Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hurricane Anniversaries, Keeping Watch

This time of year, if something is swirling in the Atlantic, you'll find me spending more time than is useful at Dr. Jeff Masters' blog at the weatherunderground site. Right now, there's not enough information and it's still too early to begin to wonder where hurricane Gaston might come ashore.  I know that--but it doesn't stop me from going to the site--there are plenty of commenters speculating and doing a bit of amateur forecasting.

This morning, I'm looking at the site while hearing about the historic floods in Louisiana.  I'm thinking of my newly installed solar panels--we're insured with both flood and wind insurance (at a hefty price, I might add), but the thought of claims and clean up makes me exhausted.

It's the time of year when my thoughts would turn to hurricanes, even if nothing was in the Atlantic.  We've had many damaging hurricanes in late August:  Andrew and Katrina come to mind.  For some reason, I've also been thinking of Hurricane Hugo, a September storm.  I was in grad school in Columbia, South Carolina when that storm barreled through the state.  I remember taking extra blankets to the civic center when a call went out that many had fled the Lowcountry with nothing and that the Red Cross needed help.

I realize that we've been spoiled down here in South Florida--our last hurricane, major or minor, was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.  I used to be more careful in the years just after that storm about buying perishables--I never bought more than we could eat in a week in those years.  I didn't keep the freezer stocked backed then.

This morning, I'm thinking of all the meat in the freezer--what was I thinking?  I know what I was thinking:  what a deal!  I wasn't thinking, could I eat all of this if the power was out for days?

I will be the first to admit that my freezer ponderings are premature.  The mountains of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) have shredded many a storm that had its sights on the U.S.  No need to board up the windows yet.

But perhaps a few more sandbags are in order . . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Saying Farewell to My First Quilt

Last week, I said farewell to the first quilt I ever made:

I made it in undergraduate school.  I wanted to make a quilt, but the thought of a traditional quilt, with a pattern, intimidated me. 

I remembered a project that I had seen in a woman's magazine years ago:  it called for making little pillows and sewing them all together.  So that's what I did.

I used scraps from my grandmother's sewing projects, and I bought remnants from Wal-Mart.  I used old clothes that seemed worth memorializing.  Below you'll see part of my Congaree Girl Scout camp shirt:

And my Newberry Indian (the student newspaper) shirt:

I used pillowcases too:

You may wonder why I threw away this quilt that I made in the mid-80's.  Well, it was stained and torn and would have taken lots of mending.  All the nubbing from the corduroy fabrics had worn away. 

Plus, it's heavy--I haven't used it once since we moved down here.  It takes up lots of storage space.

I joke that when I'm a little old lady with memory issues that I'll wonder when we had a bed by the pool--that's how the above picture appears to me.

I wonder what the garbage collectors thought--did they even notice it in the big garbage can?

It's been a good quilt--it kept me warm through my grad school years and my first 5 years in various drafty houses.  But sometimes, it's time to say good-bye.

As I was taking these pictures, I thought of the classic short story by Alice Walker, "Everyday Use."  I thought of the 2 sisters with their different approaches to quilting.  One sister, who can't be bothered to sew, sees the family quilts as heritage to be preserved.  The other sister and the mother see quilts as items to be used, as they can always make more when they wear out.

I thanked the quilt for its good service, and then we parted.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Seasonal Shifts

Today in public schools across Broward county in southeast Florida, students go back to class; the same is true for our huge community college.  In public schools, teachers have been reporting for duty to get ready for at least a week.

I work at several different colleges, so I have various schedules--still, there's something exciting about the first day of school, even if I don't have classes starting.

Yesterday my 10 year old nephew, who has one more week of summer, made a list of school supplies.  It's very different from what I remember, when we'd go to a store, buy some notebooks and folders and maybe a Trapper Keeper to keep it all organized.

I had hopes that everyone would be home or out shopping for school supplies--we had plans to go to   Monster Mini Golf--miniature golf played in the "dark" with glow in the dark features. There's also an arcade--come to find out, it, too, was in the purple light.

I liked the idea in theory, but found it a little overwhelming--lots of children, lots of glowing in the dark augmented by steam machines, purple lights, and noise.  There were only 18 holes, so we had to wait a bit for it to be our turn.

I liked the concept:  the Halloween-themed golf.  I'm in the mood for a change of seasons that won't be coming our way for awhile, so it was fun to see the decorations:  someone had great fun painting scenes on the walls and decorating the nooks and crannies around the course.

It reminded me of playing miniature golf at Myrtle Beach when I was a kid--there were barriers and interesting approaches to some of the holes.  I have vague memories of designing my own courses which, of course, were never built, although I always had plans for the back yard.

We had a good time, over all, and it gave us an indoor activity during an intensely hot day.  We came home to eat a bit of supper, watch the Sunday night animated shows on Fox, and one last dip in the pool.

Even though I say I'm ready for a seasonal shift, I'm still not quite ready for summer to end.  This morning, I'll take my sister and nephew to the airport, and then it will feel more real to me, even though the heat will continue, and we can get summer foods year round.  The shift away from summer will accelerate . . .

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Staycation All I Ever Wanted

We have done more than just take a trip to the water park with my sister and 10 year old nephew.  What else have we done?

--Lots and lots of pool time, which includes something for everyone:  games with a variety of balls and rules which may seem arbitrary, sunshine, drinks/snacks, and relaxation.

--We have grilled, a different meat for each day.  On the menu today:  grilled lamb and grilled flatbread and grilled peppers and not-grilled tzatziki sauce.

--Last night we went to see the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers play a soccer game with Ottawa.  It had the same appeal as watching minor league baseball, which I prefer to major league because there's actual action on the field.  It was their first night in their new stadium, which had rain protection but no AC.  It was fun, but we did leave early.

--We went to see the moon, orange and otherworldly as a moon should be, rise over the ocean.

--We made Doritos Loaded, a culinary specialty available at select 7-11 stores.  What is this specialty?  Cheese triangles, breaded in crushed Doritos, and fried.  It was both gross and appealing.

--We have watched the Olympics off and on.  Last night I got tired of hearing the swimmer pretend to take responsibility, while at the same time knowing there likely will be no penalty.  Really, dude?  How old are you?

--Despite the Olympic swimmer diversion, we've enjoyed watching these sports that we so rarely watch.

--We went to Jaxson's, a local ice cream establishment that also sells all sorts of candies not available elsewhere.  I got a huge sundae, my sister and spouse got fried stuff, and my nephew got a pizza that came with a kid-size sundae, except that he didn't want toppings, whipped cream or sprinkles. 

--It's been a great, relaxing time, the perfect staycation for us and vacation for my sister and nephew.  School starts tomorrow for us all, but let us not think of that--we still have one more day!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Flesh and Water: More Water Park Observations

Before we get too far away from our day at the water park, let me record some additional observations:

--I was amazed by what people tattooed on their bodies--so amazed that I wrote a whole post about it on my theology blog.  I saw Bible verses and other religious themes, like the man who had these words tattooed across his larger than usual stomach:  "Only God can judge me."  Was that about his body?  Just a reminder of whose judgment is important?

--Those of you who have seen me know that I am not a skinny woman.  But I was one of the thinner women at the water park on Thursday.  Not the thinnest, by any measure--there were still plenty of women who looked downright scrawny and teens who still had the benefit of youth on their side.  But the majority of park attendees were carrying at least 50 extra pounds on their bodies, and many of them carrying substantially more.

--I thought of the people in the wave pool.  We paid roughly $40 a ticket to be in a wave pool just a few miles away from the ocean, a free wave pool.

--Of course, most people weren't interested in the wave pool.  We were there for the thrills.

--Or were most people there hoping for a hook-up?  I noticed a few teenagers involved in deep kissing.  Granted, those lines could be long and boring--but there were children present.  Yes, I am officially old.  I was also profoundly uncomfortable being around so much exposed flesh.  Yes, I am officially very old.

--My very old self was pleased to be back in a land without cell phones--most people left them far away from all the water.  Did we all talk more?  Yes, I think we did.

--We spent the day surrounded by water, and I confess that at first I spent more time thinking about Physics than about water.  How could we be sure that we wouldn't get airborne and sail off the slide?  What actually happened in that vortex?  Could the raft really get that high?  How much did we all weigh and how should we space ourselves in the inner tube built for 4?

--Later in the day, I thought about all the water we sloshed through the park--how we moved it on our bodies, how it dripped off the rides only to evaporate, how it got cleaned and recycled.  I thought about third world citizens who would be amazed at this wealth of water, and I thought about how few of us really seemed to appreciate it.  I also thought about how thirsty I was as we trooped from slide to slide.  I didn't want to pay the hefty price for a park drink, and there were no water fountains for drinking.

Yesterday, we went to the beach, which was a much calmer scene:  fewer people, more space between us all, no lines.  I was also struck by the contrast between the natural beauty of the beach and the concrete wasteland of the water park--and as I write, I know it's too harsh.  At the beach, we were blown away by the ramshackle house of apartments that had been torn down to make room for a behemoth of a house.  At the water park, I was impressed by the technology that surrounded us, and there's a kind of beauty in that too.

The issue of sea level rise is never far from my mind--who would build such a house right next to the hungry ocean?  Will the water park make a great artificial reef when it becomes submerged?

I have no pithy way to end this post, no enduring insight, just lots of strands that may or may not be weaving themselves into something larger.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Outside of my Comfort Zone at a Water Park

One of our family vacations was a trip to Myrtle Beach, where we gathered with extended family in a ramshackle beach house which was unairconditioned, but with a front porch where we could watch the ocean.  Most of those houses have since been destroyed for condos and resorts, since the 1970's and early 80's when we vacationed there.

We usually had one activity a day:  mini-golf, a movie,  a water slide, and shopping for shark's teeth, taffy, and trinkets.  We'd often repeat an activity.  I always wanted to go to the water slide again.

Those were old-fashioned water slides:  a concrete slide with mats.  No tubes, no breathtaking drops, nothing to teach us about Physics.

Yesterday we went to a water park that had over 20 slides.  You could ride in mats, innertubes, rafts, or just your back, depending on the ride.  There was a lazy river, a wave pool, and a place for very little kids.

I worried that I might just have to stay in the lazy river all day, as most of the rides seemed a bit scary to me.  We started on the slides which reminded me of the Myrtle Beach days.  They weren't nearly as fun as I remembered.  Next we went on the ride with the smallest time in a tube, which we rode down in double innertubes.

That ride wasn't as terrifying as I expected, so I decided to go on the Black Thunder attraction, a ride in total darkness with a vortex.  It was thrilling but not as scary as I expected (my sister would disagree).  It was completely outside of my comfort zone--and I was happy that I rose to the challenge.

So I rode a few other rides outside of my comfort zone too.  There were some I decided were too big a risk to my back, so I sat those out--but it wasn't out of fear of falling out of the slide, but fear of a wrenched back and the hour car ride home.

When I took my motorcycle riding classes last year, I wrote about realizing how few activities I do that are truly outside of my comfort zone.  I may stretch myself with activities, but they aren't truly new to me, at least with most of what I do.  There's very little that I do that requires feeling fear/anxiety but doing it anyway.

Yesterday's waterpark didn't inspire true fear, the way that riding the motorcycle for the first time did.  I knew we'd be safe--it wasn't a waterpark with netting across the open tube, like the attraction that killed the child in Kansas.  There have been no serious incidents at the park.

As I get older, I want to keep doing activities that challenge me to move closer to the edges of my comfort zone, and to occasionally leave my comfort zone.  I know too many people who are curtailing their activities before they get truly old.  There may be good reasons that my friends don't want to tell me about, but for most of them, they seem to have simply decided not to challenge their anxieties--and so, they end up not driving outside of the county or on Interstates or taking on new jobs or trying new activities.

Our day yesterday was full of other insights, but this post is getting long, so let me close here, with gratitude for nephews and others who challenge me to move outside my comfort zone.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Perfect Summer Moments

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over:  our public school children begin classes on Monday, as do many of our college students.

I've had some perfect summer moments, the kind that make me wish that every summer day was just the same:  a day or two of reading by the pool and a dinner of fresh, sweet corn.  Yesterday was full of those kinds of events.

My sister and 10 year old nephew are down for a few days--it's his last bit of summer vacation too.  They got here yesterday at 10:30, despite the thunderstorms in the area.  My nephew was planning to travel in his swimsuit so that he could jump right in the pool, and that's what he did.

We grilled burgers and hot dogs for lunch and ate by the pool.  Then, we swam some more.

My nephew remembers the restaurant Jaxson's from years ago--they have amazing ice cream creations and all sorts of candy that you can't find just anywhere.  So, midafternoon, we went there.  I had an ice cream sundae, my nephew had a pizza from the kid's menu, and my sister and spouse had fried foods.  Yum.

Then it was back to the house and the pool.  We thought about going to the beach, but it was getting cloudy in the way that often presages thunderstorms, and so, we stayed at the house. 

It was a perfect summer day--and we've got a few more of them to look forward to before returning to the land of class schedules and school supplies.