Sunday, August 31, 2008

In The Name of Progress

According to Wikipedia, urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is the spreading of a city and its suburbs over rural land at the fringe of an urban area.The term urban sprawl generally has negative connotations due to the health and environmental issues that sprawl creates. Due to the larger area consumed by sprawling suburbs compared to urban neighborhoods, more farmland and wildlife habitats are displaced per resident. As forest cover is cleared and covered with concrete in the suburbs, rainfall is less effectively absorbed into the ground water aquifers. This threatens both the quality and quantity of water supplies. Sprawl increases water pollution as rain water picks up gasoline and oil runoff from parking lots and roads. Sprawl fragments the land which increases the risk of invasive species spreading into the remaining forest.

I realize that urban sprawl is inevitable, and can even make a positive impact on a growing community. However, I don't have to like it. If you've been a reader of my blog, you will recall several posts describing the pond at Madison Park and its pristine, ecological beauty. Nestled in the middle of a new community, it is a gem amid newly constructed homes, townhouses, and duplexes. My co-worker/photo buddy Darlene and I spend many lunch hours walking along the path in search of interesting subjects to photograph. Many indigenous Georgia species can be found, such as flowering dogwood trees, wild flowers, hawks, buzzards, dragonflies, butterflies, and migrating Canada geese. Approaching the pond is a boardwalk that protects the fragile ecosystem below. From the boardwalk, I have photographed birds and cattails nestled within the surrounding wetlands.

Walking along the path Friday, we could barely hear each other talk over the noise of bulldozers carving the way for new homes. Precious natural grasses and pine trees, where birds and other wildlife once called home, were sliced down to rock and dirt.

I don't live on a pond. But given the choice, I would if I could. Why should I expect someone else to shun a home that has a pond or lake view? At what cost will progress have on the pond? Perhaps the wildlife will find new homes, and new trees and grasses will grow in other safer areas. For now, Darlene and I will be hard pressed to find interesting subjects to photograph. Here are a few examples of what we found during our walk.

What's your opinion on urban sprawl? Are you for progress? Preservation? Or both?

Powers Crossroads Country Art Festival

As I watch the weather channel on this early Sunday morning, I realize my concerns are minuscule compared to those in the path of hurricane Gustov. Hurricane Hannah is right on the heels of Gustov and her eventual path is yet undetermined. Highways are jammed as residents of New Orleans flee the city to safer regions. Our weather here in Fayetteville Georgia is overcast with scattered T-storms today, tomorrow and Tuesday. Our best weather day was yesterday with a mostly sunny sky and temps in the high 80s. It was a picture perfect day for a drive to the Powers Crossroads Country Fair and Art Festival, 12 miles west of Newnan. Doughboy and I scooped up Jamie and the boys (Daddy Jason was working) for a day strolling around Georgia's rural backdrop. Going to the art festival has been a Labor Day family tradition of ours for many years.

I don't know if it has something to do with her pregnant condition, but Jamie insisted on having fried Oreo cookies. It must be a southern thang, 'cause I've never heard of this treat anywhere else but here. After a nibble, I can safely say fried Oreo cookies are not for me. Yuck!

Jameson enjoyed an old-fashioned tire swing. It's amazing what talented folks do with old unused items like tires. It beats cluttering our landfills.

My sweet baby is always willing to pose for his Mimi. He's such a ham!

Jameson, however, had a total meltdown and tested all our patience.

It's lucky for him that he's cute.

Ummmm...I have no words for this. Please understand this was done in the privacy of a woodsy area and not in view of any passers by. When you gotta go, go!

Doughboy was pleased to have located a sculptor that was present at the festival last year. This particular sculptor, Jim Lewk, specializes in sculptures fabricated from metal. To showcase our love of sailing, Doughboy commissioned a ghost ship that will have a place on our living room coffee table. The artist lives in Miami FL and spends several weeks each year snorkeling the Florida Keys sifting through sand in search of pieces of dead coral. He soaks the coral pieces in muriatic acid, then dries them to use as bases for his sculptures. Each piece of coral can be upwards to 150,000 years old or more. Our piece of art should be completed sometime in October. I'll be sure to post a photo of it when it arrives. Click here to see an example of what our ship wreck will look like.

My purchase was significantly less in cost than Doughboy's. But my prize of dichroic glass bead pendants will become lovely works of art that I will eventually create myself.

However you spend you Labor Day holiday weekend, I hope it is safe and enjoyable.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Last Chance

My previous post elicited many responses from readers about their "wish list" if a lottery win was in their future, and places to visit or things to do before departing this life. It is fun to dream about what we would do if a sudden windfall dropped in our laps. (*sigh*) With the Mega Millions lottery at $134 M for tomorrow night's drawing, I think a $10 quick pick is just the ticket I need. A winning ticket, I hope. No worries. I'll share the wealth ;)

Should I win the lottery, I would hire the best children's swim instructor for little Ayden. Not that his current swim instructor, Miss Nicole, isn't acceptable. Quite the contrary, Nicole is very patient with each adolescent swimmer and tries hard to get each one to succeed. However, all her pleading couldn't coerce Ayden to dive for the ring. Every other swimmer came up from their dive with a colorful ring in hand. All except Ayden. Poor baby.

From the very beginning of the lesson, little Ayden's confidence was shaky.
He required a kiss and pep talk from Mommy.
Notice the rings in the background. Ayden freaked out just looking at them.
Bad rings! Bad!
He eventually got into the pool and had no problems putting his face in the water, holding his breath, and floating.

Both Jamie and Nicole promised Ayden that he wouldn't be forced to do anything he didn't want to do.

Jamie and I gave Ayden the thumbs up gesture, but Ayden doesn't get it. He confuses his index finger for a thumb. Oh, well...he tried. Sort of.

We finally got a smile out of him. That was until Nicole prepared the group for their ring dive.

Ayden wanted no part of the discussion.

He scooted out of the pool, as far away from Nicole as he could get, and assumed the fetal position. While Ayden watched each of his swim mates dive for the ring and come up with the ultimate prize, Jamie and I tried everything to coax him back into the pool. Jamie promised everything...a Dairy Queen Slushie, new toy from Toys R Us, cupcakes, golf cart ride, and an overnight at Mimi's.

He would NOT budge.

"Mommy? I don't want to get the ring."

In spite of Ayden's resistance, Miss Nicole passed him and all of his swim mates into Level II. Woo hoo! Congratulations, Ayden!

As for you, dear readers, you won't have to endure any more posts about Ayden's swim lessons until Level II begins in December. Maybe then he'll finally get the elusive ring!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yoo hoo...are you there?

Yes, I am alive and well. I can't recall the last time I went this long between posts. I guess I could look back in my blog archive for an exact date, but what's the point? I'm here now. Right? *tap tap* Are you there?

As summer winds down, my life tends to get busier. My 6-week Photoshop CS3 course ended last week and Ayden's twice weekly swim lessons wrap up tomorrow, so those are two items to check off my "to do" list. I feel so overwhelmed lately and would love nothing more than a week off work to relax. However, my annual allotment of vacation is dwindling to a meager handful of days. Feeling sorry for myself on the drive home today, I let my mind wander to all the things I would do if I won the lottery. Have you played this game?

Anyway, I was half listening to the car radio when I heard about the death of Dave Freeman, the man who co-wrote the best-selling adventure travel guide 100 Things To Do Before You Die. Ironically, he died at the age of 47 from a blow to his head after falling in his home. Weird, huh? Dave Freeman had visited half the places mentioned in his book whose recommendations included a voodoo pilgrimage to Haiti and running with bulls in Pamplona, Spain. He starts his best-selling book by explaining: 'This life is a short journey. How can you make sure you fill it with the most fun and that you visit all the coolest places on earth before you pack those bags for the very last time?'

What places would you like to visit before you die? What's on your bucket list? Or have you done everything you want to do and are coasting your way through life? Ahhh... now that would be nice.

I really need to win the lottery...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What The Heck?????

I don’t get it. Maybe you can help me with this conundrum. Not all women age gracefully, and some age better than others. I have a couple friends whose looks actually improve with age (I secretly hate them and they know who they are) without cosmetic enhancement. It must be in their genes, of which I am unfortunate to have been blessed with the short end of the stick. But as men age, no matter how much hair they lose or how much weight they gain, they look better. Gray hair at their temples makes them look more distinguished. A little tummy bulge makes them cuddly. A few lines around the eyes is cute. Is this fair??????

My four-year-old grandson slept overnight last Saturday and awoke at 6:00 a.m. before dawn’s early light. Wanting to catch a few extra winks, I motioned him to crawl into bed with us. I hoped he would fall asleep for another hour or two…but no. Wanting to get my full attention, he put his little hands on either side of my face.

Ayden: “Mimi, you got to shave”.

Mimi: “Ayden, I’m a girl and girls don’t shave”.

Ayden: (Long pause as if pondering my words) “But Mimi…you got wicksters”. What???????

Much later while Ayden was playing with his toys and Doughboy was somewhere hiding in parts unknown, I snuck into the bathroom for a good long look. When did my eyebrows drift to my chin?

It all began innocently several years ago with a sprout here and another there. No biggie. Just a quick pluck with my trusty Tweezerman and VOILA! they were gone. One tweeze led to another and now I'm wondering if I should get my chin permed. My dermatologist prescribed Vaniqa at $60 per tube with little results after 9 years of use. I’ve considered waxing, but it hurts. Electrolysis? Too expensive. Bleaching? No. Nair? I'm allergic. Shaving? Uh-uh. What then?

Doughboy derives great pleasure by ridiculing me when I tweeze, so I have become a closet tweezer. Who, me? Tweezing? No, I'm landscaping. I slip into the bathroom where my 10x magnification mirror and trusty Tweezerman await and sneak in a tweeze when he isn’t looking. I’ve considered joining TA. Hello…my name is Debra and I’m a tweeze-aholic. There’s a perverse comfort knowing I am not alone. Click here to read about a fellow blogger who has come clean about her addiction to pluck. You go, girl!

Hmmmmm…(as I rub my chin). Will you excuse me for a moment? I feel the need to...errrr...powder my nose. Is Doughboy around?

Really bad bathroom lighting that even Photoshop couldn't fix...

I really need to get a life...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Turning Four

After passing yet another year in my life, Doughboy asked me, "So, do you feel any older?" While most people would say no, I was quick to respond, "Heck yeah!" Getting older has distinct advantages and disadvantages - a trade off; a yin and yang. I want the body, youth and vitality of my 30ish years with all the experience, financial stability, and lasting relationships of my 50's.

Life takes a dramatic turn after your children - or in my case, "child" - leaves the nest. After 18 years of hovering, lecturing, and trying to set an example, I had to trust Jamie to make the right choices. That trust paid off eventually. Without going into too much detail about a painfully private subject, my mother wasn't the best role model and continues to be purposely absent in my life. She also didn't take an interest in Jamie - ever. I did the best I could as a single parent until Doughboy came into my life. Being a grandparent is an amazing opportunity to make amends for the times I wasn't a tolerant parent...and for the times Jamie didn't have the love and support of her grandmother.

I should have read more stories, gave more hugs, wiped more tears, and yelled much less. With Ayden and Jameson, I can do all that and more. Wild horses cannot keep me from being Ayden's cheering squad at swim lessons. It means the world to me when he tucks his pudgy hand in mine and says "I love you, Mimi". My heart melts into a puddle at his feet.

Who can resist this angelic face?

Ayden, like any child, requires lots of encouragement from his Mommy and Mimi.

There were only a few tears tonight - a tremendous improvement from past weeks.

Admist cheers and clapping, Ayden's confidence overcame his desire to cry.

He was beaming with pride...

...and was quite relaxed. He even cheered on his less-confident swim mates.

Turning four on Monday made all the difference in Ayden's confidence.

This is a pucker just before blowing us a kiss. We love you too, buddy! Great job!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Elf of Plants

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants –
At Evening, it is not –
At Morning, in a Truffled Hut
It stop upon a Spot

As if it tarried always
And yet its whole Career
Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay
And fleeter than a Tare –

‘Tis Vegetation’s Juggler –
The Germ of Alibi –
Doth like a Bubble antedate
And like a Bubble, hie –

I feel as if the Grass was pleased
To have it intermit –
This surreptitious scion
Of Summer’s circumspect.

Had Nature any supple Face
Or could she one contemn –
Had Nature an Apostate –
That Mushroom — it is Him!

Emily Dickinson 1830 - 1886

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ayden!

This has been a jam-packed busy weekend. What else is new? This weekend we celebrated my birthday and our grandson, Ayden's 4th birthday. Jamie made a yummy dinner followed by gifts and cake. Here are a couple photos of Ayden...

Don't you want to kiss those little cheeks?

Look at his chubby little fingers :)

Happy birthday, baby boy!

Ayden spent a spontaneous sleepover with us Saturday night. His mom and brother, Jameson joined us Sunday for an afternoon of swimming in the pool. Tomorrow means back to work and hectic schedules. I really, really need to win the lottery!

Dazed and Confused

I'm constantly looking for new ways to spice up our blog. A tweak here; another tweak there. While visiting Scrappy Sue's blog I admired her blog roll. Because imitation is the finest form of flattery, I followed Sue's lead and created a blog roll of my own. Before I created the blog roll, I had a list of favorites that I visit almost daily. But I would have to click on the link to see their most recent post date, and sometimes their blog wasn't updated from my last visit. With the blog roll, I can see the latest post title and how long ago it was posted, saving me precious time. (Saving time is important when we have sooooo many blogs to visit!)

Anyway, I'm fairly computer literate. But the blog roll has me stumped. I copied all the URLs into my blog roll. But one link - Scrappy Sue's - shows a recent post of 3 months ago, when actually she posted yesterday. Yet when I click on her blog title, it takes me to her most recent post. What am I doing wrong? I removed and re-added her link several times and it still doesn't work. Each time I tried to add Sue to my blog roll, I would get this error message "Cannot detect a feed for this URL". Can you offer any advice to this old girl?

A couple readers have asked about my signature that I sometimes show at the end of a post. You can create your own signature via with literally hundreds of fonts from which to choose in thousands of variations. It's fun, free, and easy.

Here's another blog tip. Did you know you can change the date and time of your post? Located above the PUBLISH POST button in EDIT or CREATE NEW, is a link for Post Options. You can change the date and time of your post here. Do you have any favorite blog tips that you wouldn't mind sharing?

Muchas gracias!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our New Car...

The cost to fill-up my car has lessened as gas prices have dropped to a respectable $3.62 per gallon in our area. But this may be a short reprieve rather than a long-term fix. If we are to make it through this period of high gasoline prices, we have to change our thinking. To tackle America’s problems of foreign oil dependency and urban congestion, smaller and more fuel efficient cars are becoming more popular.

We are still hanging onto our gas guzzlers in order to accommodate our growing family, but we are also looking ahead to a more economical-friendly vehicle as an “about town” car. Our solution is the SmartCar. What is a SmartCar? I thought you’d never ask!

Meet the SmartCar: An ultra-compact, Mercedes-designed, head-turning little vehicle that's been negotiating traffic and squeezing into impossibly tiny spaces in Europe for almost a decade. The petite 8’8” SmartCars are not new; only new to North America. They were originally developed as a joint venture between the Swiss watch company, Swatch, and car-maker Mercedes-Benz (the double entrendre name "smart" is derived from "s" for Swatch, "m" for Mercedes, plus "art"). After Swatch pulled out, smart became a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler.

The 2008 fortwo pure starts at $11,590. The $13,590 fortwo passion coupe adds a panorama roof, alloy wheels, radio with CD player, air conditioning, a three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles, and power windows as standard equipment. At $16,590, the fortwo passion cabriolet replaces the roof with a retractable hard top. The side roof bars can be removed and stowed in a special compartment in the tailgate for the full open-top experience. All three models come with the same engine and transmission. To read more about the SmartCar's features, such as fuel efficiency and safety, click here.

So, three weeks ago we plunked down our $99 deposit for a Smart Car Cabriolet Passion. The estimated delivery date is eighteen months – as in one and one-half years! We expect the wait to be worth it as gas prices will undoubtedly be on the rise again. I’ll keep you posted…

Friday, August 15, 2008

Argiope Aurantia

This lovely female Garden Spider has taken up residence beneath our deck. I have watched her busily construct her web over the past few days. These spiders are not dangerous to people, and their bites result in nothing more than a sore, itchy swelling that goes away in a few days. Knowing she poses no immediate threat to us or our visiting grandchildren, I have left her alone to weave her large and intricately fragile web. When I venture close enough to photograph her, she quickly scrambles up her web to get out of harm's way. Yes, she is quite shy...and tidy. After mating, the male dies...and she eats him. Waste not, want not ;)

"Will you walk into my parlor?" said the spider to the fly;

"'Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you may spy.

The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,

And I have many curious things to show when you are there."

"Oh no, no," said the little fly; "to ask me is in vain,

For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

Mary Howitt (1799-1888)