Sunday, April 30, 2006
This is a quiet war. Some of their weapons are what we allow: our apathy and fear of labelling. They're quick to scream "Racist!" when all we want is justice. Their arsonal includes some of our own laws: We need to pass a law that does not allow a child born here of illegal immigrants to receive a legal citizenship! Times have changed, and so must our laws.
Tomorrow, don't forget to spend.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
The pain is incredible, and perhaps my reaction is severe because it's predominantly located in my neck. Studies show that the pain is more intense when it's in the neck or head because your nerve receptors have a shorter route to go to message your brain that pain's involved.
So, that's why I wasn't able to answer any of you yesterday afternoon. It also means I'll be out of commission on Monday and Wednesday of next week, unless my body adjusts. The good news is, I'm bound to lose the weight I was complaining about when I can't eat! And of course this is all going toward a better life with more movement and less pain. I just have to deal with it in the short term. As the old cliche goes; no pain, no gain!
A couple of you asked: yes, I am a doctor, but not a medical one. I have a D.D. (Doctorate of Divinity) which is a religious degree. DDs are usually as accredited as PhDs. My medical knowlege comes from my father, The Scientist. I grew up steeped in medical whodunits.
Have a wonderful weekend, enjoy the warming weather (it's now getting positively HOT down here) and I'll "see you" again on Monday!
P.S. For those Americans who read my blog: let me encourage you to put off spending anything this weekend and save it for Monday. There are many illegal immigrants threatening to boycott (in order to teach us all a lesson) on Monday. I recommend we teach them one. Immigrants are important to us and our nation. But illegal ones should never be tolerated.
Friday, April 28, 2006
I knew that whatever the current complaint was - it was genuine. And I knew that she wasn't a hypochondriac. I just dismissed it as her having a more delicate constitution than most, and a result of hard work and stress (which she definately has).
Her symptoms often included insomnia, mild depression, nausea, mild exhaustion, weight fluctuation, and light headedness. She's 52. Her sight has been deteriorating for some time, and she has been gradually increasing her reading glasses prescription. On Tuesday, she told me that she needed to get glasses because her sight was getting even worse. She also was nauseated once more.
That's when it hit me.
"Zen, your family has a history of diabetes, right? And didn't you say that a doctor once told you that you might have it when you had kidney stones several years ago?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, puzzled.
"You've got all the classic symptoms!" I said. "Zen, you've got diabetes, and if my guess is correct, it's serious. You need to see a doctor immediately to get tested. It explains everything that you've been complaining of lately!"
"Well my mom has to test her blood daily, maybe I should get it tested by her now, huh?" asked Zen.
"Yes! Go now, go to your mom's, and get her to test you. Go! Now!" I said, almost pushing her out the door. She looked a little hurt. "NO, I'm not getting rid of you. I'm worried about you, you idiot! Go!" I said. She went.
She called me shortly after, to tell me what her test results were. Normal blood sugar reads at less than 100; hers was just a little over 400! I said nothing about the dangers. I figured the doctor would.
She went to the doctor's on Wednesday and the doctor certainly was clear. As some of you know, if you don't get your diabetes under control, and keep it that way, you will die and it won't be a pleasant death: You might lose limbs, organs, or your sight along the way.
She's now on meds, resting, and undergoing further tests. So, I've lost my assistant for this week. But I'm glad that we've solved the problem, because I don't want to lose her in the future, and she's not only my assistant - she's my friend.
And yet, I come from a scientific background. When I watch Gray's Anatomy or House I usually am able to diagnose over half of their cases. So, I'm kicking myself for not seeing it sooner. I wish I had. Happily, I think we caught it in time.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
When I was a little girl, I used to love A Child's Garden of Verses by Stevenson. The quote popped into my head today; I suppose because I needed the reminder. Perhaps you do, too?
This is a short post because the physical therapy I've been enduring involves them stretching areas that have never been stretched before, and I am very sore and laying on ice until the worst of the spasms pass this morning. Then, up and at 'em!
While I'm laying on the ice, pampering myself, I'm indulging in reading The Twelfth Card by Jeffery Deaver. He's the author who wrote The Bone Collector and his same team of heroes is solving yet another crime. It's excellent and I highly recommend it! Being the fussy reader I am, you can take my word for it when I say it's hard to put it down.
Have a great Thursday morning and I hope to be back to my normal self (well, as normal as *I* get) tomorrow! ;o)
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Is there a correlation? I think so. I think that people subconciously give themselves goals. "If it's not successful in a year..." "If it hasn't changed my life significantly in a year..." "If after a year I find it's too much work..."
Knowing this already, I've tried very hard to pace myself and keep my expectations reasonable. I have continued to remind myself that this is a writing exercise; a daily warm-up. There will be ups and downs, there will be times I don't feel like it, but I try to do it at roughly the same time each morning.
The biggest, most time-consuming problem for ME (and I hear this in many of your blogs, too) is reading everyone else's blogs on a regular basis. And it's this which is threatening to burn me out. Some people post short or interesting posts, some get a little too enthusiastic and their posts take a lot of time to read through. Now, that doesn't mean their posts aren't of interest to me - I wouldn't bother to type a comment if they weren't. But it's very time-consuming.
TS mentioned that I might be getting burned out (which was very astute) and suggested I consider blogging every other day. I thought about it and I even considered which days: M, W, F and Saturday. But in the end I thought I could compromise by continuing to blog daily but checking on your blogs every other day.
Please understand, I don't intend to offend, and you're very important. And if you need me over to your blog right away, pop into my comments section and let me know. But otherwise, I need to free up some of my obligations and this is an area where I have some flex.
What do you think?
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
My interaction with each of you is important to me, and it keeps me sane at times. I continue to battle the usual difficulties I've mentioned before, but when I've tried to find answers, I've met resistance from others.
For instance, my doctor said a big fat "NO" to my joining a health club. Instead, I'm to do a regimen of physical therapy twice a week. I find that discouraging, because I gained some weight due to the severe pain I was in, and the immobility I had after the surgery. Since I'm tall, it's been gradual and not obvious to everyone, but it's very obvious to me.
All of this is difficult, because I continue to feel that my life is out of control. And instead of attempting to control any part of it, I've gone into avoidance (and I'm very good at it!) Today I'm going to grit my teeth and tackle some of the problems I've been avoiding. So I may not be very available to you today, due to my responsibilities. One new choice I'm making: take the dogs on a walk every morning.
But I've still taken time to "stop and smell the roses"! My trip to St. Augustine was a welcome break, and we also took a brief trip to Sarasota this weekend. My ex-boyfriend (who remains a friend) got me the pretty baubles you see here (jewelry is a wonderful bribe. I highly recommend it).
The necklace is Baltic amber, so is the modernistic pendant and bracelet. I don't know if you can tell, but the necklace and bracelet are huge. The creamy stuff in the bracelet is amber, too. Amber comes in a variety of colors:
The only other color it comes in is blue, which is very rare (and I'm dying to get some).
Amber is really nature's plastic. It becomes charged with electricity when it is rubbed briskly with a cloth, and attracts to itself small pieces of tissue papers and straw. This was well known to Thales of miletus, a Greek scientist of the sixth century BC, and it was this that gave rise to its Greek name, electron, from which is derived the modern world "electricity."
In the Baltic region (which is the most common source) amber is mined from open pit mines. It's tossed up on the beach, too, but the most common way to acquire it is this way:
Amber's been hungered after for centuries. Ancient man thought it was medicinal and ground it up in food and drink, or wore it for it's beauty. Others burnt it for incense (although young amber, known as copal, is better for that). When burnt, amber gives off a resinous smell.
The two pendants additional pendants in the center are drusy quartz (the one on the left) and the pendant on the right is a branch of white coral surrounded by faceted garnet, blue topaz, peridot, and amethyst.
Lots of pretties, huh? But now that I work from home almost constantly... where do I wear them? ;o)
Monday, April 24, 2006
Although it says "All images are reviewed. No nudity or offensive images," I've discovered that I couldn't let SaurKid surf their images section. I see all kinds of things in there, and I'm not talking a simple, tasteful nude occasionally. I see things that would make a gynecologist scream for a nurse to bring penicillin, stat. The nice thing is that you can report such pics, but does tinypic do anything about them? I don't know.
I started looking for SaurKid, who loves moving gifs, and he's got quite a collection now. But I think my retinas may be scarred forever.
I also find it a sad statement of humanity's priorities. Most pictures are of desperate people, with their arm around someone, smiling gleefully at the camera as if to say "See? I'm not a loser. I've got friends! Lookit how cool I am!"
There are even more desperate people, who post sayings or comics about how destructive love is, or how lonely they are. They are screaming and pounding at your door, demanding "love me!" because no one else does.
There are also the sad rejects of society, who try to identify themselves by the idols that they have.
And of course the most desperate people of all are the ones that are trying to project a highly sexualized or b-a-a-a-d image, in the hopes that someone, anyone, will find them attractive - even if its on the net.
Which makes me wonder: how many parents read their kids' blogs or MySpace entries on a daily basis? They should.
P.S. I'm glad you got to come along on the trip to St. Augustine with me. I'll do another vacation series in a month or so - depending on where and when I can get out! Argh! It's Monday and I'm chained to the desk again!
Sunday, April 23, 2006
We had to get out of the area, since the Easter Parade was due to start around 2 PM and if we got caught we wouldn't be able to get out until 5 PM. Since we wanted to head home before that, we left, and made a detour to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. The picture to the right wasn't taken by us, but it shows the lighthouse with the little house attached (remember the orb photo in my ghost post?).
Here's a bird's eye view, which shows the lighthouse keeper's home in front of the tower and courtyard. Again, this wasn't taken by us, but it shows the entire layout.
Remember that I have acrophobia; a fear of heights. But I also wanted SaurKid to see the view without showing my terror. And studies show that children "learn" your fears, so if you want them to avoid being plagued by the same fears, you need to conceal those fears. Until now, he never knew of my fear.
There are 219 steps from the bottom of the lighthouse to the top. "Piece of cake!" I kept telling myself, knowing that de-sensitization is one of the best ways to handle a phobia. That worked for the first 100 steps or so.
When both my legs and mind started cramping up, I had to pause on a landing. I also began to grow panicky, worrying that something might happen and SaurKid might plunge to his death. I'd like to claim I was noble enough to care what happened to anyone else, but I wasn't, and I admit it. It's a mother's instinct, I suppose.
So I began nagging everyone, making them stay directly in front of or behind me. And we had frequent stops where I was plastered up against the landing, facing the remaining stairs like a cat faces water. So at this point, it was obvious to SaurKid that Something Was Not Quite Right With Mom. I gave up, and confessed my phobia. I also told him why I'd been concealing it for so long, and I was determined to beat it. We struggled the rest of the way up. (Note: *I* was not brave enough to take any of these shots! My ex-boyfriend took them).
As we circled around the tower, most people easily walked around each other. I moved, crablike, with my back to the center at all times. People laughingly (and sympathetically) got out of my way so that I could continue moving, uninterrupted. This was good, because the only other alternative would have been to throw them plunging to their deaths (and this was within the realm of possibility for me).
Getting back down was the hard part. That's when our legs started cramping and it was almost physically impossible to push them to do their duty. But I was determined to get to the bottom as fast as I could. If there'd been a fireman's pole, I would've taken it all the way down. When we finally made it to the bottom, I joked about kissing the ground (and seriously considered it for a moment).
We made a brave attempt to visit the lightkeeper's house, but our legs were too sore and kept cramping. We finally limped back to the car.
Remember how I mentioned in my first post that I drive stick shift? This involves a lot of leg movement and compressions. Well, I had a deadline to beat. We couldn't take our time to get home, because SaurKid's father was picking him up that night. It took a couple hours for the leg cramps to subside. Needless to say, I dumped the clutch a lot. But no one said anything. They'd already been warned. Don't mess with a woman who's fought acrophobia when everyone's survived the experience so far!
We stopped at The Branch Ranch just before we got home, for some good old fashioned country cooking. Because it was Easter, they did "family style" that night, and brought massive serving dishes of sweet potatoes, pole beans with ham, chicken pot pie, corn on the cob, biscuits, homemade pickles, ham, fried chicken, and coconut cake. It was probably one of the best Easter dinners we've ever had.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
As for the psychic in the Most Haunted shows: If someone wants to convince me that they're a genuine psychic with genuine powers, then enter a hyperbaric chamber and be shipped to your unknown destination. Then come out and give an accurate reading of the place. You see, they have the ability to prep and read a background on where they are. This experiment will also have to happen in a previously unknown haunted place, because I guarantee you that they're well read up on the lore for all the top destinations.
These psychics also make mistakes. I watched a Most Haunted episode last night, and the renown psychic started talking about the former mistress of the house, saying that she was gorgeous when she was alive. In fact, she looked like an organ grinder's monkey. They glossed over that mistake and never mentioned it again. Another said she was grotesquely fat, and when he was shown this picture, he said quickly "I meant fat before this picture was taken. She must've lost weight by then."
Finally, these psychics feed off the interviewers. I watched one of the psychics last night make a few tentative statements about a female ghost, then ask the interview a quick question which guided him in a certain direction. Additionally, the interviewer is very emotive, and obviously reacts to anything that is said which reinforces the legend.
Still, there are things which are not definitively explained away, and I admit that. Now on to...
The Friggin' Frat Boys
For those of you who don't know me well yet, let me tell you a secret: I'm no angel. I am someone who believes I should be good all the time, but I am also earthy and have a wicked sense of humor. This means I'll be nice until it's time to not be nice.
That night we stayed in Howard Johnson's. We had pulled in to see a bunch of frat boys running around the parking lot, throwing a football. I was nervous, because I didn't really want to have my car dented, but there was no where else to park. As time went by, and we settled down for the night, the noise continued. There were mostly guys, but some girls too. All of them were staying in 4-5 rooms there.
By midnight, I was frustrated, and my ex-boyfriend (who came along with his daughter) went over to the manager's office to complain. I stayed behind, with the two children. My ex-boyfriend was gone for a long time when I suddenly heard glass shattering. Thinking it was my car, I darted out the door to see a drunk sorority girl giggling and pulling herself up from deliberately doing a "touch down" with a bottle of beer. Spoiled college kids were everywhere, milling about, flirting, giggling. I lost it.
"DO ANY OF YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS? IT'S MIDNIGHT!" I screeched at the top of my lungs. "I HAVE CHILDREN TRYING TO SLEEP IN HERE! GET INSIDE YOUR FRIGGIN' ROOMS AND GO DO SOMETHING ELSE. DO WHAT YOU GUYS DO BEST: FRIG EACH OTHER, PLAY CHECKERS, I DON'T CARE! JUST GET INSIDE BEFORE I FRIGGIN' CALL THE COPS!" Only... I didn't use the word "frig".
Everyone disappeared with their tails tucked between their legs, except one. She hesitated a moment, wobbled slightly, and looked as if she was going to come toward me. At this point, I was revved up enough to scream "BRING IT ON, SISTER!" and almost did, but their chaperone grabbed her arm firmly and wheeled her into a nearby room. Heaven only knows what I would have done. I was sorely tempted to bop her on the nose (classy broad that I am) but that's as far as I had planned. Outside of the obvious lawsuit, of course.
After that, we settled down only to hear doors start slamming again. At this point, my ex-boyfriend (who had returned and has a black belt) sighed, got up, and went next door. I listened as he calmly said to the frat boy "You guys must be the dumbest kids that ever made it to college. If you don't stop playing these games, and slamming these doors, I will come over and kick your ass. It won't look good for a young frat boy to have his ass kicked in front of all his friends by a guy who's 40 years old. So do us all a favor and stop it now, and make sure everyone else does, too." "Yessir!" said the alarmed frat boy. And after that, we had peace and quiet.
Needless to say, we were very tired on the morning of Easter Sunday. But we struggled up at 7 AM, had breakfast... and then gave the frat boys a wake-up call from "the front desk" in a very bad Indian accent before we left. We figured we'd help out the hotel employees, since they'd been useless the night before.
The Castillo de San Marcos
We were lucky enough to get there so early in the morning that very few people were about. The Castillo de San Marcos was built from 1672-1695, but was modified repeatedly as time went by and warfare tactics changed. The original fort was built by Spain, the modifications were made by England and then America.
Speaking of ghosts, there is a story mentioned in Florida's Ghostly Legends & Haunted Folklore: Vol. 2 that involves this fort. It seems that there is a lady in white spotted at the fort sometimes, who simply vanishes when she's approached. She's supposedly a beautiful woman who was married to the Commander in 1784 and had an affair with one of his men. The Commander walled up both of them (alive) in a small chamber beneath the fort (in The Cask of Amontillado style) and their ghosts still roam about. There is no historical verification of this tale.
Next and last: The quaint shops and our trip to the top of the Light Tower and Lighthouse.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Here are some pics of the baby bunny my neighbor brought me this morning (don't you just love the color of my elegant old Florida bathroom tile?). It's a wild Florida rabbit and I'll be taking it to a nearby park so it can be free. He's one of the reasons my blog is late being delivered today, and work sometimes gets in the way of play sometimes, too. Yeesh!
Here are some pics of our sightseeing in St. Augustine on Saturday afternoon. (It's taken a while to post today because Blogger is sooooo slow today when it's uploading pics).
The Ghost Tour
We had seen and heard a lot about the ghost tours in the area. Not knowing which one to pick we picked the one that had been around the longest: Ghost Tours of St. Augustine.
Now, SaurKid and I (being born-again Christians) were in an almost comical quandry which some of you might not understand. Is there such a thing as ghosts? My answer to him was that I thought ghosts were certainly in the realm of possibility. Just because some or most souls may go to heaven or hell right away, there may also be some that wander about before they depart.
Or, as SaurKid cheerfully pointed out, they may simply be demons. Oh goody! A Demonic Tour of Old St. Augustine! SaurKid was rather sulky, being a die-hard skeptic when it comes to ghosts. Having seen some weird things in my lifetime, I am less skeptical. However, I pointed out to him that if these things are demonic, he would be in no danger (being a born again Christian)... unless, of course, someone got posessed and came after us with a hatchet. Anyway, we went and had a good time despite our theological conflict.
There are a variety of tours you can choose from: walking, riding in an enclosed and airconditioned bus to different sites to get out and roam around, or a sailing trip. We chose the riding trip, so that we could see more sites. Our tour guide was a very dramatic and friendly spinner of tall ghost tales, and she made them both fun and spooky.
We were very impressed by the story of the woman who had been hacked into little pieces by her next door neighbor on her front lawn in the early evening. Apparently there was a finger in the bushes, and assorted pieces scattered on the lawn. We passed the homes and saw...absolutely nothing.
Our first stop was near this home:
When we got out of the bus in front of this home (above), I had no idea it was part of the tour. Never the less, I felt something watching us from the middle window. Can you see anything? Remember, we had to use flash, so some of the light is attributable to the camera flash. This house is supposedly haunted by a particularly malignant spirit, which has sometimes appeared as a Spanish Conquistador. No one will live there any more.
Now this was the next stop on the tour: The Haunted Lighthouse. This is the house (above) which is separate from the actual Light Tower (which is behind it). Both are supposed to have some malicious ghosts, as well. They include a couple of young girls who have questionable motives, and a man who wandered in and hung himself in the rafters one day.
This picture (above) is of the little house that is part of the actual Light Tower. What's odd about this particular picture we took is that there is a ball of light here that is obviously not attributable to our camera. In fact, it didn't show up (the picture was very dark) until I lightened the entire picture and heightened the contrast. But please note that I didn't retouch the photo in any way. I've added a red arrow to indicate what I'm talking about.
These balls of light are called "orbs" by ghost hunters, who claim that they indicate the presence of a ghost. Sometimes people mistakenly believe a dust particle or a rain drop is an orb. In this case, I can assure you that it isn't either of those, though it may be some odd result of the shadows which were present. However, when you enlarge this portion of the picture, it is obvious that it's on top of the shadows. Try it yourself, and you'll see!
We went to a nearby playground after that, which happens to be an unmarked mass grave. As she told us about the unfortunate ghosts, something kept tapping my toe. Was it simply a muscle twinge? Or was it a playful ghost?
Finally, we went by an old cemetary, where crowds gather to see the very obvious face (of a woman) on this tombstone (this picture doesn't do it justice). Is it merely water damage? Or is it... something else from beyond the grave?
Tomorrow I'll cover our tour of the main fort that Sunday.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Here is what it looks like as you get closer to the end of the road in the opposite direction of The Fountain of Youth:
This sort of view is not uncommon; we have a couple similar streets in the Tampa Bay Area, too.
When we found out we were staying so closely to The Fountain of Youth, we joked about how elderly guests would be able to climb the walls at night and gorge themselves on the water. (The picture to your right is the sign you see if you're approaching The Fountain of Youth from the main road).
We arrived, paid our entrance fees, and were told that we were lucky enough to be on time for our tour. We were hustled into a large barn-like building, and the tour guide began to tell us the history of The Fountain of Youth (America's first historical site):
"The Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park in St. Augustine is the site where Spanish conquistadors first came ashore in what is now the continental United States. On April 3, 1513, in the season of "Pascua Florida" - as Easter Season is known in Spanish (meaning Feast of Flowers) - Ponce de Leon expedition sighted land in the present locality of St. Augustine and named it La Florida.
Aside from the stone cross and salt cellar (both from 1513) which are housed in the spring house, five other areas of importance are listed:
1) Ponce de Leon recording landmark and accompanying artifacts
2) First Christian Indian burials in North America with Mission Period interments
3) Timucua Indian hut foundations and relics
4) Artifacts indicating Timucua habitation for more than 1,000 years prior to Ponce de Leon's arrival
5) Evidence that Pedro Menendez's colony occupied the site during the 16th century."
The whole legend of The Fountain of Youth sprang from the belief that the Indians (who were twice as tall and lived twice as long) were on to something. "Must be in the water!" said Ponce, who brought back kegs of it to Spain.
On another note, it's kind of sad, really, to see the cross and the spring from 1513 now sheltered in a barnlike structure when it was part of a lovely park-like setting many years ago (as you can see in the picture from the old postcard). Of course I understand they wanted to preserve it, but I would have left the outdoor setting in place and encased it in a plexiglass case, instead.
After we left The Fountain of Youth, we were taken to a small museum of no consequence, where we ended up waiting in a panic to see if we'd catch the last train or not after we discovered they stop running at 4 PM (we caught the last one, thankfully). We went back to the hotel, got the car, and headed into the city to take a bunch of sightseeing photos. I'll share those with you tomorrow, along with my artistic find and The Ghost Tour that evening.
I hope this isn't getting boring; I notice the comments are dropping off during this little tour of ancient Florida.