satisfied that they'd communicated with the girl.

But what surprised me is that there was no mention of John Harter, or the "Tower Johnny" ghost that is rumored to haunt the Eiffel Tower. As a local who grew up going to Kings Island every summer since it opened, his story, if not his ghost, has always haunted me.

I was a young teenager the night John Harter climbed the Eiffel Tower and fell. It was the Friday the 13th, and he was at Kings Island for Grad Night, drinking and fooling around before he fell on top of one of the elevators and was crushed by the elevator weights. At least, that's how I remember the news. Naturally, as with any gory death that involves a teenager, drinking, Friday the 13th, elevator shafts, and an amusement park, stories grew more and more macabre. But at the root of it the facts remain: Johnny Harter attended his Grad Night event at Kings Island on Friday, May 13, 1983, got drunk, and fell from the Eiffel Tower to his death. Since then, it's been rumored that his ghost still haunts the place.

But TAPS skipped all that.

They skipped the death of another drunk woman who fell from a ride. They missed the two men electrocuted in the pond near the Viking Fury, and apparently missed the story of a little boy who haunts The Racers rollercoaster. Instead they focused on the spirit of a little girl who had nothing to do with Kings Island at all.

I was a little disappointed and can't help but wonder why. All I can think is that the Public Relations staff of Kings Island is trying to keep these ghost stories and bad press under wraps. But what they forget is that most of the people who go to Kings Island are locals and already know the stories. As for the rest of the world watching Ghost Hunters, a good gruesome ghost story would have been the best advertising Kings Island could have had!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Alphabet Copycat

I'm totally copying this idea. In fact, I've seen a few artists do this. They find objects out in the world that resemble letters of the alphabet. Then they take a picture of it and turn the photos into tiles, or snapshots, or other things that you can then assemble to make words.

The only word I can make so far is Ms., but I just started this morning and haven't ventured any farther than my house.



Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Pretend Sports Column

The old Mile High Stadium
Denver, Colorado
I am so excited for my brother. Paul Daugherty, renowned sports columnist, is taking a brief leave of absence and my brother was one of the people chosen to write guest columns in his place. I'll post a link when his article is published. Meanwhile, I wondered what I would write if I were chosen for such an opportunity.

That would be tough. I've not an avid sports fan. (So, I would never be chosen and would never have to worry about this.) But if I were invited to write a column, I would write about the hype surrounding Tim Tebow, and whether or not he should be the role model that the media portrays him to be.

Of course, I don't know Tebow. I don't even know that much about him. But he seems like a genuinely nice guy, great athlete and someone who could easily be considered a role model for youth today. And if he is, that's understandable. But I would argue that slapping a 'role model' label on anyone famous is ridiculous to begin with.

Look at how the media has turned on celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Michael Phelps, and anyone else who lives in the spotlight and makes mistakes like the rest of us. They are people living their lives, and like the rest of us, they make mistakes. What a relief that no one is frantically taking our pictures and spewing forth condemnations when we mess up, criticizing us and saying that we aren't very good role models.

It's true, though. Sometimes we aren't. And we should be held to much higher standards to the youths that we know than the distant celebrities they choose as role models instead.

Children and teens across the country are currently emulating Tebow -- Te-bowing like Tim does. And they're getting in trouble for it. I can't help but wonder whether they're mixing the boundaries between modelling and mimicking? They describe Tebow as their role model, but seem more focused on his fame and athletic prowess rather than on Tim Tebow as a whole. To describe Tebow as a role model would be to model yourself after him in his roles as professional athlete, devout Christian, right-to-lifer, and all-around nice guy. If you're aspiring to be a Christian football player who speaks publicly about his views on abortion rights, then he is a solid choice. But to simply start Te-bowing because you admire him isn't modeling yourself after him at all.
Meanwhile, the media is just waiting for him to fail somehow; to mess up and expose himself as someone who's not so wholesomely good after all. They criticize his football ability. They write about him yet say he's getting too much hype. They're just waiting to pounce and I can imagine them rooting through his garbage, looking for dirt to sling in his face. I know one thing for certain: those people waiting for him to err aren't worthy of being role models.

But should Tim Tebow or any other athlete be depicted as a role model for their admiring fans? I don't think so. But we do it any way and then unfairly judge them when they don't live up to our expectations of how a role model should act. I say, let them play football, or swim, or run marathons and balance on balance beams. Let the spotlight be on them when they're on the field. Then turn it off when they hit the locker room.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Quiet Conversation

I'm not sure why these stained glass windows inspired such a depressing story. They're beautiful.
St. Chapelle, Paris


For the duration of the visit, Jacob’s eyes remained downcast, locked on his mother’s frail hand as it worried the thin blanket covering her lap. They were the hands of an old woman now, with liver spots, pronounced blue veins, and arthritic twists of the knuckles. They weren’t the hands he associated with his mother. Those were strong, red, and coarse from years of scrubbing and cleaning; hands that were never idle. Punishing hands that he’d sometimes feared.
Now the skin was so thin that Jacob thought a rough paper towel might scrape them open.  They clasped and rolled at the knit hospital blanket; picking at its worn threads and then dropping them.
“I wonder if anyone will speak at my funeral,” his mother said. Her voice was as foreign to Jacob as her hands were. The strained whisper of her vocal cords made her sound like a whole different person. Not the no-nonsense mother who’d yelled his name across the neighborhood when it was time for him to come home for dinner.
He kept his head down and nodded. “I’m sure they will.”
“Will you speak, Jacob?”
Jacob’s shoulders instantly tensed and froze. He held his breath with the childhood reaction of a schoolboy. If he were completely still, maybe the teacher, or his mother in this case, would pass on him and turn her attention to another child. But alone in the room, his mother had no one else to focus on. Jacob’s mind raced back to that morning, and the moment he turned the ignition in his car and backed out of his driveway. He undid the sequence of events leading to his arrival at the hospital and stayed instead at home, perhaps doing some yard work or home repair instead. He shouldn’t have come.
He exhaled finally and nodded his head. “Sure I will,” he said softly.
He felt his mother’s stare penetrate the top of his head. Her hand was still. She waited for him to look at her. In his youth, she would have reprimanded him until he did. He heard that voice now in his head, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
He raised his eyes and let them quickly glance off his mother’s face. Unlike the betrayal of her hands and voice, when he looked at her face he still saw the same stern woman beneath the years of age. She wasn’t going to tolerate any more nonsense. He swallowed and nodded again. “I will, Ma.”
Her eyes pinned his into place and she straightened herself ever so slightly in her hospital bed. She cleared her throat and spoke out, more forcefully than she was used to lately. “And tell me what you’ll say,” she demanded.
Jacob’s eyes widened and he leaned back defensively. He chided himself for being as submissive with her now as he had been as a child. She had a hold over him that he’d never outgrown. No matter how old she got, how incapacitated and weak, she was still very much in charge when it came to Jacob.  His mouth worked mutely. No sounds came out. He was at a loss and she was staring at him expectantly.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, Ma.”
She dropped back into her pillow and grabbed ahold of the blanket again, clenching it in her weakened fist. She looked off toward the hospital room door and watched the blur of nurses and doctors passing by. Her voice was shaky and thin.
“Well, you’d better figure it out.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No More Doubt

If you look closely, you can barely make out the colored buoys in the background.


Abraham Lincoln said it best:
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.

He was a wise, wise man.


When we travelled to Maine, we stayed in a cabin on the water. It was rustic and cozy and was tucked away in woods along a quiet inlet. In the mornings, we'd hoped to sit outside on the deck and watch the loons on the water, but the mosquitoes were nearly as large as the loons and forced us to sit inside and watch the water activity from the window. And judging by the rows of buoys in the water, there was sure to be some activity to see.

But first, we wanted to explore the town of Boothbay Harbor. So we headed back out of the woods and into town where we saw a Visitor's Center and a sign outside that read: Ask Us Anything!

Well, that was all the encouragement my husband and I needed to start being smart-alecks and thinking up absurd questions we might ask.

"Where do babies come from?" my husband practiced asking with an innocently curious expression.

"Where are my car keys?" I quipped back.

"Why is the sky blue?"
"How much does a bridge weigh?"
"Whatever happened to Baby Jane?"

We cracked ourselves up for at least half an hour. Then we finally pulled into the Visitor's Center and double-dog dared each other to ask one of the questions.

Grinning like idiots, we walked through the door and the two nice women working behind the counter greeted us. We lost our nerve and merely said hello, then wandered over to browse through the brochure rack. They approached us and asked how long we were visiting and offered a few suggestions of things we might see. Then they opened the field and asked us if we had any questions. I actually did.

"Yes. I saw some rows of buoys marking lanes in the water behind our cabin. Is there going to be some kind of race tomorrow?" (It was July 3rd.)

"Racing lanes?"

"Well, that's what it looked like. It looks like there are lanes marked off all down the water."

"Where are you staying?"

We tried to describe where our cabin was. The two women tried to figure out what water I was talking about. We both kept pointing in different directions toward where we thought the cabin might be. They were stumped. They hadn't heard anything about a race, but started to flip through a newspaper and some other materials to try to get an answer for me.

Bless their hearts. They welcomed us to stop back later and promised that they would continue to do some research and try to find out when the race would be. Unfortunately, we spent the whole day up the coast and didn't get back to Boothbay Harbor until after they'd closed.

The next morning we sipped our coffee and gazed out the window, excited to see some boats chugging up the inlet. Maybe we'd lucked out and were about to see the race! We watched in anticipation as three or four boats slowly traversed toward us, slowing and stopping along the way. Then suddenly, one was in front of us! The men aboard pulled up alongside a buoy, pulled it out of the water along with the cage attached to the rope on the bottom, and dumped a lobster into the boat before dropping the cage, rope and buoy back into the water and moving on to the next buoy in line.

They weren't racing lines at all! They were just buoys in the water marking lobster cages. We laughed our heads off at what idiots we were.

We debated all morning whether we should stop back at the Visitor Center and tell the women that we'd found the answer to the puzzle. We felt like the biggest fools in the world. Finally, we decided we had to. They'd been so nice. So we joked again along the way:

"What's that giant tower in the middle of Paris?"

"How much ham is in hamburger?"

"Who's in the tomb of the unknown soldier?"

Then we pulled into the parking lot and double-dog dared each other on who was going to admit how stupid we'd been.

I lost.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Coca-Cola Polar Bears

Visitors to the World of Coke in Atlanta, Georgia can pose for pictures with the 7-foot Coca-Cola bear.


Just a few fun facts:
  • The first polar bear to appear in Coca-Cola print ads made an appearance in France in 1922.

  • The polar bear character was created by Ken Stewart and was inspired by his Labrador retriever puppy who resembled a polar bear.

  • In the first animated polar bear commercial, the Coca-Cola bears are watching the Northern lights as if it were a movie.

  • In 1994 Olympic game ads, the Coca-Cola bears slid down a luge and skiied off a ski jump.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

They Cage The Animals At Night

I took this picture in China. I've always found it a little barbaric to cage birds, but it
seems especially cruel to cage them and then hang them from a tree.
I saw this several times in China.
I just finished reading Jennings Michael Burch’s memoir They Cage the Animals at Night. In it, he describes his 1950’s childhood spent moving from institution to foster homes and intermittently back home as his mother went in and out of hospitals. He does not present his story in a woeful, pitying manner. Rather he delivers the naivete and innocent view that he had as a child. It was a wonderful book, but like always, I brought my own life experience to reading of it.

Almost from page one, I connected Jennings with a woman I worked with named Dee. Dee was a very professional woman; a city administrator who kept much of her home life private, until the day she told me that she’d grown up in orphanages right here in Cincinnati. I’m not sure why that astounded me so much, other than the fact that I immediately pictured rag-tag street urchins ala Oliver Twist and Dee didn’t seem to fit the part. I knew it was a broad generalization on my part, but I couldn’t help waver between that and the image of abusive foster homes that I didn’t want to imagine Dee surviving. The truth, of course, was nothing of the sort. Dee described her childhood as uneventful; just a daily routine of school and living in an institution rather than in a home.
Burch described his childhood in a similar manner, though he didn’t have the luxury of staying in one place like Dee did. He was moved around sporadically. Some places were better than others. But what was similar in his case and in Dee’s is that they both had siblings who were not put into homes.
That’s the part of Dee’s story that I just couldn’t fathom. What must it feel like to know that your parent was willing to give you up, but not your sisters or brothers? How abandoned would that make a person? How unloved or bad would that make you feel?
I asked Dee about it. Briefly. Vaguely. We weren’t good enough friends for me to feel comfortable prying into an area that seemed so deeply personal to me. I know her mother didn’t send her to the orphanage because she was “bad” or a behavior problem. Nor was that the case in Burch’s book. But as a child, how could you possibly understand that? How could you think anything other than ‘my mother didn’t want me?’
Dee confessed that she has always struggled with that favoritism. She understandably feels that her sister is her mother’s favorite child. Perhaps this is why she has been very conscience not to favor any of her own children over the others. She is very family-oriented and has a close relationship with her daughters.
One thing that surprises me about Dee is that her mother and sister are both in ill health and she takes care of them. Oh, maybe that’s not surprising. Maybe I only think it is because I cannot imagine her childhood or family dynamics to begin with. Perhaps it makes sense that having been separated from her sister and mother throughout childhood she now wants to hold on to that family connection.
As usual, I looked for answers to my questions about Dee through Burch’s writing. I thought about Dee on every page. Their orphanage experiences were in the same time period. They were both the same age. Their circumstances were not so different. I have no idea what I would have thought about Burch’s book if I had not known Dee before I read it. As readers, we bring our own worlds to the stories that we read. I only know that now, having read Burch’s book, I wish I could reconnect with Dee and ask her the questions I was too afraid to ask her then. Like Burch, I know she had a story to tell.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Resolutions


I only made three New Year's resolutions this year. I'm sticking to two of them pretty well, but the third one, the one I thought would be the easiest to keep, is turning out to be the hard one. I'd resolved to get back to writing for publication this year. It's been a while. I've spent the last year or so just writing whatever I wanted to for this blog, enjoying the indulgence and freedom of writing what I want without worrying whether any of it was marketable.

Now I feel like I've lost touch with the world of publishing. In the past week I've come to realize that I don't think in quite the same way. I researched some writing markets and began thinking up article ideas but have yet to actually sit down and flesh out the ideas. Instead, I think how easy it would be to just post these articles on my blog.

Now I'm starting to understand why some of the bloggers I've followed have recently sent out notices that they've given up their blogs to devote their time and attention to their works-in-progress. I'd thought it was due to a lack of time and energy to do both, but maybe it has more to do with focus. I am already finding it difficult to focus my thoughts toward both approaches (blogging and article writing).

I don't want to stop blogging; I like writing daily. It keeps me on my toes. I guess what I really need to re-assess is whether publication is that important to me? I'd like to get back into magazine writing, but maybe not as much as I think I want to. I know I don't have to make a choice; I can do both. But first I want to give some thought to my motivation for doing so. Do I want bylines and money? Do I need validation that that makes me a legitimate writer? Or do I really want to write for magazines because it gives me as much satisfaction as writing a blog does?

I see that I am anything but resolute on January 9th.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Dolphins - Part 3 - Mike


“I want to see the dolphins.”
This was the response I received when a cruise excursion was offered to my daughter.  I am sure there was a noticeable hitch in my breath and a look of panic flowed across my face. Not because I was afraid of these loveable creatures. Not because of the cost. (Although that too is insane.) Rather, I was hesitant because of a documentary that I had seen about the dolphin industry. It is called The Cove. And it almost turned me into an animal rights activist. Almost. The documentary won an Oscar in 2009 and is perhaps one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. It centers around a Japanese town where there is a dolphin industry.
We arrived at the dolphin “farm” and were herded into an open air room along with a hundred other people, all eager to get their chance to kiss a dolphin. We squeezed onto wooden benches and noticed the signs on the walls, explaining about humane treatment of dolphins and environmentalist suggestions to help save the seas, dolphins and other marine life. On either side of the posters were two televisions, looped to show past dolphin encounters. Maybe this place was a humane business.
Then in walked the head dolphin trainer. He proceeded to tell rules and about the dolphins. To tell the truth, I immediately started recalling the documentary and wondering if he was in it, choosing his “prized performers.”
After the easily forgotten presentation, we were separated into groups and hurried to our “pool,” a concrete deck with a pool in the middle of it. We all sat around the water as instructed and put our feet in. It was the coldest water I had felt since visiting Maine.
The woman running this part of the excursion spoke and told us a little about the dolphin and what he could do and then she instructed us to walk through the pool, one person from each group crouching down and receiving a kiss as we did so.
Now, in all honesty, if you read Izzy’s blog and saw her picture, you only got half of it. Standing to her left (conveniently cut out) is Julie and myself. We show how cold it truly is. Julie is frenetically clenching her fist and looks insane. I stand next to her, unable to touch her because the frigid water has briefly frozen all movement.
In comes the dolphin and we are quickly posed for a picture. Izzy got kissed, I fake smile and we quickly exited the pool, grateful that the air outside was in the 80’s that day. This goes on and I immediately notice the routine. The dolphin kisses, receives a treat and jumps back, kiss, treat, jump. Over and over and over. I look around, the people are loving it. Everyone.
I notice the rake marks on the back of the dolphin. These are from other dolphin’s teeth and happen during play time. I wonder if any are from mistreatment though as the line of people moves through the pool. Kiss, treat, jump back.
We are instructed to enter the pool again to continue our encounter.  I notice this time when we walk into the pool that  we are stepping onto a rusty walkway that “our” dolphin must flop onto time and again. Humane? Does it hurt? Can we even tell?
We step into it and the majestic mammal again appears with a perpetual smile that can be so misleading. They only smile so we do not know what they are truly feeling. We are instructed to walk to the edge of the rusty platform and receive a kiss from our friend. We all do, but I look down and notice the edge is still four inches away.  Plenty of room for him to scratch his stomach on, I think, and push Izzy closer to the edge.
The dolphin comes in and rises up to give kisses. All the while, I think of how many times he must have scratched himself on the platform. He raises his beak and kisses Julie. I push Izzy closer to edge. He kisses Julie again. I nudge Izzy closer, taking steps forward myself. He kisses Izzy. She smiles and I am happy the she finds this so enjoyable and she has gotten her wish for this cruise.  He rises up to kiss me. I look into his eyes. Can it tell that I do not want to do this? That I feel bad? Can it understand? Does it feel exploited? It is a living creature after all. I notice that its mouth is wrinkled and soft, not smooth like the rest of it. How many people have kissed this thing, with cold sores, cuts, bad breath, colds, the flu, etc.? Can it catch our illnesses? Could it die from it?
He moves down the line.  Next come the hugs from a dolphin. I notice that Izzy and I have moved back from the edge again. I move us closer. We are instructed on how to kneel so he can hug us. If we do not, he could hurt himself. He starts to move down the line. Julie, Izzy and then me. He almost leaps up and places his weight on me. It is a massive feeling. I feel his head on my shoulder and think of our dog back at home, knowing I would not want him exploited for a profit. I look in his eyes as he moves on to hug Mac and then Chelsea, making his way down the line. All of us kneeling and making this majestic beautiful creature come out of the water and place its body against our bodies and bathing suits. The dolphin has moved down the line to the last woman who refused to listen. She is standing as he rises up to hug her and she is knocked off balance, taking him with her against the rusty grate. Idiot.
The dancing is the second to the last part. He makes his way down the line and we are instructed to grab his fins and dance with him. I can’t bring myself to clasp his fins, thinking that if we hold too tight or yank on them, it will hurt him. I turn in circles like he does, dancing with him.
At this point I do not care what the keepers say. Everything from The Cove is coursing through my mind. The mistreatment, the hacking to death of dolphins, the taking of dolphins from around the world, removing them from their natural habitat and placing them in tanks.
How can we keep fooling ourselves and think that the way they are kept is humane and helping them? Is it kind to subject the dolphins to at least two shows a day for weeks on end? Make them deal with idiotic humans who can’t follow instructions? Can we really convince ourselves that they enjoy the attention? Do they really enjoy being kissed, hugged, groped and stroked by hundreds of strangers?
I have to admit, I loved the feeling of the hug by the dolphin. But it was almost like one of those guilty hugs as you say thanks for the memories, I am sorry that you have to stay here and go through this again, but I have a boat to catch. I had his weight on my shoulders for those brief seconds and still do.
I went into this experience hoping to make my daughter happy and give her a lifelong memory. I did not want my opinion of what I had witnessed in The Cove to influence her experiences and keep her from making memories.  I walked out of it more resolute in the fact that even my daughter’s happiness and memories were not worth the cost. I had just paid hundreds of dollars for five people, myself included, to exploit another living creature for enjoyment. Not humane. And as happy as it makes others, I will not, cannot do it again. Maybe the dolphins do enjoy it. I don’t know. I just think of whether I would want that for me, my family, heck, even my dog. And the answer is no I wouldn’t and I don’t want it for any living thing.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I Hugged a Dolphin! - Part 2 - Me

Cacique splashing us.


When I was in 5th grade, we had a Science Fair. I did my project on 'Communication Between Man and Dolphin.' I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was back then in the days before Internet and Amazon and being able to find anything you want in the world. I had to do some extensive research. I found a book on the subject and learned what was involved in becoming a marine biologist. I wrote to a dolphin institute with a list of questions and they wrote back. Then I even managed to track down a record album of dolphin and whale sounds. I played that during my science fair presentation. It was a hit.

The whole thing was so exotic and out-of-reach for a girl from southwestern Ohio. I was about as likely to become a marine biologist as I was an astronaut. So I never ever expected to hug a dolphin one day.

Oh, I knew that there were tourist attractions in Mexico and other warm, tropical places where you could pay a small fortune to be in the water with dolphins and have your picture taken with them. But they were so expensive and I still didn't believe that you would actually interact with a dolphin. Then we booked a Dolphin Encounter for the day we went to the Bahamas. It was my pay-off for working a million hours of overtime this fall.

My husband was opposed to it on principle. We'd watched a terrifying documentary called "The Cove" that revealed the horrible slaughter of dolphins taking place in Japan and all the money involved in trapping and selling them to dolphin shows for tourists. It was a hard show to watch and we vowed to boycott companies that used dolphins as entertainment. We didn't want to add to the market for capturing dolphins.

But my daughter wanted to play with dolphins, and it looked like so much fun. Secretly, I wanted to, too.

We booked the excursion.

About eight of us at a time kneeled on a platform in a caged-off area of the water. Our dolphin, Cacique, swam in circles in front of us, splashing us with his antics so that we were all as wet as he was. Then he started down the line, giving each of us a kiss on the cheek and a chance to rub him down. We were all delighted. Then he began giving hugs. We were instructed to hold out our arms and Cacique moved up into them, pressing himself against us and holding us in an embrace that I never expected. A million thoughts scrambled through my mind:

oh my god I'm hugging a dolphin he's so heavy I don't know if I'm doing this right does he like it am I hurting him I'm hugging a dolphin! am I supposed to be doing this he does this all day I am hugging a dolphin he's so sleek and friendly he has his fins around me like he's hugging me I wonder where that dolphin book I had was I want to keep hugging him does he like doing this does he know how wonderful I think this is can he feel my excitement I didn't think this would be a real hug what about the cove he's okay isn't he I wish I'd never seen that film this is awesome I wish I could take a picture I can't believe I'm hugging a dolphin!

Then he moved on to the next person down the row.

I was on Cloud Nine. This was an experience that I'll never forget. But the hug wasn't the end of it. We also got to dance with him, holding his fins. We got to run our hands across his teeth. We got to kiss him (which wasn't gross) and we got to feed him a fish. We each spent about a total of 5-10 minutes with him; too short a time, but even hours wouldn't have been enough.

This was one of the highlights of my life; an experience I'll never forget. If I close my eyes and imagine it, I can still feel the weight of Cacique pressed against me as we embraced. It took me back to childhood and my fascination with this intelligent species. I feel guilty about perpetuating the exploitation of dolphins, but can't help myself. It was absolutely magical to me. I hugged a dolphin!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dolphins - Part 1 - Izzy

While we were in the Bahamas, our excursion included a dolphin encounter. The next few posts will share the reactions of my 11-year-old daughter, myself, and my husband on interacting with a dolphin.

    
          The dolphin encounter was amazing! We kissed him, hugged him, danced with him, gave him treats, and even got kissed by him! I am going to say my two favorite parts.
My first favorite part is when we got kissed by the dolphin. We walked into the water and the dolphin trainer said we had to kneel down. It was the coldest water I had ever been in and I went into water in Maine during the month of July. When the dolphin swam up to us for a kiss I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be soft or rough? It turns out he was soft and delicate. It was awesome!
My second favorite part is when we danced with him. He would wiggle and make you dance with him. One lady fell down because the dolphin was surprisingly heavy. There is not much more to tell you other than it was FUN! Other than that you will have to experience it yourself.