Happy New Year

In just a little over a day, depending on when and where you're reading this, we can kiss ol' 2008 goodbye. The year will get tucked safely into the anals of history, and like most things historical, forgotten. Hey, don't let the screen door hit you!

But, I'm perplexed. Why does one year end and a new one start dead in the middle of the coldest, yuckiest time of the year? If you've ever been to New England during December and January, you'd know what I was talking about.

I don't much understand the fascination with traveling to New York City to celebrate New Year's Eve either. You get a much better view of the ball dropping from the comfort and warmth of your own living room if you just watch it on TV! Why would you want to stand outside in the freezing cold for hours in a crowd of thousands all waiting for that split second in time that marks the change of years? It's sure not likely you'd find a public restroom if you needed it.

Wouldn't it be so much more enjoyable if the new year started on, say, April 1? You'd have April Fool's Day and New Year wrapped into one with the perfect excuse to be the idiot you'll become when you drink too much anyway. At least it would be a bit warmer, and that means you'd drink more.

Better yet would be if the New Year fell on July 4. Yeah. We could celebrate our freedom from one heck of a nasty year. And, we'd drink even more due to the heat-induced thirst.

I'd even settle for a time of year when both the northern and southern hemispheres had nice weather. That would be OK with me. Just not in the dead of winter during the coldest, rottenest time of year.

Whoever decided the new year starts on January 1 really blew it. It doesn't make any sense to me. What was the excuse for it? I'd like it to be in the spring when the gray starts turning green and everything looks new again.

Then again, it just might not be such a bad idea after all. Lately, it appears as though everyone needs a pick-me-up and a major change to feel hopeful again. January 1 is a good time of year for that, and not a minute too soon. Just leave the blues in 2008. That'll work.

Happy New Year!


The World is Ending

What would you say if I told you that the world is going to end? It seems logical to me: If it begins, it must end. You know, it's like a "what goes up, must come down" sort of thing.

Let me put a different spin on it. What would you say if I told you that the world as we know it is going to end?

Firstly, I insist that you forget about saying things like, "oh well," "it's God's will," or "life's a bitch and then you die." That's a cop out, and you know it. That's passive-resistance, and that just doesn't cut it. It's not an option.

Secondly, I insist that you forget about looking elsewhere, looking for someone else to give you the answer, or at the very least, to give you a hint. This is something that only you can answer for you.

The world as we know it is coming to an end. It's happening right now.

While you're thinking about that, consider this: Darwin may have hit the nail on the head with his "survival of the fittest" theory when it comes to the various life forms sharing this Earth with us, but that theory does not apply to humanity. Why? I'll answer with another question: What good would it do to eliminate everyone else so that you could live? People are social. We need and want others around us so that we can survive. We also need and want all the Earth's life forms too. Nothing survives without everything else. It's a finite, closed system.

If your house was burning down around you while you slept, or a raging bear was coming at you, you'd want and need someone to step up and help you out. Both of you would survive the situation, but one alone wouldn't.

'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' This isn't something that applies only to the things you shouldn't do, but the things that you should. Proactively. When you see a house burning down or a bear hell-bent to kill, you step up to the plate and do what needs doing. You see, if the person in the house or at the receiving end of that bear's wrath dies, you end up alone, all by your lonesome, and far less likely to survive much longer as a result. Unless everyone survives, you don't either.

The sticking point is that if you help others only so you survive, it won't work. This can't be a selfish thing.

The cool point about it all is that it is instinctual to help others. If you weren't a thinking animal, you'd be helping without a second thought, immediately, without reserve, without qualm. You would be inherently selfless and altruistic.

Yes, the world as we know it is ending. Will you remain the same, or will you become true to your nature and survive?


Holiday Wishes

There are times when I love so much that it hurts to breathe. More often are the times I want to give that love, to sing it out, to shout it out. Christmas seems like the perfect time to give it all, to release the pent up love without constraint, to bring a smile to a worry-creased brow and a light to a dulled and tired eye.

But, retreat is what I do. It's a melancholic, pensive sadness that I feel as I experience the various emotions that others unknowingly radiate and project. Too often, what touches me is far more instances of loneliness, sorrow and fear than joy and happiness. It's a heavy weight, and I retreat further so that what I feel doesn't add to what others may feel.

There are many alone in their loneliness. The elderly, the single, the orphaned, the bereaved. The lines are long at food banks and for free meals. Cupboards are bare and homes colder, teeth chatter and stomachs growl. Hope is thinning. Hope for tomorrow may be all that's left.

My retreat is temporary. It's not right to deny giving, sharing, being there for others. No bright colored wrapping, no bows or glitter; just me. All of me.

There is a peaceful calm that comes from returning naked to the true nature of giving. May you share your love in the same way.

Welcome home.

*Image: "Maitreya 2" by Nicholas Roerich.


I'm Going as Fast as I Can!

I've got my little advertising card running on four blogs right now. How did I do that? Well, I know how; I just click that little green button with the check mark on it as I visit blogs and like what I see. I just don't pay attention to the calendar and actually plan when ads run, fool that I am. Now I have an overflowing Inbox and way too many good things to read!

Thanks to Jean's Musings, who is lamenting the loss of time to blog what with all the Christmas stuff going on;  Uncommon Photographers, who is also lamenting, but this time it's because he's now looking at snow instead of bikini beaches; Functional Shmunctional, who put me on the floor right away with "'Tis the season to lose reason! Fa-la-la La-la la-la La La Pass the drinks and screw the season! Fa-la-la La-la la-la La La;" and the All Arkie Army, who is trumpetting on about a new football coach. Yes, thanks for my very flat ass today!

Did I tell you I like these blogs? Yes, I do. They are great. I do my best to visit them every day to see what they are up to.

Well, these days, I do very little fast. About the only time I can remotely be accused of going fast is when Mother Nature is screaming while I'm driving home. (There's a roll of toilet paper with my name on it! Get there now!) Needless to say, I don't even try to visit 300 blogs a day. Um, not in this lifetime. I get caught up in reading, leaving comments, enjoying the photos and forget that I'm supposed to be doing this quickly. Nah, it wouldn't be fun that way.

I about fell off my chair once again when I ran into a Crotchety Old Man ranting about blogs with so many ads and widgets that no one cares about only to find very little else there (I'm being kinder than he was, heh). Let me add to that those huge snow flakes that fall and crash my browser at most or prevent the Entrecard widget from responding at best. And, that's when I lose my focus altogether and completely forget about getting to all the blogs that visited me today.

So, yep, I started dropping last night at 11 p.m. when the day rolled over to the new one, and yep, I'm still sitting here at 6:30 p.m. today. I'll be here until the day rolls over to a new one too. Hey, you can't accuse me of blowing your pagerank!

Thanks for stopping by today and for visiting some my favorite blogs that brought you here. Take a second or two to notice that the widgets I have here are ones that promote people who read and leave comments and widgets that link to my favorite blogs. Visit some of those blogs and the one on my E widget if you're also not worried about dropping cards and running off. You'll enjoy them all!

Time to take a break and let my cheeks return to their natural form a bit. I'll be back in a little while.

7:45 p.m. - I just had to laugh once again! I was just on a blog reading away when I looked over at the sidebar to see "Click my fish tank." No way! It didn't look like fish - it looked like swimming sperm! No thank you!


First Lady of Star Trek

Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away on December 18. Her son is quoted at Roddenberry.com: "My mother truly acknowledged and appreciated the fact that Star Trek fans played a vital role in keeping the Roddenberry dream alive for the past 42 years. It was her love for the fans, and their love in return, that kept her going for so long after my father passed away." - Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, Jr.

Star Trek was one of those shows that had me glued to the TV every week as a child. I'd lay on my belly on the floor right in front of the TV, chin in my hands, trying my best to peer through the snow because the station didn't quite come in all the way. I idolized Spock, made my fingers do the Vulcan "V" and worked to make my left eyebrow go up when I found something "fascinating." I idolized the logic in the character, and imitating it gave my very emotional, sensitive, creative brain an anchor. I still watch reruns of any of the Star Trek shows, and of the original series, I've seen each episode, oh, about 25 times, if not more.

Majel Barrett played the sickbay nurse, and she suited the part well. She did her job. I never knew until many years later that she was the wife of Gene Roddenberry. When she played Deanna Troi's mother on ST:TNG, she expanded her acting and let loose a bit of eccentricity. The small parts that she played always stood out.

The Roddenberrys took us 'where no man has gone before' and it will be awhile before we catch up to them. They kept our eyes ahead and on the future.


It's That Time of Year

Oh, the joys of Christmas shopping. It's bumper-car shopping carts, bruised ankles, endless lines and everyone's bad breath. It's hoping upon hope that there will be one left on the shelf by the time you get there and spending way more because there wasn't and you had to come up with a Plan B so no one would be disappointed. Once the fight for the last one on the shelf is over, you head to wait in line, a very long line that is even slower because someone decides to argue about the price the register rang up.

OK, so you knew how bad the stores would be. You've been there before. It's just that lately, you've been feeling a little 'off.' You wear a smile, but it's not what you're feeling inside. You don't want to bake and cook and wrap or go visiting, come up with a dish for the office party, fill out a pile of Christmas cards... There's a cup of hot cocoa and a comforter with your name on it, and you plan to shut off the phone too.
SAD: What it is and What to Do 
On top of all this, you are worried about a close friend who seems to be struggling through the holiday bustle worse than you.  What do you do?  What can you do?
How to Help Someone Who is Depressed 
Just how much help would you be to someone who is depressed when you feel stressed out and close to depressions yourself? What if you can't help because you're stressing yourself out?
How to Keep Stress Positive
Too Much Stress
Well, that's all fine and dandy. You feel a little better now, but you wonder just how long it will last. Tomorrow is another day with a long list of things to do, and you know the stress will mount again.
Life is Loudly Knocking: How to Open the Door
There, that should do it.  That cup of cocoa and that warm comforter will be just the thing at the end of the day. Everything's wrapped and under the tree, the baking is done, and the guests will arrive in the morning. It will be fun. It will be relaxing.


Iced In!

This is the view from my front window. Arkansas was blasted with ice across most of the state last night. Yes, that's ice on the driveway, not snow!

It's so cold! The furnace has been running non stop for hours now, and even though I have on two pairs of sweats, a heavy sweater under a sweatshirt and, heaven forbid, socks on my feet, I'm still cold. I don't like wearing socks, but I like cold feet even less.

Odin crunches on the ice when he walks by my window, his mane a mass of ice strands. He's made a few runs around the pasture, bucking and rearing and running like his pants were on fire. Awesome sight to see. The two little dogs, who have never seen ice or snow before, tip toed quite awhile before trusting what they were walking on, then romped around as usual. The two older dogs went out and came right back in; too cold for them to want to be out.

And me, I just watch from the door or window, not even sure I could layer any more on to stay warm enough to be outside. The schools are closed and just about everything else too, and the only vehicles I've seen go by are kids on ATVs.

I had to drive in that ice last night, and hope I don't have to tonight. But, you know I will if I have to cover a story. Right now, I don't think I'd trade my four-wheel drive truck for anything!

I could use more milk for hot chocolate. I was resisting it, but now I think it's time to just hole up and hibernate. I'll get more milk when it warms up again. Brrrr...


Think for Yourself Already!

For the umpteen-millionth time, the world is going to end. So says Leeland Freeborn, known as the Parowan Prophet in Utah.

Freeborn predicts that major riots will prevent Obama from taking office. The old Soviet guard will take advantage of the disturbances and launch nuclear missiles, killing over 100 million people in the US.

The nuclear destruction will be the "Lord's wrath."

Here, my dear readers, is where I blow a ballistic gasket.

I'm not talking about the prophecy. I'm talking about the "Lord's wrath" statement.

Why? Because this is the sort of irrational, illogical conclusion that results from swallowing whole someone else's interpretation of God. This is the same dogmatic, literal, dead-letter interpretation of religion that resulted in planes crashing into the World Trade Center and Pentagon!

You can fill libraries with prophecies that have come true and many more that didn't. Prophesies are only warnings of would 'could' happen. You can take the gamble and ignore them and hope external factors won't fall into place, or you can proactively intervene. Even hearing a prophecy could be enough to divert the prediction. In the end, a prophecy is no different than any other forecast, outlook or projection. Would you call a weatherman a prophet?

My impatience, indignation and ire comes from a lifetime of witnessing people proclaiming "God's wrath," "a vengeful God" and even "a forgiving God" instead of placing the responsibility where it belongs: with themselves.

Look within, confront your gigantic leaps of faith and find the answers to your questions, because you will have questions as soon as you start to think. No one can define God for you. You have to do it yourself. Do it!


Random Burning Questions of Mine

There have been a few burning questions running through my brain of late. They're the kind of questions that, you know, you wish you had someone to ask about. Oh, don't worry. I'm way past the "birds and the bees" kinda questions. You're safe.

Here goes. My latest gadget is an iPhone. I love the thing! Question #1 is how ever did I get along without it? It has everything I need for what I do. Email, text messaging, Web access, synced calendar and contacts, mapping/GPS... I use the iPhone to set an alarm instead of my alarm clock because it's easier. Question #2 is why do they think everyone who buys an iPhone monitors stocks? I sure don't, and for those that do play the stock market and own an iPhone, I can almost bet they've thrown the thing a few times already.

Staying on the techie side of things for just a minute more, I have to ponder this one. I use an aircard on AT&T's EDGE network to access the Internet, the fastest connection I can get out here in the middle of nowhere. Question #3 is why in the world should wind affect the connection stability? I'll throw it out the window if it disconnects me one more time!

Now, please don't shoot me for asking the next question. I really want to know, and am certainly not trying to be insensitive. Question #4 is what is Pinoy/Pinay, and why are some certified and what exactly does that mean? And Bisdak? What is that?

This one is political. Question #5 is how in the world can the government so blatantly ignore the people by going ahead with bailouts of both the financial and the auto industries? The power of the whole capitalist economy lies in the hands of the consumer. If the economy would be shored up, wouldn't it be logical to protect the masses that purchase instead of the idiots that squander the people's money? I just don't understand this. If there is logic in all this, I sure can't see it.

Another piece of logic is slipping through the cracks too. Question #6 is how many people in the US own a computer and are Internet connected? If it's not everyone, 100% across the board, then any flack about switching print media to online delivery is moot. That's one thing that everyone needs to get into their heads and fast.

Shifting gears yet again is, I think, my last question. Question #7 is what do you think about nostalgia? Do you look back at days gone by and feel better or worse about things now?

Answer any one of my random, burning questions, or all of them if you've a mind to. Help me broaden my understanding of things, ok?


A Cure for Swiss Cheese for Brains

Swiss cheese for brains. Yep. It had been getting bad lately, more so than usual. I could lose my train of thought in the middle of a sentence. It made writing a bit ...interesting... and time consuming. Somewhere along the way, someone must've hit my head with scatter shot to turn my brain into Swiss cheese like that.

I finally remembered - at the right place and at the right time - that I was having difficulty with my memory. No, it's more than that. It's concentration and focus too. Yep, I was in Walmart in the Pharmacy department, standing there immobile for I don't know how long, when it clicked. Vitamins! It worked before, so I'd better grab some now and fast ...before I forget again.

Just think about what it's like for a minute. Close your eyes and picture yourself standing in the shower... Wait! Don't close your eyes. You won't be able to read if you close your eyes. Um, picture yourself standing the shower and doing nothing because you can't remember where in your routine you are. Do I soap next? Did I shampoo yet? I even forget that I'm in a hurry and need to take a quick shower, not a long and relaxing one. Driving had become rather interesting too. Heh.

I really need to get some of the good vitamins, the real things, not this Walmart generic excuse for a nutritional supplement. I'm already frightened about buying generic since I found out they are imported and not regulated by the FDA. But, the bank account balance rules, no matter how much I might need the good stuff. So I grabbed a bottle of the One Daily Enhances Memory version of Equate.

I popped one of those horse pills just as soon as I got home. A half hour later, wow. I was zinging along like someone laced my drink with funny stuff. My typing speed increased. I wrote whole sentences at once. Even the next morning's shower happened quick like it was supposed to. What the heck is in this stuff? What happened to all the fluffy wool that's been covering my eyes for so long?

Like, for instance, the sliding glass door had been a bear to open. It became so difficult to wrangle with that the handle broke off. I had bought a can of WD-40 months ago and forgot why I needed it by the time I made it home. I finally remembered and sprayed the door's tracks. That puppy slides with a finger tip now. Duh.

I can see so much better now too, and that's pretty handy. My eyes felt like they were carved out of stone for the longest time. Night before last, I was driving back roads, and I got to thinking I'd better be really careful. I drove slower than usual, remembered to keep my focus on the road, and thought I had made it without incident. About a mile from home, a deer jumped out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes with both feet, locked up the anti-lock brakes and managed to not hit that deer. Prior to the vitamins, my vision and reaction time would've been down, and that deer would be toast.

I have round hay bales for the winter, and they are on the highest point of my flat land, down the driveway a bit. The last time Tim and I moved one into the pasture for the horse, we pushed it; and though the things are round, 1,000 pounds of hay doesn't roll easy enough for it not to be a major undertaking. I had to move the truck out of the way to move a round bale, and sitting there behind the wheel, it hit me. Why not push the round bale with the truck? The only thing Tim could say was, "How stupid." He said the same thing after I sprayed the door tracks too. How stupid indeed. That big ol' bale just, nice and neat, rolled right into place. Duh.

It's so good to have my mind back! Oh how I missed my brain! Now, keep your fingers crossed for me that all the pills in my bottle of cheap vitamins actually contain vitamins. Heh.

Quick Tip: Use Name/URL When Commenting

One of the best ways to increase your page rank, which in turn increases your search standing, is increasing the number of links back to your blog. The best way to easily do that is by commenting on other blogs.

But, Blogger makes that a little difficult to do. The default templates are "nofollow" and if you leave a comment, the default is a link back to your profile instead of your blog.

I followed Blogger Buster's tutorial on getting rid of the "nofollow" parts of the templates on both of my blogs to allow 'linklove' for everyone that chooses to comment. It's easy to do.

How to do it. When you leave a comment on my blogs and any other Blogger blog, choose the "Name/URL" option instead of accepting the default Google ID. The name you leave will be what shows up as the linked text. The URL you leave is the address to your blog, and it needs to be a complete URL. You have to include the "http://" part of it. For instance, this blog's complete address/URL is http://bumpypath.blogspot.com, and that is what I enter whenever I leave comments on other blogs.

The other thing I've done is add a Top Commenters widget. The most frequent commenters during the last 30 days will show on the list and it also includes a link back to the address you used to sign your comments. If you use the default Google ID, it will only link back to your profile and not your blog.

So, go ahead and take advantage of all the linklove/backlink opportunities and use the Name/URL option when leaving comments on Blogger blogs!

Hope this helps.


Doing What You Love Isn't Work

The oft heard thread during the Industrial Revolution declared that innovation and technological advancement would free up time for everybody. The ideal was a three day work week with leisure time dedicated to learning and creativity. Humanity would evolve and grow beyond the mundane. No one would starve, everyone would have what they needed to survive... Ah, utopia. The dream was possible, just not probable.

Perhaps the disappointment surrounding the loss of such an idealistic future led to work as a drudgery, a discouragement, a necessary evil, or at the least, a mind-numbing daily experience. That it's attached to a paycheck and the only means of survival seals the deal. Work is a four-letter word. Work sucks.

When idle hands are an idle mind didn't work, the next bit of wisdom opined that doing what you love isn't work. The motivational intent dwindles during a mind-numbing education and responsibility shrinks under repetitive, isolated tasks. People become as inanimate as mop handles and staplers. Potential is neutralized.

The simple act of identifying this sinkhole frees you from it. How's that? Creativity. Anything that you do can be done creatively. Even looking for the creativity in a mundane task is creative.

Meaning, satisfaction, potential, possibility, responsibility replace the mundane with life. Light the fire and be creative.


Lighting the Night

This has always been a tough time of the year for me, and melancholy prevails. Yet, there is no denying the splendor of a 60,000 strand illumination (above) of a college campus, or the fun and funny lighting of a park on a town's Main St. (below).
Someone said today that his faith in humanity and people was restored after witnessing help and time and work given from so many people to help one family. I documented that story, and that gentleman was correct. Though we are always hearing of the bad, there is as much, if not more, good happening, and it's all around us. While the neighbor on the corner decorates his home, he offers the beauty to everyone that passes by, and every "wow" is a moment of relief, pleasure, and joy at the sight. The good is there. We just have to choose to see it.

I'm determined. This year, I will not burrow down deep to huddle in my little life with the blankets over my head. Like on Thanksgiving, I will be available to the paper to document the events of giving that happens around here.That will be my contribution.

I will not let this holiday season be a tough one.


Arkansas' Fallen Heroes

After visiting two holiday events last night, what took my breath away was not all the splendor and cheer of beautiful Christmas lights, but this sobering sight. It is called "Arkansas' Fallen Heroes" memorial, and it travels throughout the state. It commemorates the soldiers from Arkansas that gave the ultimate sacrifice for me and my country during Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are about 100 flags in this display of thanks, and a reminder to all as the Christmas lights shine through in the background, to remember these soldiers and their families today, tomorrow and always.


We're in the Homestretch Now

November was such a tumultuous month that I'm glad we all get to sit back and enjoy the crazy holiday preparation season now. I can say that since I don't shop. Heh.

November was so intense with the election of not everybody's desired candidate, the recession-maybe-depression-maybe not economic fluctuations, the government bailout of the idiots that caused it saturating the national headlines so totally that things locally spiraled almost as much, which had an impact on the stories I covered for the newspaper. Talk about getting caught up in it all!

The things I wrote about here reflect that vortex of chaos, but you have to read between the lines and consider where my newspaper stories have led me to figure out the "why" behind what I wrote. Witnessing how adroitly politicians backstab is one of those that drove me to write about duality.

In an attempt to break away from it all, I took the opportunity to write about breaking a colt that hit three birds with one stone: a meme, another warning about the dangers of following TV cowboys, and a safe way to live through a colt's first ride.

I read quite a few blogs, as do you, so with my already lowered tolerance for chaos, I wrote about the common mistakes in English that I see way too often. I think it goes along with my sudden ... discomfort, shall we say ... about growing old. Time marches on, so no sense in kicking that particular dog yet.

I told you about a few great finds in new blogs. One is English Conversation Online, which I learned about right after writing about English mistakes. It's written by Mike over at My Thai Friend. Not only does Mike talk about the English language, but fills it out quite a bit by talking about the experiences that go along with learning a new language. He's opened my eyes a few times already. Another new blog I'd like to point out is my friend Karen's at The Princess's Carriage. She owns a horse and carriage company here in Arkansas, and is getting her feet wet with blogging. I'd say she's done a good job so far!

As a member of the All Arkie Army, we've nominated and elected our first two rounds of honorary captains. I'm pleased to say that the friends I nominated at pamibe and Functional Shmunctional both got badges pinned into their chests. They are nicely done badges designed by The Hawg himself, the leader of our little Army of bloggers. Congratulations again, Pam and Grandy, you've both earned the captainship because of your fantastic, top-notch blogs!

Thanks to the bloggers that dropped here 31 times this month: My Thai Friend, Symphony of Love, Technically Easy and Turnip of Power! You're the best of the best, and I read you every day! Turnip, thanks for your help this month. You're great!

Oh, one last thing. I finally found a Blogger template that I really like for eyebald and made the change two days ago. The theme is made by DJ Yano over at Online-Quest, a fellow Entrecarder. Hats off to you, DJ for the super fast response and help with the embedded contact form! I had tried other themes, had problems and the authors didn't bother to respond to distressed pleas for help. I'm no dummy when it comes to diving into the code behind the template, but the things I want to accomplish are sometimes beyond my HTML/CSS knowledge. When I learn XML, I'll be doing my own templates. Um, that won't be any time soon. Therefore, I recommend DJ highly for not only his great templates, but for his willingness to stand behind his work.

One more month and the year will be over. Time marches on. I suppose that means it's time to start thinking about New Year's resolutions. December always seems to fly by, so grab onto your hats with both hands!

Cold Feet

Even though it's questionable what was on the end of his nose, Jiggers was sure a cute puppy. From the get-go, when he looked at me, the intelligence just poured out of him. He's very aware and vigilant.

Do you see that stuff on the ground? OK, I admit, the very first flakes falling to collect on whatever they fall on is one of those things that I love to see ... as long as it's gone the next day. In upstate NY, in an area known as "the armpit of America," the last winter I was there, it started snowing in October and kept snowing until April, and the snow never melted during that winter.

Since I grew up there, snow was just another one of those things that came with life. I had it down: Leggings under jeans, thermal socks in insulated riding boots, t-shirt under sweater under sweatshirt under jacket, two pairs of gloves and a scarf around my neck if I remembered it. All this took about 10 minutes to put on, just to go out to feed the horse. First the nose would freeze, sometimes freezing nose hairs together, then the feet would follow. Heading back into the house, I'd look at my watch only to see that I had been outside 10 minutes. And I thought I had it down. The bitch of it is, once my feet get cold, they won't warm up again until the spring. I'm never truly warm when my feet are cold, and it makes me truly bitchy.

That's the reason why I took the plunge, packed everything up and moved south. Arkansas is where the dart landed on the map, and I haven't looked back. It looks the same here with the rolling hills and how green it gets in the summer. Much of the flora and fauna is the same. It gets hotter in the summer, but not by a whole lot. The weather itself is just far more pleasant than it ever was in NY. Lots more sun; sometimes too much sun, if that's possible. The best thing is that the summer lasts from the end of March all the way up to December.

For the most part, the only cold month has been January. There are times when it's difficult to decide what to wear for the day. It may be cold in the morning, but it could be in the 60s by lunch. You could have the car heater on going to work, and the air conditioning on for the drive home. Hey, I'm not complaining! It beats having cold feet for half a year!

But, this year is starting out differently. Sure, it's December and it should be cold this time of year. My NY blood tells me that it's expected. Only, I'm in Arkansas now, and it's not supposed to be this cold. I'm sitting here with a tank top under a sweatshirt under another sweatshirt on! I haven't had socks on my feet in over two years and would rather not go digging through everything to try to find any. Even though it hasn't snowed at all for the last three years, I saw a few flakes last night. Brrr.

Jiggers isn't so fond of the cold anymore either. He will go outside long enough to do his business, then he's waiting at the door to go back inside. I'm right behind you, Jigs.

Right now, my feet are cold and I'm getting bitchy. Sorry, Odin. Your breakfast is postponed until it warms up!


Dreams of the Future?

Horrified, absolutely astounded, I imagined my chin on my chest and my eyebrows lost in my hairline as I watched the 'designer' come toward me with a corset and girdle in hand. The night before, I sang my heart out on stage, and having dressed myself then, I'd enjoy my sudden success dressing myself again. Oh, but that was not to be. Yelling my distaste and disgust with words heard only in truckstops and roadhouses, I turned and ran out the nearest door. Don't they understand that a voice comes from uncompressed lungs and a diaphragm free and unrestricted? Calming down, I headed back, determined to explain, only to find myself blocked on all sides. I was pointed to a celebrity entrance that took riding a strange elevator made of an old truck on a mechanic's lift. They brushed my hair smooth, caked on makeup and stuffed my body into that torturous corset. Looking in the mirror, I saw bulges pouring out of the thing in every direction...

And that's when I woke up. Another dream that didn't fade fast as usual. It was the horror of why 'they' would insist that my voice be as restricted as possible when I finally reached the point in my singing career that could be called success. What does it mean?

I've been thinking about what it could mean since waking up. Well, 'thinking' is a relative term this morning; the startled wake-up of the nasty dream bringing on a good and mean headache. What ran through my mind was the memory of spinal surgery to remove a ruptured disk in my low back. Afterward, while still quite hunched over, they fitted me with a corset-like thing with three 2" flat metal trusses running up the back. Even if I wanted to straighten up, I couldn't while wearing that thing. I never wore it. Was this dream just a weird way of remembering all that?

Then, I thought maybe this dream has something to do with the future more than anything else. Maybe it's telling me not to become so restrictive with myself that I squeeze the creativity out of me. I have been taking off with writing, photography, web design and blogging and enjoying a moderate amount of success. Should I keep my eye out for approaching corsets? Or maybe it's a warning not to let others put the squeeze on me and not to submit to anyone who tries.

There may be something to this 'future' thing. Scanning this morning's headlines, I see that Wired has particularly prophetic topics such as "Truck Stops of the Future" and "Wall Street 2013" and "Products to Help Us Forget 2008." Yes, it's a tech magazine and usually forward looking, but not usually this much. Have they picked up on the same thought stream as I have with all these way-in-the-future articles?

Could it be time to rethink our beliefs? Is the future crashing down around us? Is it time to reexamine our priorities?

What have your dreams been lately?


Thanksgiving Dinner

Out and about today, visiting the three places around town offering a free Thanksgiving dinner, I met some really nice people. At my first stop, a church, I found this little girl, concentrating so hard on doing a good job dishing out macaroni and cheese. She's 7 years old.

My next stop was a volunteer fire department out in the country. The firefighters wanted only a photo of the Women's Auxiliary, though the women didn't take long to let me know that the firefighters themselves did most of the cooking. They fixed me a plate of "finger food" to go, wouldn't let me turn it down, and I had the best ham and turkey I've ever had driving to my third stop.

My last stop was a popular coffee house in the middle of downtown. I suppose many coffee houses are like this one, but I hadn't seen once since leaving NY. The place was huge and had rock climbing and miniature golf right inside. The owner made me up the best frappuccino I've ever had.

Rumor has it that the food pantries ran out of food days ago. Yet, even though there were no strings attached to any of these free Thanksgiving dinners offered today, none of the three places were busy. At the church, there were five tables of people eating. At the fire station, only a few people were there, and they were mostly family. The coffee house had no one at all while I was there.

I don't know why that would be. The only thing I could figure was that most people, needing a good meal or not, have this pride thing going on that stops them. I can relate - I suffer the same foolish pride.

I hope everyone enjoyed the day! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish you and your family a happy, peaceful, joyous Thanksgiving!

I enjoy this particular holiday the most. It seems to be more about the day off of work to enjoy incredibly good food with friends and family nowadays than reenacting the day the pilgrims sat down with the Indians at the beginning of our country's history. That is a good thing, I think. Let the day evolve into one with meaning for today instead of doing it just because everyone else is.

And, there is meaning everywhere. The other day, my friend Karen told me that I always look for the positive in people, whereas she tends to look for the negatives in self defense. Discussing this, she learned that just because I dig for the positives doesn't mean that I don't see the negatives, and the reverse was true for her too. She may be on guard about the negatives, but she sees the positives.

This has come more obvious as I continue to write as a reporter for the local newspaper. I report what I see. What it takes for me to do this is a conscious effort to quiet my emotions. Quiet them, but not ignore them or let my emotions taint what I am seeing. When I write it all out is when I see the ramifications of what was said or what happened - not only for the people directly involved, but everyone. It's quite the experience to see such a vast amount of potential, every day and every time I am sent out on assignment.

I've watched politicians behave and say one thing while in a formal meeting, only to behave and say the very opposite once the formal meeting was adjourned. I've seen politicians blatantly brown their noses to promote their own interests, and others so selflessly concerned with their community that nothing could be more important to them. I watched one mother and her four children receive a brand new home because her rental had sewage problems, and another mother with four children and a husband in Iraq struggle to get a home back together after a fire burned everything that family had. I watched as WWII veterans came alive from their wheelchairs as other tireless veterans came to celebrate their service to their country.

I'm heading out today to visit three places in this small Arkansas town that are serving Thanksgiving dinner for free. One is a church, one a fire station, and one is a popular coffee house. Armed with my camera and notepad, I'll hear people's stories from both the giving and receiving side of things. I'll watch it all unfold and capture a few moments with my camera.

I'll celebrate with them, thankful that the day provides the reason to give, the greatest gift by far.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Black Friday Without the Blues

I've never been one for shopping, and it seems wise to avoid gift cards this year. So, what I'll be doing instead is doing all my shopping online. The problem with this is knowing where the good deals and sales are. Luckily for me, my favorite place to shop is Amazon, and they've set up some good sales.

Amazon has set up a Black Friday page with all of their deals, including the Gold Box hourly deals. Thousands of products will be on sale, but for only a limited time.

There's an end of year promotion going on too called Amazon Customers Vote. It's a year-end promotion that allows you to vote on the product you'd like to buy at an amazing discount. It begins Thursday, Nov. 27 and ends on Dec. 4.

A lot of bloggers have been sharing their great deals and bargains, and this is my contribution. I hope it helps!

Happy Shopping!


Meme: 6 of 6

Pamibe found a meme called 6 of 6. What you do is open up My Computer, click on the 6th folder of pictures, and then on the 6th picture, post what you get. When I did, I couldn't resist. I took this photo on March 28, right after I bought my camera and not long after Hiro and Saki arrived. They are almost a year old now and adult sized, but they are still just as cute and lovable as they were when babies.


Duality Will Blindside You

Ah, the pretty plastic horse for females, the pretty naked girl for the males. Throw in a mystical background, a fan to blow the girl's fake extended hair, add in fancy lettering and the effect is complete. The eye is drawn in by the Bacardi Rum ad feel only to be smacked upside the head with the actual message: horse-drawn carriages are cruel. Good ol' PETA, with plans to release this ad on Nov. 20, is up to its old tricks once again. It seems like it's more important to shock people than it is to tell the truth. Their arguments are as fake as their advertising campaigns.

The truth is, hooking a horse up to a carriage and giving rides in any downtown metro area is far from cruel. NY City has so many rules, regulations and constant inspections of horse-drawn carriage services that it would be impossible for any cruelty to happen. A horse is sent back to the stable if it breaks a sweat. A horse will sweat while grazing out in pasture!

Any argument for or against anything that is based only on emotion instead of facts is faulty, misleading, irrelevant and imposing at best, but is most likely extremism in all its glory. The duality, the totally misleading imagery, the exclusion of actual facts, the hypocrisy and the very obvious shove-it-down-your-throat tactics are just plain sickening.

If PETA was the only one using this insulting and demeaning method of operating, it wouldn't work. Advertising psychology discovered long ago that the best way to influence people is to play on emotions. That's where people are weakest and most vulnerable to persuasion. The last year has been filled with emotional arguments minus facts with the presidential campaign and that's exactly the way the majority  elected the next head honcho. It was too easy to do -- the majority had no clue about any of the facts, and therefore couldn't decide on anything beyond the emotional rants and raves. Split the objective away from the subjective and the battle is won with divide and conquer. It works every time.

Duality will blindside you in thousands of less obvious ways. Look at the man pleasant and agreeable, and not a minute later changing his tone and tune when talking with a different person. Look at the teenager trusting her boyfriend only to be date raped. Look at the x-rays of the ribs of a wife constantly beaten by the man she married. The used car salesmen, the big box chain stores, the company that steals hard earned pensions by firing a month before retirement, the government that goes to war to protect business interests under the guise of humanitarian efforts...

The best defense - observation, objectivity and intelligence. Use the same tactics to your benefit by splitting the objective from the subjective; set aside the feeling and use the thinking.


New Blog: English Conversation Online

As you could probably tell from my post, How to Put it There Too, I'm a stickler for good writing. I view putting what I write online on my blogs to be the same as publishing my articles in the newspaper. With the newspaper articles, I have my editor's eyes to catch errors that might slip by me, and I cringe when I see an error that snuck past us both. As much of a stickler as I am, there are more than a few people in America that can't read or write English at all, and even more than can't read or write well.

Yes, English is a very difficult language to learn. There are many people who visit my blogs that use English as a second language, and many of the blogs I visit are written in English by people in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and more. I am honored that you choose to learn to communicate with me using my language, and I commend you for taking on such a daunting task. I am grateful for the opportunity you give me to learn more about you and your cultures.

And now there is a blog dedicated to helping you overcome some of the struggles in learning English as a second language. Mike has a lot more insight into the things that an American might not understand due more to cultural differences than language since he is an 'expat' living in Thailand. His recent project is a blog called "English Conversation Online" and it is off to a good start. He talks about everything you need to ease your efforts to learn English from having a high-speed Internet connection to choosing the right English teacher.

For those of us wishing to learn more about how it is for a Westerner to live in another country, I recommend Mike's "My Thai Friend." Mike writes about day-to-day life living in Thailand and shares his revelations, trials and tribulations as he runs into things that would have never crossed his mind living in England. His photography is stunning, the scenery is breathtaking, and he illustrates the Thai culture beautifully.

Both of Mike's blogs are thoughtful, thought-provoking and insightful. His approach to living in Thailand and learning the culture there is open and honest. I recommend that you add these blogs to your daily reading list. Mike will take you along with him as he learns, stumbles, falls and succeeds to live happily in Thailand.


Irksome Aging

Obeying all the rules, I'll drive through town at the speed limit, seatbelt on, use my turn signals and all the other things you're supposed to do, including paying attention. Ain't it inevitable that at least one driver will decide to turn into a side street right in front of me. Slam on the brakes, bury the nose of the truck into the ground, watch my camera and notepad slide off the passenger seat and onto the floor along with my travel cup that was in the cup holder, hoping that the lid will choose to stay on. More than a few choice words go along with the rearrangement of the inside of my truck that is now soggy. Age has not tempered my tongue a bit.

How about the ones going about 30 mph down the ramp to merge into traffic going at least 70 mph on the freeway? There are times when I wonder how much longer I can go without having to buy Depends just to drive down to the city! First chance I get, I'll zoom on by thinking I won't beep or flash a finger since that would only give some old fart a heart attack, and I'm well past and far ahead by the time it registers in my mind that it was some young fart that I could've stuck my tongue out at anyway.

I once said that the worst irksome thing was "the public expulsion of gastrointestinal bubbles." I try not to mention that often nowadays, especially since I'm as guilty as the next person of said malady when walking through the aisles at Wal-Mart. It's worse if someone pulled out in front of me on the way there too. There are just some graceless things that come along with the aging process. A-hem.

I met an interesting character today. A fellow newspaper man, much older than me, and twice as 'out there' without a doubt. I call him a 'character' because that's all I could think while listening to him talk about having 6 different papers that all go to press on Thursdays and how he has three guitars over in his van right now do I want to see and how he used to play with some band that I was supposed to know the name of. My way of thinking is that you just don't walk up to any man's van. Uh, no, not today. I have a headache. At least that part of things haven't changed much. It's just particularly gross at my age.

I won't mention the memory thing that goes along with all this. I also won't mention that the reason I won't mention it is because I can't remember what I was going to say about this memory thing. Can't help you there. I can forget what I was going to say right in the middle of a sentence nowadays. It makes for interesting conversations. That saved the character I met today from my usual "oh, that's bull" response that he would've gotten a few years ago. I forgot to say it.

That's what happens sometimes when it comes to writing, especially when it comes to blogging. For the last four days, I had this great idea for my next post. It was gnawing at me to get it down and out there. Today, when I finally have the time to write it, I can't remember what it was that I wanted to write!

So, sorry folks. You're stuck reading about how irksome it is for me to grow old. Er. Old-er. Older.

Oh, I almost forgot. I chose an eye chart today because I remembered having my eyes examined for new glasses one year. The doc told me that in Florida, if you can identify a two foot high letter "E" from 7 feet away, you see well enough to drive there. Remind me when I forget not to drive in Florida, ok?


How to Put it There Too

Last month, I wrote about How to Make Your Content Attractive and Effective. That covered everything from font choice, text alignment, white space and the all-important Content is King. The bottom line is to present your writing in the best possible way for easy online reading, the opposite of which drives your visitors away from your blog or web site.

The point has been made several times and several different ways that the most important thing is to watch your English!  No, it's no fun, I know; but if you want to be taken seriously in your writing, then take your writing seriously. The harsh reality is that many readers are like me, and once I see three mistakes in one post, it's not likely I'll ever read another post on your blog again.

Common mistakes I see are Internets and informations. This one is easy - there are no such things! There is one Internet. It is a proper name and therefore capitalized, and by its very own nature - a vast web of connected computers that cover the world - there can be only one. It is always, just the Internet. You can have bits and pieces of information, information being the global term meaning you have a lot of bits and pieces that all constitute information. Both words are singular and can only be singular because they encompass a large grouping or class of something.

The two mistakes I see most often have to do with the misuse of there/their/they're and to/too/two. These are best explained by using them in sentences:
I want you to put that over there. It fits best there. There is a place.

Their hands were cold. If it wasn't for their breathing, they wouldn't be heard. Their is more than one person's thing, meaning it is plural and possessive.

They're going away tomorrow. They're thinking about holding their breath. They're is a contraction of two words - "they are." Again, "they" is plural, more than one.

I am going to work. In order to do it the right way, you have to learn English. The word "to" is best thought of as a direction.

You're going to work too? Add that one with them too. In this usage, "too" means the same thing as "also."

There are too many of them. You've gone too far. Used this way, "too" means many or more than is necessary or expected.

There are two of them. This is the number 2.
A trick to tricking yourself into checking what you've written is to read out loud, starting with the last sentence, then work your way backwards through your piece. This dupes your eye into seeing, truly seeing what you've written instead of what your eye expects to see. Keep in mind, when it comes to spell checks, they will not catch the words spelled correctly but used wrongly.

Happy blogging!


A Big Presentation

All the years that I taught college courses, I never once had an audience this size. There were 800 people there, all seats were taken, and everyone enjoyed the extensive desert bar the presenters had set up. The cheesecake wasn't bad! Looking at all those people, the only thing I could think was that I was glad the building was metal with no chance of fire. And, I'm glad it wasn't raining. Why were all these people here, you ask? Well, money. That's pretty much it.


To Our Soldiers, Thank You

I had a conversation with a mother who's only son was stationed in Iraq. She told me her son's story and experiences with a great deal of fear, but even more pride. As a Mobilization Deployment Assistant with the US Army Reserve, I learned of courage, will, strength, commitment and dedication that I had never imagined existed.

Basic training for all ground forces is the same, whether it be for regular Army, the Army Reserve or the National Guard. Once given their weapon, it never leaves their side, and they are combat ready when basic training is complete. No matter what their role is, they are soldiers first.

For that part of the story, for this mother's son, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Her son's unit deployed, checked in and geared up in Kuwait, then went into Iraq to relieve a unit that was coming home. At his permanent station, this solider was ordered to be the gunner on a high ranking officer's jeep. On his second mission, he was ordered to shoot and he killed three Iraqis. This 19 year old soldier immediately began to suffer severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, yet fought orders to be sent home so that he could stay with his unit for the duration of his assigned deployment. He was treated, stabilized and rejoined his unit as he requested.

Another mother told me her son's story. Her son was assigned to a transport unit, and while on one of his last missions, though he had learned quickly how to drive to avoid them, the truck he was driving ran over a land mine he didn't see. He sustained several shrapnel wounds to an arm and his torso, and one piece of shrapnel went into an eye. He refused to be taken to a hospital and was treated in the field, and only agreed to medical treatment when his unit completed the mission. He said that he would not allow anyone else in his unit to put themselves at risk to drive his truck to the destination point.

A soldier's wife with two small children told me that her husband signed on for another tour, to remain in Iraq for another year. Though she wanted her husband home, missed him very much, she knew he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he came home. He had told her that the kind, gentle, giving Iraqi people needed so much more that he couldn't bring himself to leave with so much work to be done yet.

More than a few of the demobilized soldiers I talked with said the same thing. They wanted to go back, so much more had to be done. It's the insurgents that are the bad guys, not the Iraqi people, and all those people would be at a great risk if the US soldiers left. The insurgents would retaliate and kill anyone known to have associated with American soldiers.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a US Army Reserve Colonel that is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February, 2009. I asked him what he felt were the reasons why people joined the military, knowing they would be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. He said that most soldiers want to do what is right. They want to serve their country and stand up for what our country represents.  Very close to retirement, he himself was thankful for the opportunity to deploy again, to do what is right, to serve his country.

I wish to say to every soldier, for all you do for our country and for me, thank you.

Taking Nominations Now!

We are having so much fun over at the All Arkie Army! You've got to see some of the stuff my fellow Arkansans have come up with lately. Ooo boy, I love heated discussions, and the Arkie Army has them. Lots of them.

One of the things we do on a regular basis is nominate our favorite blogs to award them a grand token of our appreciation for the insightfulness, insights, insighted humor and foresights. We throw them into the hat, and then vote, and out goes the awards to our favorite blogs.

The time is close to stick our hand in that hat, so get your nominations in so we can send out our appreciation and thanks to these fantastic blogs. Just do it!

UPDATE: The Arkie Army's award of Honorary Captain goes to pamibe and Dad - the Dude! Congratulations!


Book Tag - Imagination in a Colt's First Ride

Deanna Castro of Improving Communication Between Horse and Rider book tagged me!

Here's the rules:
  1. Grab the nearest HORSE book.
  2. Open the book to page 56.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the next two to five sentences.
  5. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book or the intellectual one. Pick the Closest.
  6. Tag five people to do the same.

I have to admit, in the mountain of books by my bed, which is the closest, there are all sorts of books on the Ancient Wisdom, a few Carl Jung books, other psychology books, all of the Harry Potter books, more than a few Stephen King books, Piers Anthony, Anne Rice, Douglas Adams, and the user manuals to my camera and cell phone. So, I had to dig for a horse book, of which there are three in the pile.

The first one I got my hands on without knocking over a tall stack was Curt Pate's "Ranch Horsemanship," but on page 56 was a full page photo.  Nice photo.  Same thing on page 156, thinking I could bend the rules just a little, but there was another full page photo. Dangnabbit.

The second book I laid my hands on was Pat Parelli's "Natural Horsemanship" (1993) and I still have to bend the rules just a little for the passage to make sense. I'm starting with the 4th sentence instead of the 5th.
Children, on the other hand, use their imaginations vividly in most everything they do. Usually, humans are regarded as children until they are about 12. After that, they turn into teenagers, at which time they succumb more and more to peer pressure.  That is where I believe imagination ends and rules, regulations, and doing what everybody else does begins.

Out of all the key ingredients in Natural Horse-Man-Ship -- attitude, knowledge, tools, techniques, time and imagination -- the two most complex to grasp are attitude and imagination.
I've read this book more than a few times. Parelli has, I think, a Bachelor Degree in psychology, and describes basic behavior modification techniques to use with horses, and rudimentary rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) concepts to use to come around to a workable mindset when learning about horses. This book is logical, realistic and safe in what he suggests. The most important point of the entire book is that it is about training the human to communicate with the horse, and it is not a horse training book. It is also the only Pat Parelli I would consider recommending to anyone.

The photo is my friend's daughter, Cody, and it was taken not long after she got up on Tick, the first time he's ever had anyone on his back. The horse's head and ears never budged. Neither did the rest of his body. With absolutely no reaction at all, there's no way to tell for sure whether the horse is accepting or so freaked out that he's ready to explode.

What Cody had to do was get some sort of sign which way that horse's mind was going, and that took imagination. Notice that her left hand has a pretty good grip on the front of the saddle. That hand stayed put the entire time she was on Tick. Usually, meaning not when she's leaning off the side like this, if a horse starts acting up, she'll reach behind her with her right hand and grab the back of the saddle too. Not many horses have been able to launch her off with that kind of hanging on. She had flapped her arms prior to this photo, flapped her legs, wiggled all around, and leaning off Tick's side was the last thing she did. The horse never moved. He never moved either when she tried to get him to walk. He was stuck.

There was still no way to tell whether Tick was going to buck, and if he did buck, just how hard. Cody doesn't weigh 100 pounds soaking wet, but on a horse his size, it's still enough weight to challenge his sense of balance and security. That he was stuck was a pretty good indication that he did not know how to move with weight on his back. Though Cody was leaning off one side, notice that the saddle is still straight, and that's a good indicator that she is actually still balanced and not pulling the horse off balance. She moved into that position slowly, and that gave Tick the time to lean slightly away so that both of them remained balanced.

I don't think it ever occurred to this horse that, even though all the other horses on the farm were often ridden, he would be also.  The first time I was ever on my horse when he turned two years old, it was like he knew it would happen, his head went down and he relaxed to the point where he just walked right off. Tick was stuck, and Cody's clucks and smooches and then nudges meant nothing to him. Finally, Cody pulled his head to one side until he had no choice but to move a front leg, which he finally did.

If the horse was going to blow, right then would've been the golden moment for it to happen. Instead, he stopped again. Another pull to the side, another front leg step and Cody built on that until he was walking a few steps before stopping again. Cody then taught him that if he moves when she squeezes her legs, she won't slap his rump, which she found startled him to walk off. Once he was moving off her leg easily, she asked for a trot in the same way. If he trotted when she squeezed, she wouldn't slap his rump.

The whole session was about 25 to 30 minutes. Tick didn't break a sweat, he was calm throughout and not confused at all. It was a good learning session. She'll ride him a few more times, then give him the winter off. Next spring is when more time will be spent with him, when he's closer to three and more physically able to handle riding.


Several people have landed here searching for information about "a colt's first ride," and this should help some. Keep in mind that the basic ground work and sacking out were pretty solid with this horse before Cody got up on him. There's a lot of info out there with all the steps included; just be sure that you are comfortable with that info and feel safe at all times. Many of these "TV cowboys" play to the camera and forget that others may not be physically able to do the same things that they can.  Showoffs.

For the book tag, the only two horse blogs I know of on Entrecard have already been hit by this book tag! I won't ask them to rinse and repeat. So, what I'd like to do is change it from HORSE book to any ANIMAL book you might have.

I know of two people that just might have a book on dogs or cats hanging around:  Pam of pamibe and Grandy of Functional Shmunctional. Tag, you're it!

If anyone else would like to pick up this tag, feel free to grab it and run!  Leave a comment here with a link to your post so we can all enjoy it.


Where's That Fat Lady When You Need Her?

That's what I keep asking myself. I'm waiting for the fat lady to sing! It ain't over until then, right? I really don't think my nerves could handle watching the election coverage on TV. I think, within an hour, I'd be screaming obscenities at the screen.

A strange thing happened today. This morning when I woke up and checked this blog, the embedded comment form wasn't working. It wouldn't show the options to choose which way you want to sign the comment. The frustrating thing is that you could spend the time typing in your comment, press submit and not a thing would happen. Has anyone else had that problem?

I visited a 4th grade class today. It had been a long time since I walked through the doors of an elementary school, and it surprised me again how low the drinking fountains were hung on the wall. But, kids grow fast. There were 6th graders taller than I am. What a jump in two years! What in the world is in the drinking water?

I asked the 4th graders, "Why do we vote?" One boy said, "We vote when we get sick of our leader."

Ah-yup, that works for me. I wonder if we can vote again tomorrow.


Where to Look


Stop thinking.

Look out the window.

Feel what you see.

That is where to look for calm, comfort, solace, peace and balance.

Repeat as necessary.


Fall Back to November

Today's fiery sunset was a perfect adios to daylight saving time. That's a big hint for me to get back on a more normal sleep schedule so that I can be awake for the fewer hours of sunshine. I'd say the month of October was another big hint to make some changes too. Sigh.

With no further ado, let me thank October's top droppers:
I've found that Blogger's "Follow This Blog" comes in pretty handy when I want to quickly see if any of my favorite blogs have posted since I last visited. I've also added the option to Follow This Blog in the middle sidebar.

Speaking of sidebars... I've rearranged my sidebars a bit. Now, the center column is all "social" stuff like EC, the latest droppers, my list of favorite blogs and links. The far right column is all the stuff related to finding what you're looking for on A Bumpy Path. I hope these changes make it easier for you.

In an effort to keep the download time of this blog as low as possible, I have been using the article snippit with a link to the full post. Some people seem to dislike that and won't bother to click to read. (I have to work on writing better headlines!) What I've started to do is show the full latest post, only changing it to a snippit and link when I put up the next new post. That seems to be working very well for both you and I, so I will continue posting in this way.

Happy November!


Out of Fear Comes Hope

It happens to young as well as old, affluent as well as poor, educated or not, professional or blue collar, and it doesn't matter what color the skin. Domestic violence can happen to any woman at any time, and it is always  no fault of their own.

You are in an abusive relationship with your intimate partner if he gains and maintains control over you. His pattern of behaviors can include emotional, economical, psychological and physical abuse, and ebb and flow in what is known as the Cycle of Violence. In other words, if it happens once, it will happen again.

As with battered women, batterers can be from any social, economic, ethnic, professional, educational or religious group. They don't have criminal records, and are never violent or abusive to anyone other than their partner. He is a Jekyll and Hyde - he appears to be a perfect, loving partner and provider and an upstanding citizen. At home, he becomes manipulative, unpredictable, possessive, jealous, unrealistic, and controlling.

But that's not all. He may abuse in many ways, including:

Physical Abuse: Punching, shoving, slapping, biting, kicking, using a weapon against partner, throwing items, breaking items, pulling hair, restraining partner.

Emotional/Verbal Abuse: Putting partner down, calling names, criticizing, playing mind games, humiliating partner, making partner feel guilty.

Financial Dependency: Keeping partner from getting a job, getting partner fired from job, making partner ask for money or taking one's money, expecting partner to support them.

Social Isolation: Controlling who partner sees and talks to and where one goes, constantly checking up on partner (calling or following).

Sexual Abuse: Forcing partner to perform sexual acts which are uncomfortable to them, engaging in affairs, telling partner they asked for the abuse, telling partner what to wear, accusing partner of affairs, criticizing sexual performance, withholding affection.

Minimizing/Denying: Making light of abuse, saying abuse did not happen, saying the abuse was mutual, blaming partner for abuse.

Coercion/Threats/Intimidation: Making partner afraid by looks or gestures, destroying property, hurting pets, displaying weapons, threatening to leave, take children, or commit suicide.

Last year, 30 women died at the hands of their abusive partner in Arkansas. In my little county alone 120 to 140 used the battered women's shelter to escape their abusive relationships. What is it like in your state and in your immediate area? Help raise awareness of domestic violence and reach out to help.

If you or someone you know may be in an abusive relationship, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline site, or call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

There is help, and hope. It's not your fault, and no, you don't deserve it.


Murphy and I are Related

I swear, I don't blush anymore. Too old. I grew out of it years ago. But, I think I did last night, and I hope it was dark enough that no one saw.

I had to cover a story at sunset last night, on the back lawn area of the courthouse. (Yep, this is a photo of the courthouse in question, thanks to Wikipedia, of course.) It was a somber, candlelight commemoration ceremony and quite shaking in and of itself.

It was cold! As soon as the sun set, the temps dropped fast and hit the 30s with no problem. I had on a wool blazer that was more than warm enough when I left the house, so I was more than ready to get into my truck and crank the heat up.

And that's what I did. High idle didn't last long, so I backed out of my slant parking space, put the truck in drive and...  Stopped. That truck stopped right in the middle of the street that runs behind the courthouse, blocking both sides of the street's parked cars. The truck died like a UFO had flown over and brought everything electrical to a screeching halt. But, no UFO to blame it on. I knew what it was though, so I popped the hood and jumped out of that truck faster than I've moved in years and jiggled the usual battery cable that is usually the culprit when I turn the key and nothing happens.

I left the driver side door open to hear the dinging when I get the connection made. Ah, there it is. By the time I made it to the door to reach in to crank the ignition, it went off again. So, back to the front to jiggle the ground wire again. Nothing. Damn!  So, I jiggle some more and harder, wishing I could kick the thing, anything to get it to connect so that I could get out of there before anyone notices the poor, hapless reporter from the local newspaper wrestling with her dirty pickup truck.

"Do you need a jump?" A sweet little voice behind me tells me in no uncertain circumstances that I did not get out of the situation unnoticed. I turned around in embarrassment to find a very well dressed, middle aged woman standing in front of her very new Toyota Camry. "I have cables if you don't," she says to me.

"I have cables. I don't know if it will help, but I'll try, and thank you so much!" Talking like a NYer who's had way too many cappuccinos, the words flew out of me in a rush - as I ran around the side of the truck (to hide) to dig for my jumper cables.

"Do you know how to do this? I sure don't. Will it hurt my car to jump a truck?" Ah, if she only knew how many vehicles I've jumped in my lifetime. "Yes, I know how. No, it won't hurt your car." And I proceeded to hook things up like a pro.

Ah, the ding ding of the warning-door-is-open-with-keys-in-the-ignition comes on. I reach in, turn the key and click-click-click-click. Contact made, not enough power, and back to nada. I didn't think it would work.

So, over comes a police officer that was a part of the ceremony. He jiggles my connections, flashes his uber flashlight on everything, then declares that my alternator is dead. So, he and the minister (I'm sure my face was neon red by now) push my truck out of the middle of the street and back into a parking slot.

I thanked and thanked the woman who donated her car battery to the situation over and over. And now, the reality hits. I have a dead vehicle and home is a good 20 miles away in the country. The minister offered to take me home, and then another well dressed with a new car woman came up and offered a ride. I almost didn't get into her car, it was so clean. (I get the same feeling when faced with white carpeting.) I wouldn't let her drive my dirt road as I could see she was having trouble driving at night on the highway, and I told her I would walk my road home. I thanked her profusely. Woe is me, no moon.  But, it was nice to walk anyway.

So, this morning, my son and I get a ride to my truck from a friend. Toolbox in hand and ready for anything we were. It took just a bit more jiggling, no jumping whatsoever, a little tightening of the connectors and the puppy fires right up.

Not only will my name be known around town for the articles I put in the newspaper, but also the one who's truck died at the courthouse. Wonderful. Just call me Ms. Murphy.

Oh, now my toolbox is a permanent fixture in my truck. Hindsight is great!