Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wonders of America

In further proof of just how much geekdom reigns in my little house, I offer you the "Wonders of America."

The Deepest Lake? Crater Lake

The Largest Rodent? The American Beaver

The Windiest Place? Mount Washington

The Largest Flower? The American Lotus

Go to your local post office and grab these stamps destined to be seen only by bill openers because who writes letters these days, anyway? All that excellent illustrations and illustrative information for the electric company? *sigh*

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Computer-based exploration

For many reasons, I'm stuck here at the computer today. (Namely, I'm trying to turn in a story. And Of Course The Email Server Is Down.) What I need to be doing is driving to Rutherfordton, N.C., where the the first gold coin in U.S. history was minted. (So they say...)

So here are some of my favorite things these days, things that I'm spending way to much time enjoying, reading, doing, daydreaming about instead of being a Productive Member of Society:

  • 'Roid Week Spring 2007: I'm in so much love with this.
  • Around the world: ditto. (Here's a list: Washington D.C. - Tokyo - Bangkok - Sydney - Bangkok - Angkor Wat (Siem Reap) - Vientiane - Bangkok - Calcutta / Kolkata - Kathmandu - Delhi - Bombay / Mumbai - Nairobi - Paris - Overland to - Madrid - New York - Washington D.C. All for only $5,000!)
  • I were in a shopping mood, I'd start here, by the woman behind this.
  • If I were in a crafty/pink mood, I'd start here.
  • And here's where I go to find out what's going on around here (If you do nothing from this list, check out "Mississippi Idiots, indeed" from that last link.).
  • And when I'm feeling Lost.
  • And when I want to blow something up.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Prayers for Davie County

Like every morning, I woke up this morning and switched on NPR. Normally, it's not a jaw-dropping experience. This morning was different.

In what seemed like a 15-second spot, the news was that there was an explosion at a Davie County nursing home. One person was killed. Fifteen others sent to the hospital. In Mocksville.

My brother-in-law, Chris, has his mother in a Mocksville adult care home. I called home in panic. Got the answering machine. An hour later, I learned that it was the same home where Janice lived. She is physically OK, but really upset, understandably. The man who died was one of her closest friends and had eaten dinner at my sister's house. Another of her friends is one of the group in the hospital and, Janice told Maria, will likely not survive her injuries. Janice is without clothing and medication, which she needs desperately. And my sister, Maria, had been on the phone for hours trying to locate her medication prescriptions, her records and, most importantly, find her a new permanent place to stay.

Go here, here and here for reporting on this story.

But here, here is what makes my blood boil: It's been over 12 hours since the explosion/fire (it's not clear what exactly happened), but still NO ONE from the home has called Chris, who is Janice's emergency contact. Chris was on the road, in Eden, when a security guard -- who heard it on the news -- told him about it.

WHAT??? From news reports, the SBI is investigating. But, please, keep these folks in my home county in your prayers, thoughts, etc.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Boring has six letters, not four

There are a few people I know, people who trip my mind and make me look at things differently (whether they know it or not), who are never bored, who never sigh and wonder where to go to find something to do.

I love these people, especially this one. I wish I was like them.

When I was a kid, living in (what felt like at the time) the Middle Of Nowhere, North Carolina, with only the pastures and a cemetery and a couple of rundown stores nearby, I'd wander around, walking nowhere in particular. I'd jump the barbed wire fence down at the cemetery, walk by the pond and the cows and into the woods where the stream flowed. Other times, I'd walk down to the farm, scuffing my heels, kicking rocks down the road. While it sounds like I'm making this up, but I'm not. Kicking rocks, those are good times!

Inevitably, and I don't know exactly why (maybe it's because that as a kid, I was a bit obsessed with the scary and unpredictable -- things like nuclear war -- but that's another story), my mind would imagine all the horrible things that can happen to a young girl walking around by herself. Is someone watching me behind that barn? Is someone in the woods planning my murder? And, you know, it could also have come from one too many after school specials warning of this or that childhood danger to watch out for. I don't know when they stopped airing those, but I speaking as a girl with an overactive imagination, I'm really glad they're not standard post-class activities anymore.

All this is to say, shockingly: I think I was bored.

I thought about this the other day as we were spending the weekend with Acy, who, my sister tells me, gets a little jumpy in her pre-K class. Her last teacher said it was because Acy couldn't pay attention in the Age of ADHD. Her new teacher says she thinks Acy gets her work done and then wants something more to do. She gets bored. And speaking as someone who listened to hours of Acy stories about cat language and who put on a play in our living room (complete with masks and a paper wand) directed by Acy about a princess trapped in the ocean who was also a mermaid and who needed to find stars to become a Real Girl and who was friends with a Queen (me) and King (Pat) who were going to get married (if only she could have been there), that girl has got a sweet imagination. (Sweet as in Sweet, dude, not cloying, because she has got a little Newsome Streak.)

So now I guess it isn't surprising that my mind is wandering again, what will all this Free Mind Time and all. I've been righteously busy, but it's the kind of busy that allows the mind to explore something other than Latest Ways to Sleep Through The Night (Tylenol PM, oh, how you were my friend).

New activities? Reading! Listening to music (John Michael Stipe, how I love thee)! Walks! In the not-so-scary woods! Cooking! Talking to my friends! Writing!

Twenty years ago, this would be boring. Maybe it still is (just a little). But this boring is really delicious, at it's best. And at it's worst, it's just helping me to plan what's next.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

A letter to the Vatican Museums:

Dearest Vatican Museums:

When Pat and I turned the corner from Bernini's amazing Piazza San Pietro, the line started forming. An hour later, we finally made it to your door, a unassuming/disappointing entrance tucked into a wall so thick that not even a million Capital One marauders could crack it to check what's in your wallet. We were funnelled, searched, 13 Euros plucked out of each pair of hands, pushed, prodded, jostled as we and thousands (millions?) of others hoofed it to the Sistine Chapel as if our salvation depended on it.

Who knows? It may have/had/does/did.

When we finally made it through the door as big as a bathroom door, I was in awe. Really. You hear about how masterful Michelangelo was, how stirring his work is. Amazing. But that word is overused. Ever the cynic, I didn't believe it. Public Enemy may not be the Holy Sacrament or anything, but there's some life lessons there I listened to. It didn't hurt that Chuck D is really cute.

So you may not believe me when I say I could have spent hours sitting on that creaking wooden bench at the chapel, my neck tilted back like I was catching raindrops from the sky. Hours could have turned into days that would turn into a neck brace and self-induced whiplash. I loved the Italian guards shushing everyone, forcefully telling picture takers to not shoot their measly flashes at the chapel's walls and ceiling. People, this is where the Pope is chosen, for God's sake. No pictures for your silly slide shows.

But the ceiling! God stretching, stretching his forefinger to touch Adam who looks like a lazy frat boy, his finger just listing upward to touch God's fingertip. Genius. It says so much, doesn't it, about this world we have? What we are offered, yet are too blind/lazy/sad/distracted to take? It filled me with great sadness in a way, the urgency not met. I wanted my finger to grow like Pinocchio's nose, grow to the ceiling, grasp God's hand where we could skip away together. I wouldn't eat the forbidden fruit, I vowed.

So it is with great love/sincerity/respect I ask you one question: Does anyone ever dust that place?

When we left, we walked through anticlimactic hallways filled with wooden cases stuffed with vases and urns. And not to be snide or disrespectful, but, really, you house one of the most famous artworks of the world's entire civilization, so I was a bit shocked to see more than one case with mile-high layers of dirt. And I know U.S. dioceses aren't pumping all their cash to you anymore with all the child abuse scandals and bankruptcies. But, really? Can't you spring for a Merry Maid? Even if human cloning becomes successful and makes Vatican dust the prime DNA mining spot, this? You deserve so much more!

I would be more than happy to help out. I can dust and clean with the best of them. I'm a little fanatical about it.

I'm sure that God doesn't care (or does he?). But I couldn't help but think -- as we turned, turned, turned down the floors and floors and floors of spiraling stairs to walk outside into the gray early afternoon to search for pizza, the most pedestrian of items but what else would seem right? -- that maybe stripping away the grimy reminder that the world is, well, grimy, from at least this one place would make it seem possible, at least, that that outstretched hand could touch us for real.

With love,