Category Archives: Reflection

Bibliophilic Friday: Richard Fortey’s Life


Good morning Everyone!

Today on Bibliophilic Friday I am going to talk about one of my favorite non-fiction books on science, Life:  An Intimate History of the First Four Billion Years by Richard Fortey.  Nor am I alone in my admiration of this book; it recently was selected, along with another book by Richard Fortey, by the Folio Society in England.  The Folio Society publishes high-end editions of carefully selected books, and to have a book included as one of their offerings is an honor in and of itself.

Folio Society, Richard Fortey

The Folio Society Cover for Richard Fortey’s Life

I love to read about science, all aspects of it.  Richard Fortey is one of my favorite science writers because of the engaging way he illustrates his topics and the trick he has of making complicated concepts available to non-scientists.  In his book, Life, he covers the evolution of life from the first single-celled organisms through the present – and does so in a way that keeps you reading.

He has another quality as a science writer that I, as a Christian, find most endearing – he does not proselytize for atheism in his writing, something that spoiled some of the books of Stephen Gould and James Watson (the original discoverer of DNA) for me.  This does not mean that there is anything in his writing that promotes Christianity, either, but what it does do is leave me free to enjoy the science explained in the book without feeling defensive about my religious views.

(We’ll get into this more some other time – maybe – but I can study science and learn everything it has to teach me without giving up my religious beliefs, either.  Science is a study performed by man to understand the tangible world around us; Christianity and the Bible is a book given to us by God to understand the deeper, more important truths of where we came from , who we are and what our purpose in life is.)

As you read Life, you pick up on Fortey’s enthusiasm on his subject and learn about fascinating creatures – and not all of them are dinosaurs!  Even the algae mats that now exist in only a few places in the world but which once populated the earth in enough abundance to transform our atmosphere from primarily carbon dioxide to primarily oxygen can become interesting in Dr. Fortey’s hands.

trilobite

A Trilobite

Dr. Fortey’s academic specialty is the study of trilobites, animals that swarmed the oceans for over 270 million years but which became extinct about 250 million years ago.  Trilobites were arthropods, which means they are distantly related to insects, arachnids and crustaceans.  Their closest living relatives today appear to be the horseshoe crabs, which are often considered to be “living fossils”.  The horseshoe crabs are arthropods, too. Dr. Fortey admits in one of his books that he has a secret wish/hope that maybe just a few trilobites are still swimming around in the ocean, may in some deep-sea canyon, that have yet to be discovered.  I think that would be spectacular!

Horseshoe crabs

Horseshoe Crabs
From Wikimedia Commons; Photographer’s name not listed

Sorry – I digressed again. The point is that if you are looking for an informative, entertaining read that sets out a comprehensive history of life as currently understood by science, this is the book for you.

Have a great weekend!

Nancy

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Bark


Good morning/evening  Everyone!

When we are in grade school, somewhere along the line we learn that if you are going to draw a tree, it is going to have a brown trunk and a green top.  My basic trees in kindergarten up looked something like this:

Tree

Basic Tree

When I wanted to get fancy, I would add branches to the top of the tree, and a hole such as a bird might like to nest in.

Fancy Tree

More Fancy Tree

The truth about trees, as is often the case, is much more wonderful in real life.

Take bark, for instance. The next time you have a minute and you are going by a stand of trees, take a minute to stop and look just at the bark on the trees. Notice how each type of tree bark has its own color and shape and patterns. Notice how almost none of them are the true brown that we used in grade school – the marvelous variations of gray and brown and shades in between is unlimited!

While I am by no means a botanist or an arborist, I do recognize a few kinds of trees, so I though I would share photographs of their bark with you, just to get you started.

Oak tree bark

Oak Tree Bark

This beautiful oak tree was right outside our camper this weekend at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, Alabama. Here is a photograph of the tree with me looking up that is just too pretty not to share.

Oak Tree

Oak Tree

Dogwood tree bark

Dogwood Tree Bark

In the spring, the beautiful dogwoods grace Southern woods and yards with unique, four-petaled white flowers. Here is a picture of one dogwood tree’s bark last weekend.

pine tree bark

Pine Tree Bark (on the left)

Pine trees also abound in the South.

Crepe Myrtle Bark

Crepe Myrtle Bark: Photograph taken and shown on colorlandscapes.wordpress.com

Very few flowers on trees survive the hot, humid Southern summer, but the crepe myrtle is one of the few that do. (I’m not entirely sure if the crepe myrtle is a tree or shrub, but it definitely has wood in its trunk!) It’s bark is very smooth, and a sort of tan color.

Magnolia Trunk

Magnolia

One of the other trees that bear summer flowers is the stately magnolia tree, the grande dame of Southern flora. (You just can’t quite say “magnolia tree” without putting “stately” in front of it. I tried, without success.)

From five trees, we have five different kinds of bark.  This level of texture is something we don’t often take the time to really view and admire, but sometime this week or weekend, take just a few minutes to do so.  The sense of wonder and admiration at the variety and abundance of nature’s giants will be well worth your time.

Have a great day!

Nancy

11 Years Ago Today….


Good morning Everyone!

11 years ago today, I was preparing to take two depositions that I had been trying to schedule for months in Birmingham, Alabama on a relatively small case.  I had some time before I had to leave, since they didn’t start until 12 or 1, so was reviewing some notes when Terri, my assistant at the time (back when I had an assistant), came in and said, “Hey, the World Trade Center’s on fire.”  I didn’t understand what she meant, so I asked and she told me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  

I remember a sort of “that’s too bad” feeling, the kind you get when a plane crashes anywhere, saying a quick prayer for the victims and wondering how on earth a plane could get that far off course before loading my stuff up and heading out for the depositions.

We got both of them done, and on my way home I stopped at a Birmingham mall to buy some make-up.  When I stopped, I was surprised to see that many of the stores were already closed at 3 in the afternoon, and the rest of them were closing at 6.   I decided then I needed to call Mark (who, due to his father’s death and the winding up of the family business had been between jobs and able to watch the news all day) to find out what was going on.  I had a bag phone then, and you didn’t use them as casually as we use cell phones now. 

I told Mark about the stores’ closing and how surprised I was, and that’s when Mark said, “I don’t think you realize how big this really is.”  That’s when I learned for the first time about the second plane, the towers falling, the Pentagon crash and the field in Pennsylvania.  When I got home that night, I was stunned as I watched the footage of the planes crashing into the towers and the Pentagon and horrified as I watched the Towers crumble into themselves in a cloud of toxic dust.  I was shocked and grieved by the senseless loss of life. 

I remember watching the Memorial Service a few days later at the National Cathedral.  I watched our nation’s leaders file into the church for the ceremony.  Leaders from both parties.  Political opponents who, for at least one brief moment, remembered that they were Americans first.  I watched as then-President Bush got up to speak that day, and noticed that there was not one face in the audience at the Cathedral that envied him being in that position on that day.

For a few weeks, we were all Americans first and everything else second.  Family and God suddenly seemed a lot more important than it had before September 11 and a nation grieved with the victims and their family.

11 years later, September 11, 2001 has changed our nation and many families in ways too profound to comprehend, from the very littlest of items, like the fact that my daughter will never know the feeling of watching breathlessly at the arrival gate for your grandparents to get off the plane as the passengers come down the gangplank, to those irreplaceable losses that leave aching, unfillable  holes, like the death of a loved one. 

I wish September 11, 2001 had not happened.  The costs of that day are still too high and too hard to bear.  A very small part of me, though, wishes that, without the same cost, we as a nation could find ourselves back in that place where we are all Americans first, everything else second.  This feeling doesn’t mean that we all have to agree on everything  all the time, or even most of the time.  It just means that, at the end of the day, we realize that those things that connect us are far stronger than the things that drive us apart.

And my last thought last night before I went to sleep?  One more prayer that, at least for today, we remain safe and whole once more.

Nancy

Just Sayin’


Good morning everyone!

Here are some observations:

1) You can know the location of every light switch in the house and what light or socket it goes to and you will still manage to turn on the garbage disposal instead of the kitchen light at least twice a week.

2) It takes a child about 10 minutes to get up, dressed and ready to go somewhere.  Multiply that number by at least 6 if you plan to get anywhere on time.

3) All dogs love to sleep.  The signal for them to get up is when you lie down.

4) Adults will irritably tell a child that has been asked to do a chore and who is stalling that the chore is just not that hard and to get on with it.  If that is true, then why aren’t the adults doing it themselves?

5) There’s nothing like moving to a new place.  Thank goodness!

6) The amount of stuff you collect is directly proportional by a factor of twelve to the number of years you live in a house. (Think about it – it will make sense in a minute.)

7) The crinkling of a chip bag is a miracle cure for all dog ailments.  It works well for minor illnesses in children, also.

8) Exactly why does it take five tries for the parental command to proceed past the child’s ears to his or brain and nervous system?

9) You never understand the concept of making a joyful noise until you turn a 10 year old loose on a keyboard when she doesn’t think anyone is paying attention.

10) I have five different sync cables around me, and a universal 3 in 1 cable I bought yesterday.  Not one of them fits the camera I need to download pictures from.

11) While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, God does great work!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Nancy

Memorial Day


Good morning Everyone!

In honor of Spc. Charles Robert Lamb, who was killed in Iraq, on September 5,2004, and all the others who died serving the United States:

From Europe to California
The silent crosses stand,
A tribute to Americans’ love
Of liberty and man.
Each marker stands for someone who,
Though cognizant of cost,
Stood firm in heat of battle
And suffered Death’s cold touch.
The markers also stand for those
Whose graves we cannot find,
Though their sacrifice still binds
Our hearts to love them throughout time.
No honor can I gave them,
No balm for the families behind,
That ever can repay them for
Their sacrifice of time
To love and live and laugh and grow
To save this land of mine.
And when we’re reunited
In the lands beyond this life,
I pray that we can tell them that this
Country still serves freedom as
A beacon lifted high.
 
 

Enjoy today’s holiday, but don’t forget to remember the reason for it!

Nancy

The E-mail That Never Comes


Good morning Everyone!

I had a dream Friday night – in it, I wrote a lengthy, newsy letter to my grandfather and then remembered that he had died, so I placed the letter sadly in the trash can, wondering why everyone else around me wasn’t upset.

Grief over the loss of a loved one is an odd thing.  Even when  the death begins to rotate away in time, and you are forced to pay attention to other priorities,   little things suddenly and sharply bring the loss back into focus.

With my grandparents (even though my grandmother was already dead when Grandpa died, I am mourning both of them together; somehow, losing Grandpa meant that I lost Grandma all over again, too), it can be things as small as the smell of the garage when I walk out into it mid-day, seeing a house by the side of the road that reminds of the house they had while I was growing up, or even checking my e-mail and remembering that I won’t have one from Grandpa any more.

Grandpa decided to learn about computers and e-mail in his early 70’s, about 20 years ago.  Although his information superhighway never went much above the speed of 35 miles per hour since the only internet available to him in Casey was dial-up, he steadily chugged along it.

For the last five years or so, he has sent small group e-mails out about once a week letting us know how he and Grandma, or just he, were doing and giving us pieces of hometown news – small, heart-warming things like telling us that the local football team had made it to the state championships or that one of our many cousins in the area had done something noteworthy.  I think he did it partly to stop the onslaught of calls that would ensue to his house if no-one had received an e-mail from him for a while (we all knew that something was wrong if we didn’t hear from him periodically) and partly because he liked sharing the news with us and he liked the computer.

Before that, we would hear from him even more frequently, as he tackled the task of going through old family photographs from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, scanning them into his computer and then sending them out to us with information about the people in the photograph, and stories the photograph called to mind.

The grief in losing someone never really completely subsides – Mark’s father died in 2001, and every so often I still see someone who strongly reminds me of him, and the grief comes back – but it softens with time, changing from the raw, jagged grief you experience closer to the death to a more rounded, watercolor version.

I miss them both, very much.  And to all of you who read this who just went through Mother’s Day for the first time after the death of their mother, I want you to know that I thought about you a lot yesterday and my heart goes out to you.

Nancy

I’m Just Not Getting It…


Good morning everyone!

Professor Greenberg and I are winding towards the end of our exploration of the    Concerto, which means that we have entered the weird world of “classical” music for the 20th century.  I am trying really hard, but I’m just not getting how the cacophony of sounds I am listening to  are supposed to morph together to make the music something that I either enjoy hearing or something that I should understand intellectually.

sergei prokofiev

We listened to Russian composers of the 20th century the other day.  The details of some of their lives are fascinating, from the sad Prokofiev, who decided to return to Soviet Russia under Stalin from the West, only to have his music condemned in 1948 and die a broken, frightened man five years later, (are any of us really surprised that move didn’t work out?) to the defiant Shostakovich, who managed to get his message out in spite of Stalin and his condemnation (although in Shostakovich’s case, timing was everything – he lived until the 1970’s, and so was able to publish a great deal of his work in post-Stalin Soviet Russia.)

Shostakovich

Shostakovich

Music that did not meet the Soviet “ideal” was the type of music that Soviet Russia condemned and banned from performance.  Soviet Russia proclaimed that “good” Soviet music should be accessible, be based on Russian folk music and not contain elements found only in the “decadent” West.  The failure to meet this “ideal” led to the condemnation of works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and several other leading composers of their day in 1948.

But this is my problem – I can’t tell a difference much between the cacophony of “approved” Soviet music and the dissonances of freely expressive compositions, although one set is dismissed as music written by hacks, and the other set as the work of geniuses.  (I did like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, but that was written for children and I last heard it when I was about 12.  It was outside the scope of this lecture series.)

I am dutifully listening to compositions based on something called the “twelve-tone” method, and not getting them, either.  Professor Greenberg will inform me that something is very lyrical, haunting and beautiful, but I don’t hear it.

I don’t necessarily think this is due to a lack of effort on my part.  Anyone who spends at least four days puzzling out the lyrics to TTYLXOX by Bella Thorne is certainly willing to put the effort into understanding more serious music.  I just am not getting it.

There is one exception – Bela Bartok’s music.  While I would not plop in a CD of Bartok’s compositions for fun listening riding down the road, I do hear the beauty in his work.  Bela Bartok’s music, though, was based on the folk music of Eastern Europe and the harmonies and dissonances contained therein, filtered through sound, Western compositional techniques and a dash (or more than a dash) of genius.  In other words, he was not consciously trying to combine pitches in ways that no-one had ever heard before, but simply expressing himself.

For myself, while I am open to new sounds and, as I said, am trying to understand them, I think I will stick with the baroque (ie., Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann), the classical (ie., Mozart and Beethoven) and the Romantic (ie., Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms) when I am selecting music to listen to for my own enjoyment.

What kinds of music are you interested in?  Do any of you like (or understand) music from Prokofiev forward?  Can you help me understand it?  Will I make it through the last three CD’s of the lectures on the Concerto?

Tune in next week, same time, same channel, to find out!

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

High School Career Day Left A Lot To Be Desired


Good morning Everyone!

I find it is easier sometimes to access WordPress through Google Chrome, and as I was getting ready to sign in this morning, I looked at the latest product from the Google Doodlers, and realized that “Google Doodler” was not on the list of possible careers when I attended career day during high school.

Of course, neither Google, nor personal computers were invented when I graduated from high school, which might explain the absence.  However, other exciting career choices didn’t make the list, either.

Sunset over Key West

One example is travel show host.  If they had told me in high school that I could travel to lots of exotic and exciting places, take cruises, make regular trips to Disney World, tell people about it on TV and get paid for it, my career choices might have been very different.

I would have liked to know more about jobs like “Alaskan State Trooper.”  I probably wouldn’t have taken that route, but the show is pretty fascinating.  My husband wishes that he had known about jobs such as Alaskan bush pilot (I think that’s the right phrase).  He probably would have taken any job that allowed him to fly for a living in a sea plane between small towns, even if it meant living in the Arctic.  (And given the way Mark hates cold, that’s saying something!)   If he had known you could do it in tropical islands and make a living, we would be living somewhere like Tahiti now.

From Print Shop Professional 2.o

RV park inspector is another job that didn’t make the list.  As near as I can fathom the requirements of this job, an RV park inspector rides from RV park to RV park in some type of recreational vehicle, either a motor home or a trailer, and rates the park on given specifications either for the campground chain’s purposes or for publication in a campground guide.  We would be quite good at that.

Working at a local marina might be fun (I have to confess I didn’t know what a marina was until after high school; I knew what a port was, but didn’t have a conception of a marina – the casualty of a Navy family life geared to the ocean).

I did flirt with the idea of marine biologist, available on career day, but let the idea slide due to the fact that I didn’t think I could pay for graduate school (but then Mark and I ended up paying for me to go to law school at night!  Go figure.)

Writing has always been high on my list, and “writer” was a possible career discussed on career day, but the descriptions always included terms equivalent to “starving artist” which placed the job at a decided disadvantage.  It took me seven years after graduating law school to realize that I was writing for a living – granted, I was writing briefs for judges and lawyers to read, but I was writing.  “Starving artist” is not a term associated with what I do.  I also get to write this blog, which helps to stave off, even if it doesn’t completely satisfy, the creative writing urge in me.  I couldn’t make a living with the blog, but I certainly do enjoy writing it.

“Artist” wasn’t even a remote possibility, as I had no idea until two years ago that I had any modicum of artistic talent whatever.

There is always a bright side, of course, even to notable gaps in career day in high school and career choices by adults.  In my case, it is all the possibilities left for me as I decide what I want to be when I grow up!  At this rate, I expect I will be fully grown up when I reach the age of, oh, 90 or so.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

P.S.  Thank all of you for your kind words and prayers regarding the death of my grandfather.  I appreciate them.

Grateful


My grandfather died yesterday.  I tell you this not to solicit condolences but so I can tell you a little about him.  Sometime later I will do a more comprehensive post, but here are some things you  may be interested to know.

He was 92 years old, and lived independently with just a little bit of assistance up until the very end.

He was born in 1919/1920 in Pasco, Washington.  No one who knew him from the time he was 18 forward would ever have guessed that he was born there, since he spent the rest of his life in the small town in Illinois where he met my grandmother, courted her, married her and raised their son, my father.  In the same town, he and Grandma created a paradise during the summer time for their three grandchildren when we came to visit, and spoiled us rotten.

Grandpa took three small girls under the age of 11 (1p, 8 and 6) fishing, and not only lived to tell the tale, but seemed to enjoy it.

At the age of six, Grandpa’s father decided the family had to return to Illinois from Washington to take care of his parents , so around 1925/1926, Great-Granpda, Great-Grandma, Grandpa’s two older sisters and Grandpa traveled by car from Pasco, Washington to Illinois.  Traveling by car those days was very different from today, and I can’t wait to write about it more in detail sometime.

There are a large group of cousins in Illinois who also think of Grandpa (and Grandma) as extra grandparents, too.  For years after Grandma and Grandpa retired, they took care of these cousins when school was out and the cousins’ parents had to work, or when the cousins weren’t feeling well and the parents had to work, and many times just because Grandma and Grandpa wanted the chance to have them over and watch them play.

Grandma and Grandpa were very excited when we adopted Kayla.  They both loved her dearly and did everything they could to let her know that.  Kayla loved them , too.

The computer age began in force when Grandpa was in his 70’s.  He got a computer and dived right in, becoming proficient with Facebook, e-mail, and scanning photographs and sending e-mails about them to all of his family scattered across the country.

With his computer, he did some work on genealogy, too, continuing a work his mother had started, and sharing the results with us, another story I will share with you one day.

He and Grandma had two dogs that I can remember.  They had Clyde, who was originally our dog, but who we had to give away when I was in 1st or 2nd grade to them because of a transfer to a place with base housing that didn’t take dogs.  Clyde was an all black dachsund beagle mix.  Clyde and Granpda were buddies.  Grandpa loved to see Clyde chase rabbits and possums, and anything else Clyde decided to go after.

Grandma and Grandpa got Pepper much later in life, after they retired.  Pepper was a miniature poodle, and although I don’t believe in reincarnation, if I had to come back as a dog, Pepper certainly would qualify as a great dog to have come back as.  Pepper got long walks with Grandpa every day, got to ride in the car whenever they went out of town to go shopping in the nearest city, usually about 45 minutes away at least, and had a special place on the couch, a bed and the armchair where she could sleep during the day as she chose.

I love him, and I will miss him.  Most importantly, I will see him and Grandma again.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

Celebration: It’s Been One Year!


Good morning everyone!

This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog so today is the first day of the New Blogging Year.  From my first post, My Unintended Exercise, through my latest post, A Touch of Spring, it has been an exciting journey, and I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate your taking time out of your day over this past year to share this journey with me.

I will start off this New Blogging Year with a conversation Kayla and I had yesterday.  She was sick, and Mark was staying home with her since he also was sick.  Once we decided that she needed to stay home, both of us reinforced the idea that if you stayed home sick, you needed to rest and be quiet, not play and watch TV.  She willingly went back to bed, and when I was ready to leave I went in to her bedroom to tell her good-bye.  She rolled over, gave me a sleepy hug, then said, “Mom, can I ask you a question?”  I said, creatively, “Yes.”  She then asked “Is food included?”  I smothered a laugh, told her yes, food was included in a stay at home day, and then beat a fast track out to the car where I could laugh in safety.

During this past year, we have shared a lot of laughs, traveled together and even learned a few things.  You have been kind enough to read some of my poetry, read my posts about the history of the Ugg Cave Clan and listen to some of my whining thoughts on contemporary technology and other things.

Some of the posts that both you and I agree were pretty funny include my thoughts on The Perils of Absent-Mindedness, my one post that was Freshly Pressed, Rules I Never Thought I’d Need, Cheese Grits:  The Sequel, Please stop Improving My Life, Part I and Part II, Fibber McGee’s Closet and Drunken Puppies.

Together, we have traveled to many places, including Key West, the Smoky Mountains, Destin Florida, Oak Mountain in Birmingham, Pensacola and Callaway Gardens.  We also got to visit two fantastic restaurants, Lambert’s Cafe in Foley, Alabama and Captain Anderson’s in Panama City.

You shared the recently discovered history of the Ugg Clan with me in A Highly Biased History of Washing Machines, A Highly Biased History of Bowling, and A Highly Biased History of Bowling, Part II.  Research into the Ugg Clan continues, and I suspect that more of it will be revealed as time goes on.

Kayla, my daughter, has featured prominently in posts – the title of the blog is Tales from the Mom-Side.  Some of your favorite Kayla stories include Conversations with my Ten-Year-Old, Inappropriate O’Fences, The Art of Gentle Satire and the Vegetarian Veterinarian Veteran .

I had the chance to talk to you about our three extraordinary dogs, Tyra, Mandy and Darwin, aka Bad Dog and No-No, as well as tell you about our first dog, Shadow.

You and I also got to share some of the sweeter aspects of small town life in The 214th Comes Home and Homecoming Parade.

You have thought along with me in a few reflective posts, such as A Day of Thanks and Books:  Adventure of a Thousand Lives, as well as been kind enough to read some of my poetry in the posts A Poem for Memorial Day, A Poem for the Fourth of July, Praise, With Apologies to Samuel Clemens Moore and Christina Rossetti and in a funny remake of a popular Christmas carol, The Twelve Days Pre-Christmas.

A couple of other interesting posts including the history of the Thanksgiving Holiday (not the Pilgrims and Indians, but after that) and a discussion of one of the underappreciated tasks in the modern world: garbage collection – go without it for three weeks, and you will never take it for granted again!

Do I know where I’m going in this next year?  Absolutely not, but then that’s at least half of the fun!

Thank you for sharing these posts along with me, and here’s to a wonderful second year!

Have a great day!

Nancy