Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Where would a decent witch be without a couple of black cats? Or an indecent witch for that matter.
So these are our Halloween costumes. Alex and Lucas are black cats, and are so cute I can hardly stand it. I am a witch, which will come as no surprise to my haters.
Larry - the prima donna- is still getting into makeup so I'll have to post his picture tomorrow. He's going as a zombie and is probably going to get us kicked out of the party we're attending later this evening since his "outfit" consists of a live tarantula and a live snake. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm being out-freaked. By my own spouse.
I'd kind of hoped Larry would go as my all-time favorite Halloween movie hero, Ash from Army of Darkness. I could have threatened to steal his soul and he could have said, "Yo, she-bitch. Let's go."
God, I love that movie. Everytime I watch it I want to run out and buy a pump action shotgun. Maybe next year.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
According to the Star-Tribune article, Robert Beale went on the lam rather than face court over the $1.6 million in back taxes the IRS seeks to collect. Vox contends that his daddy's running away proves his bravery.
I’d say that’s all well and good if you don’t leave behind a family to take the heat you refuse to face yourself. Apparently this “brilliant” businessman realizes - in retrospect - that running from a problem won‘t make it go away. Authorities are now badgering Beale’s children in an attempt to find the fugitive CEO, who briefly sought refuge in a Wisconsin mobile home. According the article, Robert Beale told the mobile home's owner, Martin Chapman, that he needed a place to stay because he was having trouble with his wife. The article didn't say whether Chapman questioned why a rich CEO having trouble at home didn't just get a hotel room. (Not too long ago, Vox stated that his dad considered communication with people of ordinary intelligence a form of hell on earth. One has to imagine if the elder Beale has had a chance to reflect on the irony of his snobbery, given that he was forced to turn to an easily-duped trailer dweller for protection.)
Like most Americans, I’m no fan of the current tax code, which places an unfair burden on most Americans. It should be amended, and working within the system is frustrating. Change - if it does come - comes slowly. Robert Beale was in a position many Americans do not enjoy - he had the resources to fight back. The amount that Beale owed is a drop in the bucket for a wealthy man. He could have paid it and devoted himself to fighting the tax code. It surely would have made more sense than slinking away into the hills and leaving his family to be tossed about by the waves of worry, government harrassment and public humiliation. When considering which of our treasures is worthy of protection, the treasure of family should always come first.
I can’t imagine putting my family through that kind of worry for $10 million, let alone the $1.6 million Beale seeks to protect. Facing a dragon like the U.S. Government is daunting, to be sure. It takes bravery to stand and fight, especially when you know that you may not win the first round. But to leave your family to deal with the fallout alone? No, that’s not bravery. Not even by a long shot.
It's been brought to my attention that two posters have come out at Vox's blog to dispute his notion that Daddy is Brave. For their efforts, they are being accused of being me, Morgan, posting under another name. It's understandable given that his blog is largely an echo chamber.
Of course, it would be easy for Vox to set the record straight as he already unwittingly has done with the person posting as IRS, whose physical location isn't anywhere near the Southeast, where I live. He could easily do the same with the person posting as Ladybug, since he can easily compare my ISP - which he recognizes - to his/hers.
Oh, and it appears in a fit of anger, Vox publicly posted IRS's IP address and laughably threatened to turn him/her over to the government. Can you believe that? Well, I can. It seems he inherited a certain whiny fugitive's sense of irony.
The question is, will Vox set the record straight? Or will he allow his readers to assume that only one person disagrees with him and is posting under a variety of names? Don't hold your breath. My guess is that he will allow them to believe only one person believes his father took a cowardly route, thereby proving that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I know some People of Faith wrestle with observing Halloween, but I've never been one of them. Good Christians fret that there's too much pagan symbolism, and claim paganism is Evil because it is predates Christianity. But that begs the question: "What part of "pre" don't they understand?" The pagans didn't know anything about Christianity or Christ because it hadn't been introduced to them. I'm not sure how now knowing about Christianity makes someone evil. So far no one has yet to explain it to me in a way that makes any sense.
Of course, when the pagans were converted, it wasn't always willingly. So when they were forced to build churches they snuck carvings of their own gods into the architechture. And the church threw them a bone with Mary, who was the closest thing to a goddess they could allow. To bring the pagans along, the Christians co-opted the pagan holy days and turned them into Christian ones. Yule became Christmas, Eostre became Easter and so on. If you think Halloween is ful of pagan symbolism, try investigating the origins of your Christmas tree sometime.
And if you really, really want to blow your own mind, look into old pagan myths of the sacrificial king. It may remind you of Someone You Know.
So can you still be a good Christian if you celebrate Halloween? Sure, especially if you already celebrate Easter and Christmas. Besides, I'm pretty sure God approves. Why else would He have allowed candy corn?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
This morning I went out to see the spiders and found Octavia's web empty. I accounted for the remaining spiders and found them all except for her. I came in and told Larry and a few minutes later, when he went out to water the orchids, he yelled for me to come into the greenhouse. And here's what we found: The original Octavia, her abdomen deflated from laying eggs, was preying one of the other Octavias. She'd crawled right down into her web, grabbed the smaller spider and was busily pumping her full of venom.
Yuck. And damn. If she'd just have waited we would have gladly given her another grasshopper. But I guess egg-laying is depleting work and it's easier to just crawl into someone else's web and eat them than it is to build your own web and wait for something to fly into it.
My first, irrational though was to do something to save Octavia's victim. But then I felt silly. It was too late. And besides, this sort of thing happens in the wild all the time. So I left her to suck her sister spider dry and did the next best thing. I took some pictures. Yes, yes, I know it's unnerving. But when I brought the spiders home I told myself I'd document everything they did, and that' what I've done. Just think of gruesome spider pictures kind of like pornography. No one's forcing you to look at it.
On the upshot, Octavia has laid her eggs. We aren't sure where, but it'll join the two other egg sacs we've already found in the greenhouse.
The pregnant spiders who laid them disappeared. Like I said, egg-laying is apparently pretty demanding work, and the others lacked Octavia's resolve to do what it takes to stay in the game: cannibalize your neighbor.
So that's the latest in the Octavia files. Stay tuned. I know how much you all love reading about my spiders. Especially Suspect and Erik.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Are you afraid of death?
I used to be afraid of the experience of dying. Since I've had a family I'm still afraid, but more of their dying than I am of my own. Now, when I think of my own death, I think of it in terms of how it would affect my family, and I fear the not the pain of dying, but the pain of pending separation and the grief it would cause my loved ones. But still, that fear pales in comparison to the fear of losing one of them.
So on Saturday we visited a local cemetery. It's very old, with a rich and storied history, populated by the remains of fighting men from every conflict since the Revolutionary War, by generals, by sailors, by slaves, by politicians, by civic leaders. And by ordinary folk. And families. Whole families who entered the family plot over generations or - in some cases - within short days, months or years of each other during epidemics.
Larry and the kids and I were joined on our outing by our friends, Elizabeth and Johnathan and their children. Johnathan is also a photographer, and we'd been talking for some time about shooting some of the old headstones. We all started off together but soon Elizabeth and the kids and I broke away to visit the plots of families who had endured our worst fears - those plots where children lay.
Larry and Johnathan avoided the children's graves; Elizabeth later confided that they upset her husband so that he couldn't even bring himself to photograph them. Larry would only say they made him too sad. But Elizabeth and I were drawn to them and stood there, emitting silent condolences to the parents who had to wait many years before being laid to rest beside the children they'd lost.
One family plot held the remains of four children. Robert lived from 1834 to 1835. Eleven years later, in 1845, Edward was born, but died a year later. In 1850 came Caroline, who also lived but a year. All share a joint headstone. But the final child, Robbie, was with them longer. But not long enough. He lived nine years, and you can almost feel the lingering pain of his passing as you stand by his headstone. The top is carved with the image of a little dog and a riderless pony. Under his name are written the words, "Our last born. Our little pet."
As we stood before the plot - one of many such plots from that time period - Elizabeth and I pondered our good fortune to be living in the 21st century.
"All those wee babes," Elizabeth said. "You have to wonder how their mums went on."
But they did. And they did it without grief counselers, self-help books, anti-depressants and friends urging them to seek "closure." Somehow they endured. Somehow they faced every parents worst fear to go on.
We continued to walk through the cemetery - the late-afternoon sun throwing dapples of light over the weathered stones as our children ran and laughed among them. Why, we wondered, were we here now in a time when we could realistically believe our children will live to see adulthood? Why had fortune smiled on us? It couldn't have been because of anything we'd done.
Elizabeth, who is Irish, is deeply spiritual and one of the most loving and genuine people I've ever known. She and I share a rather broad view of God. We both believe we're here to teach and to learn and that our earthbound existence is just a temporary blip on an eternal journey of the soul. We wondered as we walked if the dead still lingered where they lay, or returned to host visitors to their final resting places. We certainly believed we felt something. Some plots - like the ones that held the Robbie and his three siblings - were surrounded by a strong aura of sadness and loss. Others felt light and peaceful. This feeling increased when our children came up to visit the stones. Could it be that the spirits enjoyed the company of children? It made us wonder. I'm still wondering. Perhaps what we felt was projection. Perhaps what we felt was real.
Now, dear readers, I didn't write this as a segue to some theological debate. Those have all been done, redone and will never end. And regardless of whether you believe in Something or Nothing, ultimately none of us will really know what happens in the afterlife - or if there even is one - until we die ourselves.
But something did happen as we left that deepened the mystery for me.
The cemetery gates close at dusk, but as we were driving out, something caught my eye in the newer section of the cemetery.
"Stop!," I implored Larry. "I want to see one more grave." There was just something about this one, something that beckoned me. Something that said, "LOOK!"
It was the grave of a 24-year-old man - a grave that had been lovingly tended, and recently, at that. A marble vase held cheery sunflowers. At the base of the vase sat a carved wooden angel, a rabbit, a seashell, and the wilted remains of a lily. Above his grave, a set of windchimes played the most peaceful and melodious notes I'd ever heard. I felt love at this grave. Love of the people who tended it and something else. The appreciation of someone who knows they're still alive in the hearts of their family. Appreciation, and perhaps a bit of pride.
"Wow. You were loved," I said to the young man. "You're still loved." I asked silent permission to take a few shots, not feeling a bit silly for doing so, and then just stood there for a moment, enjoying the sound of the chimes. But then, as I aimed my camera up for a shot of the chimes I noticed something odd. There branches and leaves were perfectly still. There was no breeze. The chimes were moving on their own.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Larry was home for lunch today and observed that we had a Peeping Tom. "Look," he said. "He's looking in the playroom window."
I went to grab the gun, thinking it was Tom Foley, but it it was just a snake.
More specifically, it was a smooth green snake, and it was on the potato vine that runs up the corner of our house. It was just sitting there, staring in the playroom window. If you can ignore the dirty window (I hate doing windows) try to enjoy the shot of our little visitor.
Why he was staring in the window I don't know. Maybe he heard we provide creepy crawlies with shelter against the coming cold snap. We didn't bring him in, though. Unlike the Octavias, green snakes are common to our area and will soon find a warm place to sleep. Outdoors. Where he belongs.
I did get a good shot of his face before he left. He really is such a little beauty. I love his big eyes!
So tomorrow Alex has a homeschooling event - some Colonial sewing thing. While she's at that, Lucas and I are going on a spider hunt. The temperatures are forecasted to dip into the low 40's here tomorrow night; the Octavias won't likely survive, so we're going to try and collect what we can and release them in the greenhouse.
I told Larry I'd like to set the original Octavia up in this huge hexagon aquarium we have. It would be pretty neat to put it in the corner of the bedroom, I think, with a flourescent light on it. A spider night light. Yeah, that'd be way cool.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
He was wonderful. At nine, Alex is at the age where she's a bit more body conscious, and he put her at ease during the examination by talking to her about her hobbies. He pronounced her healthy afterwards and then he and I began discussing her history of asthma.
The doctor decided, based on Alex's records, that renewing the prescription was warranted. As he jotted down the order in his doctor's scrawl, I commented on how expensive the Advair was, and how I felt fortunate to be able to scrape together the $150 a month it took to purchase the medicine. I told him I'd gone on the GlaxoSmithKline website and found that Advair wasn't one of the medications listed in the free-or-reduced-cost drug programs the company offers to the uninsured.
The doctor rolled his eyes and said that was because drug companies were greedy.
Excuse me? Did I hear right? A doctor criticizing drug companies? Of course, I asked him to elaborate and he told me that the reason Advair wasn't offered through the programs is because there' s no competing generic. With no compeitition, GlaxoSmithKline can charge whatever they bloody well please.
I asked him what uninsured people who couldn't afford the medicine did. He shook his head sadly and said they either took half the prescribed dose or risked going without. I told him I hoped I'd never have to make that choice, but as a freelancer I know how work can be there one day and not the next.
"Hold on a sec," he said, and left the room. A few minutes later he came back with four samples of Advair - a four month supply. I was stunned.
"In case you run out of work," he said. "You seem like a really caring mother. I'd hate to see you have to make that kind of choice."
I almost wanted to cry, but managed a smile and a 'thank-you' instead. I paid my $93 bill and walked out with my $300 worth of medicine for my little girl. My faith in the medical profession has been restored, and we have a new family doctor.
My concerns prior to the visit weren't completely unfounded. My editing work has dried up, I've finished my lucrative summer screenplay project - and used the money to renovate my house and purchase a much needed laptop and professional grade camera. Not a whole lot of money is left over. And not a whole lot of work was on the horizon.
Then within an hour - via cellphone - I'd gotten two great assignments and learned a payment I'd been hoping would arrive had done just that.
Life is funny. Just when you think you need to worry - a futile thing to do - something happens and you find some little glimmer of hope. And hope, today, was just what the doctor ordered.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
In a typical dream move that makes no sense, I'm able to manage a perfect three-point turn. But as soon as I do I realize why the other drivers were fleeing. A series of explosions are rocking the bridge - and they're getting closer. Everyone is trying to get off the bridge before the whole thing collapses. I hit the accelerator and careen through traffic. My passenger clings to my arm and tells me that no matter what happens, we are in this together.
The really, really scary part of my dream: My passenger is Sean Hannity.
After that I'm afraid to go to sleep again....
Monday, October 09, 2006
Look carefully at the picture above. It's a web spun by our latest "Octavia." There are six of them now. We picked up five more females on a nature trail Saturday and released them in the orchid room the next day to join the Original Octavia. By this morning, one had spun a web in the greenhouse, two are MIA (probably hiding) and three had made their way up to the rafters and outside, where one spun a web under the eaves. The two others built lairs closer to the ground. Larry spotted the Original Octavia, engorged by her grasshopper feast, creeping along the top edge of the greenhouse last night. We're hoping she was looking to spin an egg sac and fill it with eggs.
We have high hopes that we'll get at least one egg sac. Again, I call your attention to the top photo, specifically the upper left hand corner. Do you see him? He may not look like much but that diminutive little guy is a male Nephila clavipes. We were lucky to snag two males along with their mates, but we saw many, many more. Some webs had a female and two males. The biologist I interviewed last week said males are a good sign; the presence of the shorter-lived males this late in the season means the golden silk spiders will establish a permanent population. Prior to this they were very rare as we were on the very tip of their range of this tropical genus. Provided we keep having these mild winners in a couple more years the spiders won't even be a novelty anymore.
But even if they aren't, I'll still be fascinated by them and hope to have them establish here on our property in the coming year. After all, how can you not be charmed by a spider who spins a web of gold?
Sunday, October 08, 2006
You know, I've been picking apart personas for some time now, and discovering underneath people - both married and single - whose inability to function makes it easier to shut themselves away and communicate with strangers than it is to find satisfaction within their own families or communities.
I went to the zoo recently and found the polar bear habitat particularly depressing. The enclosure was nice, with lots of rocks and cool water but despite their well-constructed surrounding those bears were very unhappy.
Observing the characters I've commented on lately is like watching animals pace in the zoo. The self-imposed captivity of the Internet recluse is not unlike the artificial state of a zoo. Sure the captivity provides a level of comfort. You can be viewed briefly as a Perfect Specimen without being seen as you really are. You can present your good side to the crowd so the scar you got in the circus doesn't show. You can even arrange an artificial mating construct, which is so much easier than the rejection you've so often found in thew wild. But ultimately, when the Internet recluse takes an honest look at the reality they've created, they know it's not REAL.
To that end, I've done a bit of house-cleaning and shall move on. I'm fortunate to have a family to love, work for and appreciate. The world is full of people who have and will continue to do things I wouldn't do. I sure can't expect them to change because I think they should.
Since you quite obviously have a very green thumb, I was wondering if you
could enlighten us on what is needed for a good greenhouse. From the pics I
think I can figure out the materials you used (tho I dont know what the "glass"
is called)What all is needed in there? What temp do you keep it at, if you heat
it at all? Humidity? etc.
I wish I could take credit for the beautiful orchids you see in my spider post but I'm not the one with the green thumb in the family. I can write, take nice pictures, and sew. But I have no natural ability with plants.
Larry is the green thumb in our family, and what I do know of plants I've learned from him, much of it through osmosis. He's a natural teacher and people love to just talk to him about plants because he's knowledgeable and very good at explaining things.
Our two greenhouses he built himself.We have a large one made of two layers of industrial grade plastic stretched over a wooden frame. The layers of plastic are inflated by air, which provides the insulation. That greenhouse is huge; I forget the dimensions and the heater I bought him as a gift a few years ago towers over my head. It keeps the greenhouse warm in the winter. There are also massive fans across the back that pull out the air in the summer months, to keep it from getting too hot. It's where we keep our big tropicals. It never gets below 60 degrees in there.
Our little greenhouse is my favorite. It's an enclosed patio off our bedroom. That's where we keep the spiders. It's not glass that covers it, but twinwall, a polycarbonate plastic that's thin, lightweight and provides great insulation. The temperature in there never drops below fifty degrees and is heated with a small gas heater.
We are in the process of preparing a site for a third greenhouse. It's a complete glass and aluminum greenhouse. They sell for about $3,000 but we got ours for free from a guy who said we could have the whole thing if we took it down. Larry and I are really good at finding bargains; he got the twinwall used from one of the area arboretums. I found the offer for the glass and aluminum greenhouse tucked in among the advertisments at the local health food co-op.
With greenhouses, you can be as elaborate and expensive or as simple and low-cost as you like. I'd suggest checking the want ads first; people who move onto property with an old greenhouse will often sell it for very little. Just about everything we got for our greenhouse - from lights to watering systems we found below cost.
Kits are available through gardening supply catalogs, and again they vary in price and can be from a basic frame to a turnkey system. What temperature and humidity you choose for your greenhouse depends on what you are going to grow. I'd suggest starting small with one from a kit or a small one you build yourself through plans you find online or in a book. Magazines like Countryside and Mother Earth News often offer greenhouse plans.
I love our greenhouses, even if the plants cringe when I walk by. I don't prefer them as much as I like the outdoor gardens in the spring and summer, but it is nice on a frosty morning to find a dozen blooming orchids peeping at you from their shelves.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Giant spiders in the greenhouse. Good. Giant grasshoppers. Bad. With apologies in advance for creeping out Suspect, here are a few shots taken during Octavia's morning meal. (Click on the photos to enlarge for an even gorier look).
Today we go to collect more spiders. I can hardly wait! If one is this much fun, imagine what ten will be like.
Friday, October 06, 2006
I got such an awesome assignment earlier this week - to do a piece on the abundance of golden silk spiders in our area.
They are impressive creatures; the females grow to about 4 inches in length and build elaborate webs that span three to six feet across.
So was it really wrong for me to bring back a souvenier from the garden where I photographed the spider? I coudn't resist. I brought Octavia home in an empty plastic sack and let her loose that night in the orchid greenhouse off our master bedroom. By yesterday she'd tucked herself away in a corner in a temporary web. This morning I found her in a permanent one stretched between the wires that hold up the shelves in our greenhouse.
If you look very carefully at the top picture, you can see her, and note her size in relation to the pot. Isnt' she lovely? Of course, I figured you might want a close-up, so here's one at the right. (Enlarge the photos for a better look.)
I think we need more of these awesome arachnids. Golden silk spiders tend to cluster in groups. I figure our small greenhouse can handle two or three more. And the big greenhouse out front could handle about ten. So this weekend we're going spider hunting. Hopefully we can find a few males so they'll breed and produce little ones.
How cool would that be. If you're afraid of spiders, it's probably not cool at all. But to me, it is.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
It is important for the leader of the armed forces to be able to weather
the storms of public opinion. In spite of the vultures like Cindy Sheehan, he
has remained above the pettiness, and seems to have a genuine respect and care
for the military and their families. He does not try to exploit our dead
soldiers…But he happily exploits the dead of 9/11 every chance he gets. And his
fiscal policies (borrow and spend) are an absolute nightmare for our country.
The Dept. of Homeland Security has made Wyoming much safer, but it ignores
gaping holes in our port and border security.
To Luke's credit, he's at least open-minded. I'd wager there are fewer rabid conservatives who can find one good thing to say about Clinton than there are rabid liberals who can say one good thing about Bush. That's because most rabid, mouth-breathing conservatives are so wrapped in their flags that they can't spew anything beyond the latest line fed to them by Sean Hannity.
As for me, I've not only just about had it with both political parties (and the fringe Libertarian kooks), I've just about had it with politics.
Roland and Luke, I'd respectfully submit that there's not one politician - anywhere - who's not corrupted by power. I've seen it even in really good people here who've gone from local commissioners to state representatives. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering, special favors and tricks they employ to keep themselves in power boggles the mind. Those things increase exponentially the higher up that political ladder one goes.
My theory is the more political power you get, the farther away you drift from the people who put you there. Politicians can talk about what they do "for the people back home" all they want. Their actions are take are geared towards providing good political ads for themselves, not good leadership for constituency.
I used to think my vote meant something. I don't think so anymore. Influence isn't something you gain in the voting booth, it's something you pay for under the table. Don't tell me for a moment there's a whit of difference between Clinton and Bush in that regard.
Luke says we're in a bad way, politically. "Poor us," he says. I agree, only I'd abbreviate his last word. Poor U.S.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Yesterday I visited a local vineyard to snap shots during the final days of the grape harvest. The grapes came in early this year and the vines are nearly picked clean. A few old women trudged around, picking what they could find. The light was perfect, and the remaining grapes were like jewels on the vine. I shot for about an hour, came home, went through the photos and this morning submitted about a dozen of my favorites on spec to the newspaper.
The editor emailed me later to say she wanted four, and the paycheck will be enough to make up for more than half the cost of the telephoto lens I recently purchased. What's more, I've been given an assignment to find and shoot interesting people in a nearby rural community!
This is a Big Deal to me because I find photography to be the perfect complement to writing. Capturing a moment in both words and pictures is artistically gratifying. Getting paid to do either is a privilege; getting paid to do both is like icing on the cake.
Today I feel....blessed.
Monday, October 02, 2006
If celebrating the birth of my children has been the most wonderful part of my life - and it has - then celebrating the birth of a dear friend's child is a close second.
Yesterday Larry and I were visited by our dear friends and their beautiful nine week old daughter. The mother of this little angel has been one of my best pals for years; I met Cece when Alex was about a year old. Cece has always doted on Alex, and Alex has always adored her. When Cece and Scott got married, Alex was the flower girl in their wedding. Just watching Scott and Cece interact with Alex and our other children, I knew they'd be great parents.
When Cece announced her pregnancy last year, we hoped for a little girl, although she and Scott would have been thrilled regardless. Even before he knew the gender, Scott proudly displayed the first ultrasound photos of the unborn baby they'd nicknamed "Bean."
I was one of the first people they called afer the baby was born. I knew Isabelle would be beautiful, and she was. When I held her, I realized that I'd called it correctly after Lucas' birth when I'd said that five was enough for me; if this perfect baby didn't make me want Number Six, nothing would. (Of course, this was fine with Lucas, who loves babies but has made it clear that in our family he is committed to holding that position. )
Yesterday I was honored to shoot pictures of Baby Isabelle. I got some nice ones of her with her beaming parents, but my favorites were the one I shot of Scott and Cece's firstborn daughter and our youngest daughter - one a shot of their faces and the other of their holding hands.
"Our girls," I said. "I'm taking pictures of our girls. Can you believe it?" It made me so happy I almost wanted to cry.
There's so much to be cynical about in today's world. Yesterday reminded me that there's also so much to celebrate.