Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Southern Spring

Spring is arriving in the South. The daffodils and bright tulips are blooming everywhere. The plum, pear and apple trees are clouds of pink and white. Along the roadsides, the fragrant purple wisteria vines hang in beautiful grape-like bunches. The yellow bell-shaped flowers of forsythia shrubs are electric mounds of color.

If you grow up in a place that doesn’t have the four seasons, you really miss out. I would prefer that there were only three seasons, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Winter is my least favorite, although a crackling fireplace and a cup of hot cocoa can change my mind about that.

Winters in the South are not nice. We usually have a lot of rain (instead of snow) so everything is cold and soggy. The other day it was pouring rain and the temperature never got above 35 degrees. Just a few degrees lower and we could’ve had a real snow day.

The reward, however, is the beautiful flowers and blooming trees that announce that….ahhhhhh spring is here (which brings up a topic to be discussed in another post – tornado season)!

Friday, February 24, 2006

When Ice Melts

I was alarmed recently by a news story about the melting of polar ice and the impact this could have on the world’s oceans and weather patterns. So I did a little internet research, and got even more alarmed.


This phenomenon is being blamed on global warming. 2005 was the warmest year on record. Ocean temperatures were also the highest ever recorded. Greenhouse gases and the melting of the polar ice cap are primarily to blame. Warmer ocean temperatures mean larger, more destructive hurricanes.

With every month that passes, we're given increasing information to motivate us, to embrace renewable energy. Here are three of those compelling reasons:

-Americans use 30% of the world's oil supply yet only 2% of that comes from our own soil. By embracing renewable energy, we can significantly reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

-Renewable energy and conservation projects create 300% more jobs than the construction and operation of new traditional power plants of equal costs.

-With every mile that we drive our gasoline powered cars, we send 1 pound of CO2 into the atmosphere.

We need to reduce our 'ecological footprint' which is the measurement of what we consume and the 'footprint' it leaves on the earth.

Americans make up only 4% of the World's population yet we consume nearly 26% of its resources. Americans spend more annually on the purchase of garbage bags than the combined GDP of 90 of the World's developing nations.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in balance – I’m not an environmental activist. But I also believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to reduce our own ‘ecological footprint.’

Scientist have determined that by the end of the century there will be no more ice on the North Pole. Sea levels will rise. Some species will become extinct. I believe it’s time for all of us to take a serious look at our own excess and do everything we can to preserve our planet for our children and future generations.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Relaxation 101

Bubble baths aren't just for kids. A nice, hot bath is a great way to relax and unwind. For that reason, I personally take several a week.

Here's how:

1. Turn off cell phone.
2. Lock the door to prevent intruders like kids or dogs.
3. Stop the drain in the tub (duh).
4. Light aromatherapy candles. Choose lavender to relieve stress and sandalwood to relax.
5. Turn on the water and adjust the temperature to your liking (I like it HOT).
6. Pour bubble bath into the running water.
7. Allow the bathtub to fill with water and suds.
8. Turn off the water when the tub has filled. Replenish hot water as needed (which you will have to do if you stay in there until your skin pickles, like I do).
9. Slowly enter the bath water, feet first (you don't want to bump your head).
10. Breathe deeply and relax.

Try putting on a little background music to help you relax. I usually listen to classical music or smooth jazz.

You can also add essential oils directly to the bath to keep your skin soft.

It helps to have a little "tub pillow" that rests on the back of the tub so you can literally take a nap if you want.

Don't forget your friends Ben and Jerry. (A bottle of Cabernet isn't too bad either!)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Meet My Dog Taz

He’s a bad, bad dog. Oh, don’t be fooled by that cute little teddy bear face and those innocent black eyes. He’s a devil.

You see, Taz is a “special” dog. He is very sensitive. He gets really upset when his mommy has to go to work. So, he eats the house – the baseboards, the sheetrock, and the door frames. Taz’s vet prescribed a form of doggy antidepressant for him. It didn’t really help. We had him neutered, but that didn’t help either.

Taz likes to run around in tight circles until he cracks his head on the coffee table. He likes to jump off the end of the deck and bark at birds and squirrels. He’s deathly afraid of cats. Taz loves to climb on furniture like a goat. He eats things that were not meant to be eaten such as sticks, plastic, and wood. Taz does NOT like for anyone to touch his tail, and if you put a leash on him, he freezes as though he is paralyzed and will not move a muscle, until you remove the leash.

Still, you gotta love him. Who could resist a face like that?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Vine That Ate the South

Can you find the house in the photo? Having trouble? It is easy to spot if you are from the South. Believe it or not, there is a house underneath all that Kudzu vine.

Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the 100th birthday of the U.S. The Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners who used the plant for ornamental purposes.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control across the Southeast. Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu through the Civilian Conservation Corps. Then in 1953, the U.S. government stopped advocating the use of kudzu, because they began to realize how invasive it was, not to mention almost impossible to kill!

The climate of the Southeastern U.S. is perfect for kudzu. The vines grow as much as a foot per day during summer months, climbing trees, power poles, and anything else they contact. Under ideal conditions kudzu vines can grow sixty feet each year!


Bored yet? Ok, I know. This was a lame post. I can't be brilliantly entertaining EVERY day. :)

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Walk in the Woods

When I was growing up, every weekend (weather permitting) my mother would take her children for “a walk” – all six of us. She would drive us out to the middle of nowhere, park the car and off we would go. Sometimes it was obvious that we were trespassing (because of the “no trespassing” signs) but my mom, determined to get us out in nature, ignored the obvious.

Often we would walk so deep in to the wilderness, that I wondered how we would ever find our way back. But we always did. And almost every time, there was something incredible waiting for us in those cool, primeval places – a waterfall, a cave, a hidden clearing, a field of flowers, or a secret, glassy lake. My mom seemed to have a special knack for finding natural treasures.

But the real purpose of these walks (which were really hikes) was to learn about the plants and trees and animals that we would see along the way.

My mother could identify every tree, every flower, every creature. She would show us how to tell the oak from the birch, the maple from the elm. She would point out the ferns and wildflowers, mushrooms and moss. She would show us where to look for arrowheads and fossils. She would reveal to us the differences in the rocks and minerals. My mother could always find the wild fruit as well – blackberries, blueberries, persimmons, scupanines and muscadines (large, wild grapes that are most delicious).

I remember how quiet the woods were. Sometimes we would hear the rushing creek, or the wind in the trees, or a Mocking Bird upset by our presence.

What my mother’s walks did for us was to connect us to nature in a real and endearing way, and to illustrate the beauty of the circle of life. To this day, I would rather be deep in a forest, than anywhere else on earth.

The naturalist John Muir wrote:

"Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Hate Clowns

I have a serious clown phobia. The technical term for this is coulrophobia. I’m not talking about just disliking them. When I say phobia, I mean, I hate clowns. I don’t know exactly when the true phobia began. I never liked clowns as a kid, but something happened to me around 18 years old, and the dislike, turned in to terror.

Maybe it was Stephen King’s book, IT, which featured a demonic clown who lived in the sewer system and ate little children. Or, maybe it was the clown doll in the movie Poltergeist, which hid under the bed and attacked a little boy. Or, maybe it’s just the fact that they’re creepy…with their painted on smiles and white faces.

Whatever the cause, they make my skin crawl. They scare the woohoo out of me. Evidently, I’m not the only person who suffers such distress.

Check out www.ihateclowns.com and see for yourself!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Green Mansions

I first read W.H.Hudson’s book Green Mansions (originally published in 1959) when I was in college. I recently reread it and remembered why it is one of my favorite books. The language is exquisite - not a quick read, for it is full of descriptions and details. It’s the only book I have ever read that literally makes me sob – that’s how good it is!

Amazon.com Book Description:
“Modern classic tells the compelling story of Rima, a strange birdlike girl of the jungle, and Abel, the European who falls in love with her. The book owes much of its popularity to the mystic, near-religious feeling that pervades the story and the beauty of Rima’s halting, poetic expressions. The author’s knowledge and understanding of nature, the jungle and grasslands lend special authenticity to this captivating fantasy.”

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Be patient with the writing, it’s worth the concentration. This book would be appealing to anyone with an interest in nature, for it is not only a wonderful love story, but also a vivid description of the Venezuelan rain forest and its indigenous people.

If you don’t want to buy it, read it online at:


Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Woman Dreaming

Work. That is pretty much all I do. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes wonder what it would be like if I had the choice to live differently - if I could “thrive” and not just survive.

In my dream of thriving, I have lots of time to spend with family and friends. I have time for long-lost hobbies, and time to start new ones, like hula-dancing.

In this alternate reality, I am in excellent physical condition. I stay in shape because I have several hours every day to work out, and I'm not stuck eating airport food. I take yoga classes and drink green tea. I go to concerts. I read, read, read. I am a wine connoisseur. I volunteer. I travel for pleasure, not business. I write. I slowly enjoy a large cup of coffee each morning as I watch the sun rise. I paint. I live somewhere because I want to – not because my job is there. I don’t feel guilty about taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon.....

(please don’t wake me, I am enjoying this…..)

....Oh well, better get back to work. In my reality, there is college tuition to pay, the mortgage, and all the other blah blah blah yukky yukks of life.

Still, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Love Letters

Have you ever received a love letter? I don’t mean the electronic kind. Or even one typed on a computer and printed out. I mean a real honest-to-goodness hand written love letter.

Back in the old days (25 years ago) before we had all the electronic gizmos we have now, people took the time to sit down and write letters.

My mom still sends me handwritten letters from time to time. But other than that, I can’t tell you the last time I received a handwritten letter. It must be hard times for the fine stationers of the world. I remember getting stationery every year for my birthday. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a box of stationery.

This all makes me a little sad. Electronic letters can't be kept in a drawer and looked at 40 years down the road. On the other hand, a hand written letter is a treasure. Seeing the words on the page in the writer's own handwriting makes the letter more meaningful. Long after a person is gone, his handwriting remains as confirmation of his existence and individuality.

Most women would agree, that a handwritten love letter is worth more than a room full of roses or a truck load of chocolate. But in the end, it is the sentiment behind the letter, even if it's electronic, that really matters. Words from the heart are dear no matter what format they're in.

The History Channel website has a great article about the history of Valentine’s Day. Interesting to know where all the madness came from.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Gulf Coast Remains Desperate

The media isn't spending much time in Mississippi these days. I guess the story of Hurricane Katrina has lost its commercial appeal. For the thousands of misplaced residents, and those involved in the cleanup efforts, the story is about as fresh and real as it gets.

One of my best friends just returned from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She was stunned at the amount of work left to do - about 40% of the homes in Ocean Springs were flooded. She spent four days there removing debris, pulling out sheetrock, and handing out water. There were several hundred volunteers there from all over the country. Each one contributing their time to make a difference.

The coordination of the volunteers is being managed by the Christus Victor Lutheran Church. It's a massive undertaking. There is still so much work that needs to be done. Volunteers are desperately needed. If you would like to volunteer a few days to help out, contact

"If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.” – Isaiah 58:10

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Just Another Day in Paradise

Winter came in a rush that year and covered Autumn in two feet of snow. The early blizzard caused delays at all the major airports along the east coast. Unfortunately for me, my flight was not just delayed, it was cancelled.

So, I sat.
I stared.
I crossed and uncrossed my legs.
I went through the gift shop twice and bought nothing.
I watched people.
I inspected my cuticles.
I doodled on my boarding pass.
I read a day-old USA Today.
I listened to my iPod.
I went through my carry-on looking for a snack.
I stretched.
I sighed.

Defeated, I gave in to my heavy eyelids, got as comfortable as possible, and fell asleep.

I began to dream...

of waterfalls and the scent of tropical flowers and the romance of wide, empty beaches....until

(the sound of a man snoring loudly...or was that me?)

Suddenly, I was back in the stale air of the airport terminal.

Old coffee cups.
Half-eaten hamburgers.
People who needed a bath.
Baby diapers.
Whiskey on the breath of the man sitting next to me.

I believe in hell. It's 24 hours in Terminal C.


The sea shells were tiny, butterfly shaped, pearly iridescence against the sand. The gentle waves left them on the beach, glistening in the sunlight. We walked along, searching for the shells that were unbroken, unbleached by the sun.

My daughter ran over to me, smiling and excited. She uncurled her fingers and revealed a perfect White Spindle seashell. You would have thought she had just discovered Atlantis. It was one of those moments that remain with you your entire life.

Even today, as I write this, I can still feel the sun on my back, the waves lapping at my feet, and the ocean breeze. I see the golden light of a perfect day. But most of all, I see my daughter's face glowing, happy, and full of the wonder of discovery.

Doing the Right Thing - Difficult for Some Companies

There's been a lot of media coverage lately about several of America's largest and oldest corporations being unable to continue to pay the pensions of their retirees. Pensions are truly a relic of the industrial age, created to protect loyal employees who had dedicated their life's work to a company. It was a way for employees to feel invested in their company. It paid to be loyal.

Most companies no longer have pensions. They have been replaced with a variety of other "retirement vehicles."

I find it odd, however, that one of the companies complaining the loudest about their inability to pay retirees, is spending billions of dollars on televison advertising. While watching the Olympics yesterday, I was stunned at the number of ads this company was running.

Today, most employees participate in 401(k) plans. This can be a great way to save for retirement, unless you work for a company like Enron, or WorldCom, or any of the other companies that overinflated profits and robbed their employees of their futures.

Shame. Shame on the executives who build $30 million vacation homes while their retirees are forced to return to work because their 401(k) plans are worthless.

Shame on the automobile industry for claiming they can't afford to pay out pensions, while spending billions of dollars on advertising.

Unplug Me

I travel for work, so I spend a lot of time in airports. The past few years, I've noticed how many people are "connected" while traveling. We have our cell phone, our PDA, our laptop. We have voice mail, text-messaging, instant messaging, and email. All are connected to work, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year.

This means no "down time" - no respite from work. I'm not saying it's all bad. I agree that there are times when it is important to be available. But what I do not like, are those "technology junkies" who are answering their phones in inappropriate places. Like restaurants. Churches. Theaters. Funeral services.

Yes, I have experienced them all. I recently attended a wedding in a beautiful old church in North Carolina. During the ceremony, four different cell phones rang. Two of the phones had ring tones that were "gangster rap" songs. Nice touch to a sacred ceremony. One of the ringing phones belonged to a groomsman.

Why is it that we feel compelled to be connected all the time? Is it because it makes us feel needed? Important? Are we afraid we're going to miss something? Is it because our boss might think we aren't as dedicated as the employees who are always available (even on vacation)?

And when was the last time any of us took a "vacation"...I mean a REAL vacation. No phones, no TV, no computer, no alarm clock. There is a new trend in vacation travel called "office detox". These places offer a place to truly remove yourself from the world of work.

One such place is Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys (
www.littlepalmisland.com). Thatched-roofed individual bungelows offer the ultimate escape from the stresses of our over-connected, mutitasking lives.

Think about it...a whole week, with no phone calls, emails or faxes. Could you do it? If you don't think you could, then you definitely need detoxing.

Our need to be connected, has gotten a little crazy. We should all find a hammock somewhere and take a long nap. Leave the cell phone. Daydream. Unplug ourselves. And let our minds and souls take a vacation, along with our bodies.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

No Straight Lines

In nature, a straight line is a rare thing. If it occurs, it is an anomaly. Organic objects are made of curves and bends and angles and lumps and bumps. The beauty of the natural world, is that all these imperfections, combine to create true beauty, and individuality. No two trees are exactly alike.

Artists rarely paint in straight lines. From the mind's eye, to the hand, to the brush, to the paint, to the canvas. The beautiful imperfections of the human soul are born. The physical expression of the emotion of the painter at the very moment of creation, is captured. Art is feeling. Art is mood. Art is human. Art is poetry.

"A good painter has two main objects to paint, man and the intention of his soul. The former is easy, the latter hard as he has to represent it by the attitude and movement of the limbs." -Leonardo da Vinci
Art is often misunderstood. It is ridiculed and devalued. Our society places great emphasis on perfection. As a result, our children are growing up in a world of eating disorders, plastic surgery, and superficiality. Art can teach children how to focus on the beauty in our imperfections. It can teach them how to appreciate the natural world.
"I am unable to make any distinction between the feeling I get from life and the way I translate that feeling into painting." Henri Matisse
Art is the physical expression of human emotion. It is the perfect expression of our imperfections, and the beauty of a world with very few straight lines.