Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Torture - Day 1

Right now I am not having warm fuzzy thoughts about my Pop. First thing he told me I had to do to train was ride my bike for an hour every other day. WHAT have I gotten myself into?

Good intentions, really. BS & I were all happy to make plans to ride when I got home from work tonight. Too bad. A big ol' thunderstorm had other ideas, so I had to content myself to ride the exercise bike whilst watching George Clooney's pretty face in a DVD (although it isn't so pretty in this view...

Normally it is much prettier.

After 10 minutes I was cursing my ancestors. After a half hour I felt my butt go numb. "Colorful metaphors" (5 points for the reference) rolled off my tongue like water. I creeped out BS by mentioning that perspiration was rolling down my crevasses. It's always fun to creep out your kids by mentioning your privates. The air immediately surrounding me was redolent with.... uh..... hard work and enthusiasm. I love doing this, really.

My instrument of torture. I need a better seat.

BS wanted to put in some time on the torture device as well, as he has his own reasons for wanting to buff up, but one minute later he quit and whined about the pedals being too small. Pansy.

I want some cake.

Bucket List #3 - Serendipity

This wasn't really on my list, but the coincidence of time & place was too much to resist.

I had noticed this little guy setting up shop next to my front door a couple days ago, but pretty much ignored him. He is quite a handsome fellow, though.

I have a deep-seated aversion to spiders since childhood. Best I can figure, it's because of the movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man. There was a scene in it where the main character, after shrinking to a couple inches tall, fights off a spider with a pin.

Scared the snot out of me when I was a kid, and I haven't liked spiders ever since. For years I used to have spider dreams where I would dream I was waking up to spiders hanging down from the ceiling into my face. GAAAAH! I have matured to the point now where I can pretty much ignore them, as long as they ignore me, and this one is a particularly big specimen.

But this afternoon we had a line of strong thunderstorms blow through, with torrential downpours. It was definitely a "rain event" (5 points for the reference. BS, you already know it). I got home from work as the storms were ending, and I noticed that the storm had ripped the web apart. Then I took out some trash and I noticed Mr Spider had begun to repair his home (or his kitchen, however you look at it). How often does it happen that you are in the right place at the right time to watch such a handsome fellow build a web. Truly one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. I stood there in the leftover drizzle watching this guy until the sun set & I couldn't see any more.

Tomorrow morning, I expect it to be back to its full glory - huge, and a little too close to the door that I have to go through for comfort. But hey, he's just as scared of me as I am of him, right? What a load of crap.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I want to remind all of you that I take a lot of time and trouble to research interesting, fun, and educational links for my postings. I expect you to read them. All of them.

Bucket List #2

The 'health' part of 'health & happiness'.

There is a bit of history to get out of the way here, so bear with me. I know it can be annoying. Over the last 10 years or so, a lot of things happened that I let get me down, so much so that the result was a stranger who was soft & squishy around the edges and weighed more than I ever had in my entire life. I didn't recognize her anymore. Not a good thing to do to yourself, but I don't do well when I am depressed and alone (BS was away at college).
This isn't really me, BTW, but the resemblance is striking, I think.

But last year - the 2007 calendar year - was, in many ways, a very good year. This was mostly because of a very special friendship that had the promise of blossoming into a very special romance. Throughout the year, I was reaping the benefits, walking a lot at work and at home, riding the stationary bike in the evening. I was careful of my diet, and I felt good, physically and mentally. Aside from a couple of rocky patches, which everyone has, I was happier than I had been in years. Then something very bad happened in December, and the promise collapsed. What did I do? Back to my bad habits, and all the good I had done for myself was quickly being undone, so I have decided to halt the decline, but what to do, what to do?

I. don't. run. In addition to being very hard on the joints, I haven't found a feminine undergarment/double-rock-sling-shot to control the inevitable bounce factor when I run. I don't want to see the girls peeking out from under my shirt hem in 10 years.

So, unless someone can point me to a bra that holds them up like a firm pair of hands (although that might feel pretty good), I don't run.

But I really like my walking shoes and my bicycle.

I need to pause and pass along another bit of information. I work in a facility that provides residential care & services to children & young adults with severe & profound disabilities. One of our boys, I'll call him the Kid, is very bright, but that bright mind is locked inside a highly non-functioning body. We have been doing some things with him to try and expand his horizons, including taking him on overnight trips. I wish I could link to the news stories about that, but they mention his name, and this blog is very public.

Suffice it to say, he has a lot of untapped potential. We did take him to hear Team Hoyt speak. For those of you who don't know about them, the son, Rick, is very much like the Kid, only 30 years older. He went to high school, graduated from college, has a job and his own apartment. Watch this video, or this one, and you will know why we wanted the Kid to be able to be inspired by their story. Then, if you really want to have a good weepy moment, watch this one. I still choke up when I see these.

Anyway, The Hoyt's staff arranged for Rick and the Kid to go off to a quiet corner of the building, with their caregivers in tow, to have some time to 'talk'. And talk they did, for about an hour, with a lot of translating in the process. The Kid is now motivated to work hard at his studies, and he wants to do some races as well. Our local chapter of Team Hoyt has started taking our kids out to some of the local shorter races, and the Kid will be pushed in one in October. I started thinking, after seeing these videos, of a way I could kill 2 birds with one stone by doing something for myself and the Kid both. My boss takes part in the annual MS Bike Ride up the Eastern Shore of VA, accessible from the south via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a wonder in of itself. The 150 mile overnight ride would be out of the question due to the Kid's's complex medical needs, but I told him that if I could whip my 5... uh... 39 year old flab in shape (humor me, okay), I think I could do the 60 mile ride dragging his butt in a trailer behind me. He is willing to risk it.

I have asked my father to help me train. He is well-qualified to do this, having done many things athletic, like triathalons, century bike rides, and lots of other races. He was also a track & field official at the 1986 Atlanta Paralympic Games, so he will know how to whip me into shape with me kicking and screaming all the way. And scream I will, trust me. You think I'm kidding?

I'll start tomorrow Daddy, really. No, honest, I will. I have to go to rehearsal tonight, really.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's only once a year, so for that one day, everyone deserves to have it be all about them, and Friday was mine. I had a nice cake and balloons at work, along with a very nice gift, then I left a little early to go to a movie with my mother. We saw Nights in Rodanthe, which was very good except for..... no no, not telling. It is fun to see a movie set in familiar places, as the Outer Banks are right next door to Virginia Beach.
After the movie, we met my brother & BS at a Virginia Beach landmark for dinner:

Steinhilber's has been there since 1939, and is still owned and operated by the same family. We like to give our pennies to locally owned businesses, and this one has excellent food.

My fried shrimp were enormous and served with a lovely remoulade sauce, and my brother said the prime rib is the best he has ever had. The transfer of tasty beef from the plate to his stomach via his taste buds is one of his favorite things, so I trust his opinion of anything culinarily related to the cow. Anyway, the restaurant is on the river, so the view out the back is lovely, even if it was getting dark. But dusk on a clear breezy evening is my favorite time of all. And on our way out, Mom gave me a WHOLE PAN OF BROWNIES to take home!!!!! Hot dog!

Then Saturday morning, I got up and drove down to the Outer Banks for a visit with my dad for more birthday fun. It is 72 miles from my front door to his. Not bad, and it is a very pretty and peaceful drive.

This is my very favorite scene on the way there. I keep wondering - is that what killed these people? Dirty Dick's is a local seafood company, and they just loooove their slogan. And their other one - 'if you haven't been there, you obviously don't know Dick'. Heh.

When I arrived, we walked across the street for the Kitty Hawk Heritage Day festivities.

This little clown did NOT look happy to be wearing her costume & face paint on a warm afternoon. Could not get the child to crack a single smile.

First thing we did was make a beeline for the food, and we found a vendor selling big ol' BBQ turkey legs. I don't want to think about the fat & calories in this thing. It was just too stinkin' good, as you can see because all that was left were the bare bones....

They had a really cool old old old fire engine...

Some dead animal carcasses (can't figure out why they were there. You couldn't buy them or anything).

Local school kiddies playing music....

These high schoolers formed a jazz band, and they were very good....

Grown men in funny looking clothes. No, really, they were from Fort Raleigh, the site of the Lost Colony....

And lots of green pond scum. You can see it around the fountain, but when not disturbed by moving water, it made for a solid green mat of algae over every damp surface....

When we had about as much fun as we could stand, we went back home to digest before dinner. My dad lives on the Currituck Sound, and he gets the most beautiful sunsets. On some days, anyway. Saturday wasn't one of them, but the views are still wonderful....

He says that when they moved into the house 20 years ago, the level of the sound was not that high, certainly not up the stairs. It has risen about a foot since he has lived there. OMG! It's GLOBAL WARMING and RISING SEA LEVELS, right there in his back yard!!! (If you look closely in that first link, there is a little story that says crop yields will increase with warming. Yay! Increased crop yields. The only bright spot amid all the doom and gloom. They even go so far as to say that there would be no more Mardi Gras in New Orleans. "Oh my gawd, it's a fuckin' nightmeah!" (5 points to whoever gets that obscure movie reference. I know Toughie & BS will get it) But I digress...

Anyway, Pop & I headed out for a very enjoyable evening. It started with dinner at the Flying Fish Cafe in Kill Devil Hills. The food was spectacularly good. Then to First Flight High School for an installment of the Outer Banks Forum, bring the performing arts to the isolated & unwashed masses of the barrier islands. This one featured the 1929 silent film version of Phantom of the Opera with Dorothy Papadakos at the organ. Sooooo cool - she basically improvised an entire soundtrack right there while watching the movie with all of us. The forum has done a fantastic job, and I wish them much success. Darn, I had a picture of her playing with her organ (snerk), but I can't find it.

Then we came home and watched football. It was close, but Virginia Tech beat Nebraska's big fat butts.
Go Hokies!

The next morning, we headed out for breakfast at probably my favorite restaurant on the Outer Banks - the Jolly Roger.

I think the reason it's my favorite is because we have been going there since we first started visiting the Outer Banks - about 30 years, so there are a lot of memories attached there.

After a little nap after breakfast, I had to go, since I had another stop to make before I went home. My internet friend Rosie Hawthorne (not her real name. I am Ticky, but that's another story) lives only about 10 miles from Dad, and I have visited her several times before. There is always a fun time to be had there. She is a fa-a-a-a-abulous cook (as is Mr Hawthorne), and she posted all about my visit and her preparations. They are truly beloved friends, and to think, we met online at this site, since we both love to watch the Food Network. Not everyone you meet online is a stalker, you know. Her posts about my visit have much better pictures, so I will encourage you to look at hers, however, I shall include a few....

She asked me ahead of time if I liked shrimp, and my response was "Shrimp are the food of the gods. So is Velveeta." We have an ongoing joke about Velveeta. So she made me some delicious Veleeta dip....

Next were homemade spring rolls. They look like big floppy phallus symbols. Probably why she made them for me, she knows how much I like my phallus symbols....

Hawthorne Doggie Dixie was very anxious for some tasty scraps....

I hope I see you again soon Hawthornes!! And I'll bring BS next time.

Some random scenes of NC before I go:

A box turtle we rescued from the road and placed ever-so-gently in the safe bushes.

These trees were still b-r-a-c-i-n-g for the storm. I don't think anyone told them the storm was over...

"And come again real soon!" New Yorkers got nuthin' on us.

And finally, the stained glass windows I made for Dad's house, many years ago....

Now I think I need a brownie for breakfast. See ya!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Technical Notes

These are really for my mom (any anyone else who may need them).

Technical note #1
: Mom, I don't know if you know this or not, but when you see words in the text that are a different color, that means that there is a link there. If you click (one left click only) on those colorful words, it will take you to something interesting, educational & fun to read. Let's try it now, shall we? Here is a link for you to click on (one left click only).
Was that fun?

Technical note #2
: if you click on any of the pictures (one left click only), it will magically enlarge for you. Then, because of the older version of Internet Explorer you are using (Microsoft is evil), you will have to go to the top left of your screen and click the back arrow to get back to the blog.

Technical note #3: if you want to read what I am posting, there is a way to 'subscribe' at the very bottom of the page. That will let you know when there is a new post to read. I have no idea how to do it., so maybe I need the technical assistance as well?

Bucket List #1 - Off-Season Surprises

When you live in a resort area, you often fail to appreciate the aspects of it that draw visitors from all over the country (people really pay to come here?!).

Virginia Beach bears the distinction of being the world's largest resort city, or at least that was one of its claims as recently as about 10 years ago. The city is very large, but most of it is not the resort area, but suburban residential, rural farmland, and WATER. Everywhere you go, water. Rivers, sounds, inlets, bays, harbors, swamps. You can't go down the stinkin' street without crossing water in one form or another. Crossing it both over & under. It's everywhere! I love that about here. And did you know that geographically, part of the Outer Banks lies in Virginia Beach? Yeah, yeah, really. See this picture and notice that the state line puts a bit of the barrier islands in Virginia Beach, in fact almost halfway up the east coast of the city. This link gives you a better view.
Take that, NC!

So, for the 1st item on my bucket list, I am going to explore some of the under-appreciated gems of my own city. I started this by accompanying BS, my niece & her husband down to the oceanfront on the bee-yoo-ti-ful last day of summer. The temps were in the 70's, there was a slight breeze blowing, the sun was shining, the sky was blue. Late September & early October is the very best time to go to the beach. The weather is perfect, and the mobs of tourists are gone.

Old joke - if it is tourist season, does that mean I can shoot them?

Here they are on the boardwalk, a misnomer if there ever was one, since it is not now nor was it ever made from boards. It is cement. When I see this picture, BS looks like a veritable giant next to his wee cousins.

We wandered up the 'boardwalk' for awhile and saw a few interesting sights you don't usually see during tourist season:

A steel-drum band playing for some outdoor diners. Well, they do have this kind of thing during tourist season, but they made a very pretty sound as we walked along, so I included them. In fact, during the summer, there are sidewalk musicians performing all up & down Atlantic Avenue - the main 'drag'.

The tail-end of a wedding on the beach.

You NEVER see this during tourist season. In fact, I've never seen this before on the beach at all. We saw a couple of riders off in the distance, but they were too far away for a picture. I wonder if someone follows along behind them with a jumbo pooper scooper and a baggie?

I have to give props to our mayor. When I moved here in 1970, the oceanfront was kinda seedy. Not a place you would want to wander around alone after sunset. But after Mayor Meyera came in office, the resort strip has gradually morphed into a very nice place to visit and quite lovely.

Most of the hotels have very nice landscaping on the oceanfront facing side. It goes like this: hotel - strip of grassy area - bike path - boardwalk - beach - ocean - Spain... oops, I went too far.

A picture of the bike path from last year. The ocean is to the right .

The cut-throughs from the beach to Atlantic Avenue are located every block, and most of them have been decorated with pretty stuff, like these hermit crab sculptures. Other blocks have such beachy things as fish, sea shells, beach balls, dolphins, etc. Nice.

A view of the boardwalk with giant King Neptune in the distance.

The Virginia Beach (Seatack) Lifesaving Station

The United States Life Saving Service, the precursor of the Coast Guard, has a long and noble history of guardanship over the treacherous waters of the Atlantic coast. The waters off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, in particular, are especially dangerous. Known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic", they have been the final resting place for many a ship. Even in Virginia, survivors of an early shipwreck created the lost town of Wash Woods using lumber which washed ashore. Bad weather eventually claimed the town. The fates of the other lifesaving stations of Virginia.

This is the Norwegian Lady, a memorial given to Virginia Beach by Norway after the heroic efforts of the Seatack Lifesaving crew on behalf of the ship "Dictator" after it foundered off the Virginia Beach coast in 1891. Its sister statue stands in Moss, Norway.

One of the newer things at the beach is a memorial to Naval Aviation. This part of Virginia is home to the largest Naval installation IN. THE. WORLD (thanks, in part, to the presence of Hampton Roads harbor). NAS Oceana, the Navy's East Coast Master Jet Base is in Virginia Beach. This memorial, I swear, wasn't here last year.

You can see the Norwegian Lady in the background.

Oh, and the beach is family friendly now too. They play muzak on Atlantic Avenue to calm the hoards and at 2:00 am (or is it 1:00 am?) the floodlights come on to discourage the scallywags from making mischief and bothering the slumbering (and well-paying) tourists...

The li'l cuties having one last pizza break at the front of the original Virginia Beach Post Office, and a lovely afternoon draws to a close...

Oh oh, ps - every year in October, Virginia Beach is the home to the North American Sand Sculpting Championship. These are from last year:

During construction

Finished sculpture

In conclusion, never take the gems of your own hometown for granted, and seize opportunities to explore & appreciate them.