Monday, April 30, 2012

"B" Movies

My aunt went to the video store over the weekend and rented a couple of movies for $0.50 each. Needless to say, she and my mother did not make it all the way through either movie. They turned them off after half an hour. I chuckled to myself as my mother described the movies because it brought back so many memories from my teen years.

We were one of the first among my friends to buy a VCR. At first, we made careful choices, choosing movies we'd wanted to see but missed at the theatre since rentals were not that cheap when VCRs first came out. I even remember the first movie we rented: Grease. Things seemed to go downhill from there.

We'd often send my father to the video store with specific titles to rent. But somehow, while he was there, he'd be drawn to the shelves of "B" titles; movies no one had ever heard of, and for good reason. For reasons still unknown today, my father always picked movies from that shelf. He'd come home with losers such as Basket Case (a ridiculous horror film) or Fatal Attraction, but NOT the Fatal Attraction starring Glenn Close. No. Instead, we saw the nonsensical plot lines that never made it to the big screen.

We'd beg him not to look at those shelves. We'd question his choices. We'd groan, and threaten, and write our movie choices down. We'd do anything to prevent him from going. But every now and then, he still made his way to the video store and returned home with another gem. It became a running joke. We knew we were watching movies that no other family in their right minds would watch.

I suspect if he were sent there to rent a DVD today, he'd still find that shelf of "specials." And you know who he'd run into? My aunt.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rule #1

During the Mad Anthony Writer's Conference, I attended a workshop on "Managing Exposition." (Exposition: all the necessary factual information in a work of fiction including setting, character descriptions and backstories, flashbacks, summaries and processes.)

During the session, we had a brief writing exercise. We had 5 minutes to write a passage that explained a rule, without using too much exposition. Here was my submission.

"Ginny? Come on in."

Karen stepped aside as Ginny cross the threshold, lugging a garbage bag and a pillow with her. She stepped tentatively inside the door as the police cruiser crunched across the gravel parking lot. Karen waved the officer away, then dead bolted the door.

"I'll take you to your room in just a minute," she told Ginny as she removed the garbage bag from her hand and set it near a small table in the foyer. "But first I need you to sign this confidentiality agreement."

"What is it?" Ginny asked with a hint of suspicion in her voice.

"It just says that you will not disclose the location of the shelter or any details about it or the people in it. If you do, you'll be asked to leave."

A defiant look flittered across Ginny's face. Karen had seen that look before; Ginny wouldn't like following the rules.

"I'm not gonna tell anybody," she said dismissively. "Give me a pen."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Enough Reality!

I don't know whether Isaiah Mustafa
has his own reality series or not,
but it wouldn't surprise me.
Am I the only person in the world who is sick-to-death of reality shows? I mean, really. Swamp People? Mob Wives? "Real" Housewives of any city in America, and Moonshiners? Apparently, as soon as you manage to get your fifteen minutes of fame, cable networks will coming running to your door, offering you a platform for your own reality TV show. I can't take it any more.

I ignore most of them, since I can choose not to flip to those stations and give those shows my ratings. I can usually adopt my live-and-let-live attitude toward them. But this morning, when I saw that crass, bullying, despicable Russell from Survivor now has his own show on A&E, I thought I might throw a chair against the wall. I can't stand it anymore.

What has our society come to when skanks, bullies, and moronic people suddenly get rewarded with riches and fame for being crass, skanky, and mean? Do we really find this entertaining?

I, for one, am on strike. I refuse to watch any more "reality" TV and will not give these shows my ratings. I'd like to boycott the stations that air them, too, but that means I'd never turn on my TV again. Maybe that's not a bad idea...

Enough reality, already. I'm done.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Yesterday, a woman told me that she'd read that the only stress-relieving effect of vacations is actually in the anticipation of the vacation, not the vacation itself.

I don't believe that at all.

But just in case, I decided to start planning another trip today. I do feel more relaxed already.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crab Feast

The waiter emerged from the kitchen’s swinging double doors with a platter of crabs held high above his head. He weaved through the tables and came to a stop in front of the Arnsworth family. Mr. Arnsworth  sat up taller in his chair and adjusted the waistband of his pants. He grabbed a roll from the basket on the table and cleared his throat. He was ready to eat.
Mrs. Arnsworth smoothed the linen napkin in her lap. She folded her hands in her lap and smiled at the waiter as he presented their seafood feast. She mentally calculated the astronomical amount of calories contained in the small bowls of melted butter. She shouldn’t indulge, but she did love butter. She licked her lips and breathed in the aroma of seafood and salt air. This was her vacation! A little butter wouldn’t kill her.
Robby sat still in his seat, staring at the mound of red shells. Just that afternoon he’d played with hermit crabs scuttling across the sand. His mother didn’t even know that he’d kept one of the crabs in a bucket. He was going to take it home and keep it as a pet.
The waiter set the tray down with a flourish. He straightened up and smiled brightly at the Arnsworth family. “Who’d like a bib?” he asked. No one took him up on his offer. Instead, they wished him away and turned their attention back to the delectable bounty before them. All but Robby, who frowned as his family began transferring crabs to their plates. His plate remained empty as his family began passing the butter. It came to him, but he kept his arms at his side.
“I want grilled cheese.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This is not my bedroom. If it were, I'd probably sleep better.

There's been a lot of conversation within my relationship circles lately regarding sleep, or better yet, lack of sleep. I've been a horrible insomniac for most of my life but never really worried about it until I learned that it is a contributing factor in developing dementia. That scared the bejeezus out of me! And made me worry more that I wouldn't be able to sleep.

Everyone I know offered advice. I'm sharing some of their suggestions here, in case, like me, you have trouble falling asleep and/or staying  asleep.

  1. Establish a bedtime routine. Going to bed at roughly the same time every night and following a bedtime ritual helps you trick yourself into getting ready to sleep. (Kinda like you do for a baby.)
  2. Take all electronics (computer, smart phones, television, etc..) out of the bedroom. You're there to sleep; not work.
  3. Make the room dark.
  4. Read before bedtime.
  5. Listen to audiobooks so that you can keep the room dark and your eyes closed.
  6. If you can't sleep, get up and read or do something else relaxing instead of tossing and turning.
  7. Limit caffeine. (This is the toughie for me. but I have stopped drinking coffee after noon.)
  8. Take melatonin every day to reset your sleep cycle.
I've tried everything on this list. All of these suggestions have helped, but I'll admit that melatonin has made the biggest difference. I have a prescription for Ambien, but don't take it unless I really can't sleep, which is problematic since at that point, I probably don't have enough time to let the Ambien work. But by taking melatonin every night, it has improved my ability to fall asleep.

I still have some sleepless nights, but the insomnia is much less frequent now. I think the biggest change is actually that I take sleep more seriously now. I'd never considered how important it was to my health before, but now that I do, I'm making sure I get more sleep.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ohio's Got Talent

What a talent! My daughter can hula hoop and do just about anything else at the same time: crouch down, walk around, jump up and down, read, etc.. Here she's braiding her hair as the hula hoop spins.

Trust me - she did not get this talent from me!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mirror, Mirror

I don't think I've ever felt a generational gap between me (Gen X) and my daughter (Millennial) as strongly as I did when we went to see Mirror, Mirror. This twist on the classic Snow White tale brought it all into focus for me. It was, in fact, my Mirror, Mirror moment and reflected old vs. new. My wrinkles were showing.

The movie resembled very little of the Snow White story I know and love. Instead, we are presented with the Queen's (Julia Roberts) side of the story, which didn't make much sense. She throws herself at the Prince. She never really asks the mirror who's the fairest, and it is the mirror that provides the magical power. Whatever. I can allow poetic license and go with the flow... with exceptions.

The dwarves are no longer the dwarves from the fairy tale. No Doc, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, et. al. Now we've got Half Pint, Butcher, Wolf, Napoleon, Grimm, Grub and Chuckles and they're not hard-working miners living in the woods. They're bandits. And Snow White becomes a bandit with them, wielding a sword and fighting the Queen's men.

I hated it.

Now, I must back up. I am a feminist and certainly want girls to grow up feeling empowered. And I know that the old fairy tales are horrible for depicting girls as damsels in distress who need a prince to come in and save them. It's not the message I ever wanted for myself, or for my daughter. I feel like I should be happy that Snow White has to swoop in and save the Prince in this re-telling.

But I don't. I'm old. I want the classics to remain classics. I want the beauty and sweetness of the old Snow White and Cinderella tales. I like the romance of them, and the depiction that good triumphs over evil. That was enough for me. I didn't need Snow White or Cinderella picking up swords. I didn't grow up thinking it was okay for them to be passive and wait to be rescued. I think I took away a different message: that a person's true beauty cannot be hidden from the world. They will be rewarded in the end. Pretty passive, I know. It's probably not the best message.

So then I thought about it. What if I'd grown up with this new feminist message? What if I grew up with Snow White and Cinderella tales that show heroines fighting their battles and rescuing princes? What if this were the norm for me? These storylines don't faze my daughter at all. They seem perfectly normal to her. So let's say I grew up with these ideals and then suddenly, in my forties, saw the old classic animated versions of Snow White and Cinderella? I think I'd hate them. I think I'd sit there and wonder why they were so weak and simple-minded. I would not be content to watch them sing to birds and clean the house of seven little men. The storylines wouldn't make any sense to me.

That's not my reality, though. I still love the classics and get bored watching Snow White perform ninja battles against an army. I'm too old or old-fashioned to find this story captivating. I concede that I'm a product of my generation. I want the glass slipper; I want the horse and carriage.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012

We're a very green household and environmentalism is important to us. We routinely do whatever we can to conserve energy and reduce, reuse and recycle in our household. So this Earth Day, I went away from my house to make a difference, and decided to take the dog on a walk and pick up recyclables along the way. The Girl Scouts have just started collecting plastic bottle caps and chip bags to recycle. So in addition to all the regular bottles and cans I usually pick up when my dog and I go on "litter" walks, I added these two items to my list.

We went to a railroad crossing where cars are routinely stopped. I don't know what possesses people to throw their bottles and cans out the window, but they do. What I'd planned would be a half hour walk with my dog and a plastic bag turned into less than 10 minutes. Even though I crushed the cans and bottles first, it took me very few minutes and very few steps before our bag was full. Saddened, I put the bag in my car and took the dog on a real walk.

I may go out later again with another bag. I could probably walk all day and never feel like I'd made a dent in the debris by the road, but at least I did something. I took the first step; the Girl Scouts will take it from there. Together, we're doing our small part. And that's what Earth Day is all about, isn't it? All of us doing something.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Save the Arts!

We were at an elementary school other than my daughter's this morning, and had a few minutes to admire the artwork on display in the lobby. It was a veritable gallery showcase with student art adorning each of the walls and display cases. The sunflower pictures were my favorite. They captured the hope and beauty of so much young talent. I hate to think that the arts programs will cease to exist much longer. If these precious little sunflowers knew what was coming, they'd droop.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Traveling With Pomegranates

I am not a big fan of Sue Monk Kidd's, but picked up a copy of Traveling With Pomegranates anyway. I liked the premise of a shared mother-daughter memoir and thought that perhaps my mother and I, or my daughter and I, or all three of us, might do something similar someday. And we might. But it won't be based on this totally self-absorbed, woe-is-me whinefest.

Ann Kidd (Sue's daughter) emerges from college so depressed that she can barely function -- except to travel to Greece repeatedly. Her depression seems to stem from one - yes, one -  rejection letter from a grad school. As much as I wanted to feel sorry for her and know that everyone handles obstacles in their life differently, all I could think was My God! Grow up! At least apply to one more school before you plummet into despair.

But, I'd say she learned her melancholy and introspective self-pitying from her mother. The two of them can't seem to have a single thought without exploring it ad nauseum.

That being said, I kept reading. I'm not sure why. I didn't like either woman, but found Sue's writing compelling anyway. And I love reading about authors' inspirations for their books and this memoir supplied all the background for what inspired Sue to write The Secret Life of Bees. That made it worth it to me.

Then, as I trudged on, reading page after page of each woman's thoughts, something shifted in me. I realized that I rarely try do any type of contemplative writing myself, and thought that perhaps I might try. I read this memoir about a month ago and have been incorporating a little more contemplation and thoughtfulness in my journal writing, if nowhere else. It is not coming along easily for me; I am a much more straightforward, factual non-fiction writer. But I'm trying, and it's because of this book. Despite the fact that I didn't think I liked it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Garlic Day

Apparently April 19th is Garlic Day. That brings one thing immediately to mind for me: The Stinking Rose in San Francisco's North Beach area. It's a gimmicky tourist restaurant that boasts having the longest braid of garlic in the world. It twists along the top of the walls like Christmas garland. You know right then that every item on the menu will have garlic in it, unless you choose one of the four or five vampire options.

We started with a small skillet of roasted garlic and oil that we dipped our bread into. Once we'd finished that, I'm not sure how much we even tasted all the garlic in the linguine with clams, sizzling shrimp skillet, or baked fish dishes we had as entrees. It was good, but not remarkable. We were definitely there more for atmosphere than food.

After that we headed back out on the bus to see more of San Francisco. And would you believe, we had no trouble finding seats to ourselves that night?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

House Faces

Ever notice how some houses seem to be smiling? I like it when I can see a face on a house. I'm not sure why. In this particular case, I think that the house is grinning simple-mindedly with the warning: Watch that first step! It's a doozy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Try Not To Cry

Sculpture outside the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium
Beijing, China

The 2012 Summer Olympics are quickly approaching. I shed many a tear watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics, especially every time Michael Phelps' head emerged from the water and he learned he'd won gold. I watched him scan the crowd for his mother and shared her joy in watching her son achieve his dreams. I wrote about it here.

I'm already anticipating more tears this summer. But just in case I wasn't already emotionally primed, P&G created this video that has already reduced me to a weeping puddle. I can't wait to watch the London games. But I may need a box of tissues if they're going to keep airing this commercial during it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What Skulls Can Tell Us

Catacombs in Paris

As I sat listening to presentations by first a forensic artist who does facial clay reconstruction of skulls, and then a forensic anthropologist who showed us several pictures of skulls and what we can learn from them, I could not help touching my own head and feeling for the deep bone buried beneath my skin and tissue. I started to wonder what it looked like.

I was surprised to learn that facial clay reconstruction (which I'd actually never given ANY thought to before) relies on charts and graphs and mathematical calculations. Twenty-some points are identified on the face and small place markers are glued to the skull, demarcating how thick tissue (clay) should be applied in certain areas according to the estimated age, gender and race of the skull. Forensic artist Brenda Stewart made it seem so simple, like a paint-by-number that anyone could do. But I was not fooled. This was a delicate art that she has mastered over the years. It was fascinating to watch a face come to life simply by her application of clay strips to a skull.

Equally fascinating was the variety of differentiation in skulls. I know this sounds silly, but I'd never considered that one skull looked any different from another except for size. But once Dr. Elizabeth Murray, Forensic Anthropologist, started showing a slide show of skulls and the details that help her identify age, sex, and other things, I was amazed. Again, I wondered what my skull looks like under all this hair and skin? It was strange to suddenly think that it would appear uniquely mine, and that someday someone could find my skull and reconstruct my face from it -- if Dr. Murray and Brenda Stewart were around.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Still the Greatest Show on Earth

My daughter went to the circus yesterday with her uncle and cousins. She's gone before, but probably doesn't remember it since she was such a small child. But they all came home raving about the sights and spectacles they saw: a woman training an elephant to stand on tiny little platforms, trapeze artists who actually needed the net!, lions and tigers jumping through hoops of fire, humans performing tricks on horseback, clowns shooting another clown from a canon, etc., etc.. It sounds like every circus I've seen or heard of. In fact, it sounds like the same circus I saw as a child. I took great comfort in that.

In this world of Twitter and video games, and classroom virtual learning, children (and adults) are just as fascinated with the same spectacular circus performances that they've always enjoyed. What a wonderful thing!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Could I Be A Crime Scene Investigator?

One of the Murder & Mayhem events yesterday included having the organizers set up a fake crime scene that we went into as groups to investigate. We saw drops of blood on the ground, bloody shoeprints, a body with a bullethole, drugs on the table, shell casings, overturned chairs, and a few other clues as to what happened. But guess what? I couldn't figure out what happened at all.

I wasn't sure if the victim was shot through the back or the chest. I saw bloody footprints leading toward the body, but none away from the body. None of the drugs had been taken, though the victim's pockets were turned inside out. I saw a shell casing near the front door, away from the bedroom where the majority of the blood was. The scene didn't make sense to me at all. I like to think that's a good thing; I am just not familiar with crime scenes so don't have the knowledge to understand what I was looking at.

Which reminded me of the many times I've looked around the wreck of my house and wondered what detectives would deduce if my house were suddenly scrutinized as a crime scene? I think they'd be stumped. Would the newspapers spread across the floor be considered a clue? Or would they view it as the mess it really is? Would they recognize the true crime behind the sticky fingerprints on the refrigerator door handle -- the mess itself, or the rebellion from a mother who refuses to clean it up? I think it would be hard for them to figure out the chaos in my house, which falls somewhere between hoarder and someone who will find anything, and I mean ANYTHING other than housework to do.
And yet -  I can tell when things have been disturbed. I have that 'Mom radar' that lets me see the new trail of evidential mess that my children have left behind: I said not to cook, yet I see toast sweat and a dirty knife in the sink. I said not to go in my closet, but now a shirt has been hung with the buttons hanging the opposite way. I said not to go outside, but there are shoes tumbled by the door.

I may not have figured out what happened to the body on the bed in the fake room at the conference, but I can figure out what my children have been up to. It makes me a master detective of sorts. Or maybe I'm just lucky that my children aren't as crafty as criminals.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Murder & Mayhem Again

Touring the S.W.A.T. truck at last year's Murder & Mayhem event.

No time to write. I'm off to the Murder & Mayhem Writer's Conference as part of this weekend's Write Like Mad conference. I went last year and loved it, despite the fact that I am not a crime writer. I have come to believe that it doesn't matter what genre you write in -- workshops and insight into different aspects of writing can do nothing but help.

Here's the line up of speakers today:

  • Forensic Artist Brenda Stewart

  • Bail Bond Agent Gary Good

  • Board Registered Medicolegal Death Investigator Justin Weber

  • Cincinnati Police Sergeant, Tia Miller

  • Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray

  • I can't wait! Murder & Mayhem, here I come!

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Marriage Dissolved

    My brother’s divorce is being finalized today. It takes me back to my day in court; the surrealness of standing before a judge with my marriage reduced to statistics and numbers. Case number something, dissolving the marriage that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 7, 1987. Put that way, it seems like it was inevitable, wasn’t it?
    But seeing the data didn’t accurately capture the excitement and passion that lead us to elope to Las Vegas on a Tuesday afternoon in July. The words on the court papers discredited the years of dating that preceded it, and the three years after that we were husband and wife. My God, we created a child together! The facts of the civil case dismissed those years so easily.
    I feel the same dismissal when I tell people that I was married before; that I eloped to Las Vegas when I was nineteen. It almost always garners the comment, “And we all know how well that turned out.” Those words make me furious.  They make me feel like my marriage has been dismissed again. According to the facts, I was too  young. We were foolish. It was bound to end.
    But what no one seems to consider is that I was happy; that I didn’t (and don’t) consider that marriage a mistake. I loved him. I wanted to marry him and have a life with him. We had a child together. If I had it to do all over again, I would. It doesn’t matter to me that it didn’t work out. It was just how things happened.
    So today, as my brother stands in court and his marriage is reduced to the date and place of his wedding and all the assets that need to be divided, I hope he doesn’t suffer the same frustration that I did: that his marriage was nothing but a number of years that came to an end. Because it was so much more than that.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Souvenir Pennies

    I've been a collector of things all my life. I had a million collections as a child and still have many of my collections today: postcards, Archie comic books, pencils, buttons, thimbles, cat cards, Nancy Drew books, etc., etc. I encouraged my children to collect things as well, though I've come to realize now that I've collected their collections now, too.

    For instance, I started them each on collecting souvenir pennies from our various vacation spots. Whenever I see a penny machine, I start digging in my purse for change and send them over to pick a pattern, line up the image, and start cranking. Once the flattened penny clinks into the tray at the bottom, I hold out my hand, generously offering to hold their souvenirs in my purse for safekeeping. They always hand them over and then never mention the pennies again. I don't think either child even knows where "their" collections are stashed.

    But I know.

    I just added two more pennies from Tybee Island and Savannah to the ones from New Orleans, Kennedy Space Center, The Alamo, Chicago, the Cincinnati Zoo, Nashville, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and all the others.

    It's such a fun collection. Fun for the whole family in a way. I like it almost as much as the postcard collection my daughter claims to have...

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    Fit Like A Weird Kind Of Glove

    My son and his fiance rave about their Vibram FiveFingers shoes. They wore them everywhere in Savannah and often drew attention and questions from passersby. They pleaded with the rest of us to "just try them," so we finally headed to the Birkenstock shop on Broughton Street and tried some on.

    I'll admit, they were more comfortable than I expected. But they're not for everyone. When I walked in them, my foot rolled onto my instep -- something I needed corrective shoes for as a baby. My mother liked them, but couldn't get them on by herself since she has neuropathy in one foot and can't feel her toes enough to fit them into their 'fingers.' And my husband, who wears a quadruple-E, just couldn't fit into them, period.

    Our twentysomethings shrugged at our bad luck and walked out of there in brand new FiveFingers. Ah, to have the feet of the young!

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Scrambling for Easter Egg Roll Tickets

    I’m not sure our German exchange student, Thomas, ever fully appreciated our excitement concerning the 2007 Easter Egg Roll at the White House. He certainly couldn’t understand why we would wait in line all night, with snow and sleet coming down, and call it a vacation. But he was game for anything, and so were we. After all, we were in Washington, D.C. for the first time, and wanted to take advantage of every opportunity while we were there.
                Going to the Easter Egg Roll at the White House would be a once in a lifetime event, and we were willing to do whatever it took to make it happen. After all, this would be our last chance. According to the criteria, a maximum of five tickets would be issued per person. Children of all ages could attend, as long as there was at least one child seven years old or under and no more than two adults per group. Figuring in our 16-year-old son and our German exchange student, we just met the criteria. Now all we had to do was stand in line for tickets.
                We’d already missed the cherry blossoms by the time we got to Washington, D.C. in April of 2007. A cold front had moved in and the pink blossoms had changed to gray puddles on the ground. Rain mixed to sleet as we planned our strategy to get Easter Egg Roll tickets. Passes were to be distributed at 7:30a.m., so we wondered how early we should we get there: 5:00am? 4:00am? We were warned that people waited all night, but just how long was “all night”?
                We decided to stroll by at 10:00pm on Sunday to check it out. Much to our dismay, there were already people in line! By the looks of their tents, they’d been camping out for a while. There wasn’t really any choice. If we wanted to take our daughter (who would be 7 later that year) and our German exchange student on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we had to act. So I gave my husband a kiss, and he took his place in line.
                It was cold that night. And we were tired from traveling, but we wanted this. My son woke up at 2:00am, and walked through the cold, rainy streets of D.C. with a thermos full of coffee for my husband. The Metro wasn’t running during the wee hours, so he had about a 2 mile walk from where we were staying. He passed along the coffee and replaced my husband in line so that he could come home and change into dry clothes. After a much-needed reprieve, he went back to stand in line and my cold, wet son came home to take a shower. By then, it was 5:00am and they were distributing passes for those lucky few who would receive timed entrance tickets. My husband called from his cell phone. We’d made it!
                I woke up my daughter and our German “son” and we hurried back to the White House lawn. We had a while to wait, so we enjoyed breakfast and entertainment in the waiting area on the ellipse. We could see the festivities beginning over on the White house lawn and heard a cheer from the first group to enter.
                Finally, it was our turn, and we shivered our way onto the most famous lawn in the world. We partook in all the events. My daughter rolled an Easter egg. The boys listened to the band and wandered around all the exhibits. We took a million pictures of ourselves with the White House in the background. And Thomas had a souvenir shot of himself to take back home and show his friends.
                But the picture we framed upon our return was the one sight-seeing venue that only our family could appreciate: the spot on the sidewalk where my husband had waited all night so that we could enjoy our once-in-a-lifetime Easter Egg Roll event. That little spot on the pavement was where lifetime memories were made.

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    Mockingbird Trivia

    The jury box in the Monroe County Courthouse
    Monroeville, Alabama

    Last night during the 50th anniversary showing of "To Kill a Mockingbird," we logged into Viggle and learned all sorts of movie trivia that I'll share here along with other trivia I found.

    • The courthouse used in the movie was an exact replica of the Monroe County Courthouse where Harper Lee's father tried cases as an attorney. The Monroeville courthouse is now a museum.

    • Mary Badham, who played Scout, did not read the book until she was grown.

    • Gregory Peck did his 9-minute summation speech in one take.

    • Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson, gave the eulogy at Gregory Peck's funeral.

    • Rock Hudson was the studio's first choice for the role of Atticus.

    • The pennies in the cigar box were dated 1962, even though the setting took place in 1932.

    • Robert Duvall named many of his dogs "Boo Radley."

    • Atticus Finch was named the top movie hero in the last 100 years by the American Film Institute.

    • Robert Duvall stayed out of the sun for six weeks and died his hair blond for the role of Boo Radley.

    • Mary Badham was the youngest girl nominated for an Oscar for her role as Scout, but lost out to another child -- Patty Duke, who played Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker."

    Saturday, April 7, 2012

    Living By The Sea

    I sat on the beach and thought about how much I'd love to live on the ocean. How much I'd love to hear the crashing waves as the backdrop for my life. But it would be so different from the life I've known. I'm not sure I can really fathom what it would be like to trade farms and fields for flat, coastal terrain. I'd trade cardinals and crows for seagulls and pelicans. It would mean living on the edge of the world instead of right in the middle of it all.

    When I stand on the beach and stare at the ocean, I feel like I have my back to the world, and live on the cusp of being a landlubber and seafarer. My mother takes the opposite perspective; that we're standing on the edge of those vast endless seas. What would it be like to have the sea be such a dominant force in your life? To pay attention to tide schedules and storm patterns? Wouldn't your life have something to do with boats, or fish or the bounty of the sea in some way? Would you feel salt on your skin all the time?

    I think you'd have to be okay with being a little bit lonely if you lived on the sea. Or maybe that's just me, because I'd have my back to the world.

    Friday, April 6, 2012

    To Peep or Not To Peep

    The Seven Sisters gift shop on Tybee Island is hosting a Peeps Show and Peeps Sculpture Contest this Easter weekend. Contestants are asked to make a sculpture using sugary candy peeps as their medium. They showed a "Give Peeps a Chance" peace symbol and a sundress made of peeps as examples. We're not entering, partly because my  future daughter-in-law loves peeps and says she'd eat them all before we could finish. That didn't stop us, though, from thinking of themes we might use:

    • Hamlet -- To Peep or Not to Peep
    • Peeps clipped to a clothesline -- "Hangin' With My Peeps"
    • Peeps on a stage with props -- Peep Show
    • A peep with a name badge -- "Peeping Tom"
    • A peep with a hood -- Peeps in the Hood
    • Rainbow -- Peeps forming a rainbow that ends in a pot of colored eggs

    What would you make?

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    Haunted Savannah

    Savannah has been dubbed "America's Most Haunted City." So we knew we wanted to take a ghost tour, but which one? There are dozens. There are walking tours, trolley tours, hearse tours, etc.. We collected brochures from as many as we could find and then did the only logical thing we could think of: we laid them all out on the counter and took a picture of them to see which one had an orb over it.

    None of them did.

    So instead, we read the brochures and made our decision the old-fashioned way, by deciding which one interested us the most. We settled on Blue Orb's "City of the Dead" tour.

    We gathered in Chippewa Square and headed over to the Old Colonial Cemetery. Our tour guide gave us an abbreviated history of  all the death and tragedy that had occurred in Savannah's past: yellow fever epidemics, Revolutionary War battles, slavery, etc.. They had more tragedy per square yard than any other place in America.

    Most chilling to me were the tales of the yellow fever deaths. Tell me about a plague or epidemic and I'm hooked. Plus, I'd read Fever 1793 years ago and loved it. Apparently here in Savannah, some of the coffins were dug up after the fact and it was discovered that people had been buried alive and tried to claw or even gnaw their way out of their graves. Some corpses were found with wood chips in their throat. Chilling.

    The slave square was equally horrendous as our guide tried to describe the huge number of slaves penned, prodded and sold there. The Gullah people have now cursed the place, calling it evil. It was not only the site of the slave auctions, but also a mass burial ground for their bodies.

    We also went past the Mercer House (of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame) and the abandoned Candler Hospital where Union soldiers were kept and hanged.

    The tour ended at the Hag House. If I heard correctly, the Hag is a spirit sent by the Gullah. She preys on the miserable and depressed, haunting their sleep and pressing down on their chests.  Eventually, she possesses the person as chronicled by Sarah Adler, who was menaced by the hag for 35 years before finally telling the world that The Hag used to appear in front of her, but she now saw her behind her eyes, looking out. We almost had nightmares about that, but none of us were miserable enough to worry, since we are, after all, on vacation.

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    The Powder Room

    History buffs, close your ears. Historical facts do not adhere to my mind in any way, shape or form. So I can't tell you anything about Fort Pulaski, near Tybee Island, Georgia, other than that they let military families in for free and that they had a lot of cannons dotted around the old fort. The brickwork and courtyard reminded me of the San Antonio Mission. It was all very pretty, but I'm not sure what happened there. Something Civil War-related.

    As soon as I dubbed the room where they store barrels of gunpowder 'The Powder Room,' we were pretty much done with the tour.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Dining with Paula

    Would you believe we got to Lady & Sons restaurant, and none other than Paula Deen herself escorted us in? We skipped the line and she whipped up a batch of cheddar biscuits and johnnycakes for us to devour as we waited for our entrees. I could have eaten an entire basketful of those.

    Then we started with fried green tomatoes topped with a dollop of salsa. It didn't matter that by then we were already getting full, because we had meatloaf sandwiches with wild mushroom mayonnaise and crab cake sandwiches with battered, fried red potato slices coming out of the kitchen. It was all fantastic, but there was no room for dessert. So we bid Paula a "Bye, Ya'll" and left.

    Okay, we didn't really see Paula or her sons, but we did have a delicious meal. We went a little early, expecting to wait in a long line for a reservation, but ended up giving our names to the hostess and walking right in. The food was great and our server was very friendly and knowledgeable about Savannah. She made great suggestions of where we might go and what we would see. You could tell she had a lot of pride in her city and we were anxious to race out and see everything she'd told us about. But remember, we'd just eaten at Paula Deen's, so we waddled out with full bellies and strolled at a snail's pace instead.

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Jellyfish Jonestown

    I've been to a lot of beaches, and I've seen jellyfish on the beach before, but usually they're small gelatinous blobs that people accidentally step on because they're covered with sand. Nothing like the jellyfish washed ashore on Tybee Island, Georgia.

    These jellyfish dotted the shoreline all the way up the beach. It looked like high tide had washed them in and there they remained, stranded and round, somehow menacing even as they died.

    They fascinated me. I took picture after picture of each and every one. They were beautiful with their translucent outer coating and delicate pastel colors inside. Each was different; oceanic snowflakes. I peered inside each one, daring to get closer and closer even as I irrationally worried that they would suddenly pulsate and come to life, stretching out their tentacles to sting me.

    Everyone else just walked around them. They made a minefield along the water's edge where some of the corpses were collected in groups we dubbed "Jellyfish Jonestown." It looked like they'd gone together, whole families who'd veered too close to land.

    My husband finally convinced me to touch one. Their 'heads' felt like hard plastic to the touch, though to be honest, I barely touched it, still afraid that I'd somehow feel a jellyfish sting. I was content instead to photograph them. They were so beautiful.

    Sunday, April 1, 2012

    Around-the-World Trip!

    OMG! I was one of the megamillion lottery winners yesterday! I'm off on an around-the-world trip. First stop - China!

    "April Fools."