Fourth of July LP-Style: Tickfaw River and the Prop Stop Inn

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I got lucky enough to snag a last minute invite to a Fourth of July celebration that included one of my all-time bucket list items. When I was young, my parents were too strict to let me go on a Tickfaw River junket on the Fourth of July, and I moved away before I ever got a chance to do it. But, over the years I’ve heard people tell stories about Tin Lizzy’s and the Prop Stop Inn. My imagination ran wild as to what those places would be like, and I’ve been itching to get invited on a junket to experience them. My old college pal, Ray, and his wife, Donna, were nice enough to include me in their celebration yesterday. They live on the Tickfaw, and, when he said we’d take the boat out for a ride in the afternoon after lunch, I knew exactly what that meant. SCORE!!!

I watched the weather all week, and it was looking a bit dicey, but Saturday morning it was looking good. I packed up Ashok and we hauled ass. That’s Livingston Parish lingo for driving as fast as you can – within the speed limit, of course. Livingston Parish will further be mentioned as ‘the LP” as it’s known by residents. I could describe the LP to you, but I think that you will figure it out by the time I get done with this blog. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

You sure this junket is safe?

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We arrived at Ray and Donna’s home right before lunchtime, and Ray’s family began arriving shortly after. I had a great time talking with his parents, his sister Anita and blowing bubbles with his granddaughter Josie. The men were cooking up all kinds of meat including some venison wrapped in jalapeños, cream cheese and bacon.

Ashok made new friends!

And Mr. Ray even threw her a treat!

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And we got to swing…

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And then we got to get in the boat…..

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This is better than a kayak, Momma. I’m just sayin’.

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I got Mr. Ray looking cool as the boat captain…

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But then he thought he’d look cooler with sunglasses….

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And then he remembered his bald head…. 

IMG_2852And then we just decided to add some beauty to the picture and get his wife Donna in it.

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It was actually a perfect day as the rain had cooled everything off, and the overcast skies made it feel like a spring day in South Louisiana. The Tickfaw was lovely. It was an amazing combination of Louisiana swamp and river, and she pulled off the look perfectly.

Ashok and I just enjoyed the ride.

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We arrived at the Prop Stop Inn in short order. Boat traffic was not as busy as I would have expected, but they said that the earlier storm seemed to have put a dent in the July 4th crowds. A bit of a crowd was already at the Prop Stop, and I was excited to de-board and see what I’d been missing all of these years.

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It was crowded. Everybody told me it would have been a lot worse if it hadn’t rained, but there was definitely a party going on. One of Ray’s friends mentioned that the Prop Stop is the biggest seller of Bacardi Rum in the entire south … or was it the entire country … or maybe even world? I can’t remember, but they sell a lot of Bacardi in their signature drink, The Worm Bucket. It’s some lethal combination of juices and booze served in a styrofoam worm bucket with a gummy worm swimming around in the mix. Since I don’t drink, I didn’t get to try one, but they didn’t seem to miss my business anyway.

The Prop Stop Inn is only accessible by boat, so it’s a little outside bar set in the middle of the natural swamp on the banks of the muddy Tickfaw River. There is a front bar where a band was located, a bar in the middle with restrooms, and a deck out back where they hold water balloon and hula hoop contests. But, the obvious shining star is the Tickfaw River. It was nicer than I thought. I thought it would be a hole-in-the-wall, but I thought it was very tastefully done. The bandstand on the deck out back sits under a huge whiskey barrel attached to a rope. Atop it is a pump for water, and my friends told me that the water is usually running, and you pull the rope and soak whomever is standing beneath it. That wasn’t going on yesterday, but it sounds like a fitting activity for a place like this.

There was a lot of flag-hugging going on a the Prop Stop Inn… 

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Right after we got there, I ran into one of my teammates and a coworker from work. 

 

We all hung out for a little bit, and they indulged in some worm buckets until it got time for us to leave. We had a house party to attend to finish off the day.

He owns the boat, Momma?

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Hmmm… 

Do you have a boat?

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So we hung around at the house party until dark when the fireworks started and then floated around chatting with friends until way past our bedtime. It was an amazing day and a very Happy Fourth of July for me and my girl. I hope yours was awesome, and you should join me next year at the Prop Stop. Please bring your boat as we don’t have one. Although Ashok seems to be working hard to find a resource. IMG_2911

Gotcha: The Trouble with the Internet

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This morning I received my regular newsletter from DezinsInteractive, a local advertising agency who specializes in Social Media Management among other things. I clicked on a link on how to expand my organic reach on Facebook. Facebook has changed so much since 2007 when I joined. It’s settings now are designed as such that your organic reach is significantly reduced over the way it used to be. Ever notice that you don’t get as many likes and comments as you used to? Or, that you are not seeing your friend’s feeds as much as when you first joined? Paid ads get the top spots in your News Feed. You – on Facebook – are merely a marketing target.

I had conversations with three people this week who all said they hated Facebook and wish they could get off. But, if you have a page for anything – like a business or my blog – you have to keep your personal page to keep it going. I tried to keep my page up but unfriend all of my friends so I could essentially get off FB earlier this year. Too many people thought that I’d gotten mad at them and unfriended them. I felt like it was kind of screwing me up socially. That’s the problem with Facebook. We have become socially wired to be on it. I don’t really get on there much anymore, so I miss a lot. My friends expect me to check FB to see what they are doing. So I am half-in and half-out of FB.

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Last week’s political controversies, of course, brought out the worst and the best in people. At any rate, I tried to stay off as much as I could because I just didn’t want to read all the crap posted on there. It’s not really people’s opinions that have been flaming this time around. It’s the articles that they post. The internet is full of garbage. When something happens, paid writers – or writers who want to be paid – think of all kinds of ways to inflame people’s anger or justify their opinions and write about it. I know this because I am a writer, and I’m exploring ways to make money with it. Do you know that many of the freelance jobs out there for writers are for content – not for reading – but for placement of key words? I look at job after job where they are advertising for content writers to write 50 blogs for $300. Or, some where they will pay $3 per blog. Who is going to work for that? Believe me, there are plenty. To people overseas, $3 can be a week’s wage. So, non-native English-speaking people write ‘content’ designed to hit ‘keywords’ which are designed to grab your attention so that they can advertise to you. Do you think they care if the information is true? Balanced? Even good writing?

Right now, in higher education where I work, we need to use digital resources to teach. We need up-to-date information – particularly in those fields that change frequently. So, the most important skill we have to teach is how to tell if information is credible. Ever try to research a medical problem? How about try to get to the bottom of any kind of controversial topic? It’s hard to know what to believe. And, don’t trust your searches, either. You do know that people pay to get their content listed higher in the searches? Statistics show that you will click on whatever is on the front page. In some cases, the information is the most credible out there because Google has an amazing system to tell that your stuff is credible. But, sometimes, it’s because they paid for that keyword to be higher in the search. The experts say Google is the most trustworthy, so I use Google more than any other search engine, but I use my brain to decide if a site is trying to sell me something or if the content is actually worth reading. And, it’s not always that obvious.

I remember when the internet first came out. I was an early adopter. I was living in Seattle. All of my friends thought it was evil and said nothing good could come from it, but I wanted to see what this superhighway was all about. The early websites were awful, the load-time was painful, but there were some pretty good services out there. I shopped for my groceries online because I traveled 90% of the time. I could order them on Sunday night, and they would be delivered to my door when I got home. Everybody warned me about putting my credit card on the internet. “Don’t put any personal information out there,” I was warned. I did it anyway. I never really had any problems, knock on wood. It’s potential seemed limitless, and, indeed, it has become limitless.

I’m starting to hate the internet as much as Facebook. I won’t quit using it because it’s a way of life. But, I hate the proliferation of bullsh*t that’s out there, hooking people who don’t have enough sense to know they are being manipulated. I’m sick of it being a place to market everything to everybody. I’ve bought a few Facebook ads just to see how they work. I can target what demographic I want to hit. I ran one last week on my blog about loneliness. Every time I logged on to Facebook, guess what flashed first on my news feed? Guess what was running more frequently through yours (if you have liked my blog page)? Guess what was running frequently through your friend’s feeds? I didn’t get huge results, but there was a definite uptick on clicks – which is what I pay for with an ad. They want you to see it so you might click on it, and Facebook will get 7 cents. And, guess what, I can write any flipping thing I want – true or not – and publish it as if it’s fact. There are no fact-checkers. Nobody cares. I don’t make money on my blog, but if I wrote for somebody else, I might get paid ‘per click’. All I want to do is to entice you to click that mouse. Cha-ching. Gotcha.

Sunday Night Check-In: Well-Fed

We had a water main repair that had to be done in our office on Friday, so we were not able to go to work. It was a surprise and provided me with a much appreciated 3-day weekend. I took care of my errands and getting my hair color touched up on Friday, so I had the rest of the weekend to catch up on other things and play.

My Meetup Group had a murder mystery party Friday night, and it was a lot of fun. I was Coconut Jane in a tropical-themed bar party at the Draft House downtown. I met a ton of new people, and it was a lot of fun trying to be in character and find clues about the death of the bartender, Jack Daniels. The leader of the group, Rob, prepared an amazing dinner that started with a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad. The main course was Kaluha Pork with potatoes and veggies. I was able to eat everything that was offered and stay on my food plan. It was delicious to boot.

Poor Jack Daniels!

Poor Jack Daniels!

Of course, I got up early for kayaking on Saturday, and I played all day on the river. I had a Match meet and greet Saturday night which turned out pretty good. I’m definitely open to seeing him again. I came home and finally unpacked from the Utah trip. I was so tired that I slept 9 hours last night. That doesn’t usually happen with me but my sleep is continuing to get better the longer I am doing the plan suggested by the book Potatoes not Prozac. 

I’ve now been off sugar for a month. I have had a couple of relapses in the last month, but that’s pretty good considering I’ve been traveling and going to parties and such. It’s not easy to do on the road. My first day in Utah I headed out to Whole Foods and got some eggs to boil, fruit, Triscuit crackers, potatoes and Greek Yogurt. That little trip saved me as it would have been difficult to eat breakfast at the conference. First of all, the food was nasty, but they also didn’t have any whole-grain options. The complex carb and protein at breakfast is very important to kick the day off to a good start. I’ve felt so good since kicking the sugar, I got off caffeine again last Monday. I’ve never gotten back into a full-swing caffeine habit since the last time I cut it out, so it was pretty uneventful, but I have had headaches and fatigue a few times this week. The caffeine withdrawal symptoms come and go. I’ll feel great one day, and the next day I feel like a Mack truck hit me. Today was one of the ‘not so good’ days.

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The startings of dinner….

Since I wasn’t feeling that great, I got up and blogged. It poured rain most of the morning, anyway. When I got done, I took Ashok for a walk, dropped off my rent check and went to the produce market. When I got home, I decided to trim Ashok. I’ve loved her short haircut, but it costs $75 to get it done. I can’t really afford that on a regular basis, so I got a hair clipper off Amazon. Ashok and I had to figure this out. It went pretty well. She looks like she has a “my momma cuts my hair” haircut, but it’s not bad. Besides, she got to go kayaking yesterday. That’s something most of those fancy professionally groomed dogs don’t get to do. She’ll have to accept the good with the bad.

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Adobo-inspried White Beans and Roasted Butternut Squash

I roasted some butternut squash tonight and prepared some Adobo-inspired white beans with Penzey’s Adobo seasoning, red onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped poblano peppers. For dessert, I sliced some fresh figs and topped them with a dollop of black-pepper goat cheese. It was freaking awesome! I took one bite of that butternut squash, and I was stunned. When I was eating sugar, it didn’t taste all that sweet. But, tonight’s dish tasted like candy. I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m loving this eating program. I’m enjoying the buttery baked potato before bed just like it’s dessert. I feel amazing, and I’m sleeping like crazy. I don’t think I’ve woken up in the middle of the night since I started it 3 weeks ago. And my mood is completely stable … well, except for the irritability that I attribute to last’s week’s withdrawal from caffeine. It’s been minor, but I’ve noticed that I’m a little edgy.

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Fresh Figs and Black Pepper Goat Cheese

I plan to sit down with a book called Tracks that my friend Leah recommending I read. This one is about a woman who crosses the Australian Outback by herself for her life’s adventure. I don’t think I’m in any danger of doing this with my disdain for the heat, but I’m enjoying reading about these adventuresome women. I think it’s about time to get some women together for a weekend camping, hiking and paddling trip. I’m starting to think there really is a place for that in all of our lives. After all of the excitement with the party on Friday, kayaking on Saturday and rest time on Sunday, I feel very well-fed socially, spiritually and physically. I even put together my healthy breakfast for in the morning. I remembered that I can make overnight oatmeal with my crimped oats from the Farmer’s market. I threw them into a bowl with 1 cup of plain kefir and a cup of blueberries. I’ll be able to just grab and eat it in the morning. Yummy!

Have a great week, y’all. Take care of yourself. You are absolutely worth it.

A Gorgeous Summer Day: Paddling Magee Creek

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My friends Jo Ann and Robbie invited some folks to go kayaking in the Bogue Chitto River area yesterday, and Ashok and I pounced on the opportunity. We had been on the Bogue Chitto River last September, and it was absolutely beautiful. I arrived at about 8:30 at Canoe and Trail Outpost in Tylertown MS. The folks there were super nice, and I decided to take a walk while I waited for my compadres to arrive. The woman up front told me the campground was beautiful, so I headed back.

Campground Site I Want!

There were campsites at the front of the outpost, but the really pretty area was the primitive area in the bend of the Bogue Chitto. They charge $6 per person per night, so it’s really affordable, but, of course, it’s primitive so there is no electricity. There are outdoor hot showers and restrooms, though, up front. That’s a recipe for a return trip for me when the weather gets a tad cooler. I know the campsite I want, too. A tent sat up on a bluff overlooking the Bogue Chitto, and it looked exactly like the kind of place I’d like to wake up to in the morning. I can just see Ashok running down to get a quick bath while I cook up some eggs and toast. Hell, I might even cook up bacon with a view like that!

The Beach Behind the Campground

I took some pics and wandered around on a sandy, rocky beach on the other side of the campground. Ashok swam for the first time of the day and rolled in the sand a bit. She even found something extra stinky to perfume her for the day. By that time, my friends had arrived, and we loaded our boats and supplies in the van. We decided to paddle Magee Creek instead of the river. Another party with a German Shepherd departed with us. We saw them on and off throughout the day.

The creek was beautiful. It is spring-fed, so the water was really cool. It was so cool that the first dip was enough to take my breath away. But, after that, it just felt really refreshing. For a June day, it was not too hot, and I don’t think I ever even broke a sweat. We stopped frequently to grab bites to eat, swim in the creek and wonder what the poor people were doing today. I think I can speak for all of us that we felt really blessed to be out on the water on such a gorgeous day. We did get a few sprinkles here and there, but the day was mostly sunny.

Ashok takes a swim. She doesn’t really like to swim. I had to act like I was leaving her to get her to jump back in the water and come across.

I saw lots of fish in the creek. Some were quite large. I suspect it would be a good fishing hole. Jeff said a fish rubbed up against him and showed us the red mark to prove it. In between swimming breaks, we meandered along, taking turns leading the group with no official structure. We had a kayak pile-up at one log jam, and Ashok almost drowned (or thought she did) when she tried to abandon Jo Ann’s kayak and head over to mine in the middle of a little rapids. I told her to jump in the boat NOW, but she doesn’t get the concept that the boat is going to move, and I can’t stop it in the middle of a current. She ended up on a branch on the bank, and I had to coerce her to swim toward me. But how do you jump into a kayak when you can’t touch the bottom? She swam to the back of the boat, and I could barely reach her collar to pull her in. The whole thing made me really nervous, but that’s part of being in nature. I should have had her life jacket on her yesterday, but I was afraid she’d be too hot. I won’t do that again.

Our Group… Jeff and I had to trade out taking pics, so we have two! I wish I knew photoshop. :)

Other than that, the whole trip was easygoing. Toward the end of the trip, the thunder started rolling. We could see the black clouds on the horizon, but they never really covered us up. About a mile before we ended, a Kingfisher rattled and caught my eye. I love those birds …. and not only because they are named after me. They fly down rivers and streams, flitting in the tops of trees on one side of the bank and then they other. They’ll dive to the water, fly along the surface and hop on a tall tree again. When I kayak, they often lead the way downstream, and this one did that today. It’s rattle is unique, and I always get a bit excited when I hear it. It’s one of the few birds I know by their call.

Loved these beautiful trees

I’ve decided that I want to go back to that campground when the weather gets a little cooler. They also have cabins with air-conditioning for $100 a night. That might be an option for the summer. I just think it would be really nice to paddle the creek one day and the river the next. They are both beautiful. Surprisingly, for a summer weekend, we only encountered one roudy teenage bunch and that was just before we got back to the Outpost. By then, we caught up with our German Shepherd buddies, and one of the guys laughed and said he used to be that way when he was a teenager, too. I concur. One day hopefully they’ll appreciate the quietness of a secluded paddle with a Kingfisher rattling against the backdrop of a beautiful day.

A Taste of Kayaking. You can hear the thunder rolling toward the end.

Relating to Loneliness: Wild

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A friend of mine texted me last night who has been struggling a bit with loneliness lately. Her significant other is busy with other responsibilities right now, and she’s becoming aware of the gaping holes in her own social circle. I asked how I could best support her. “Move here,” she said. She was kidding, of course … sort of. But I know that when I’m in a period of loneliness I think it would be so much better if I found a man, had more friends or was surrounded by people. That’s how you cure loneliness, right? Find other people?

I am single with no children. I have periods of loneliness, and I have days where I feel lonely. Feeling lonely for a day or an evening is just a feeling. It’s painful. Loneliness is a boulder on my heart. It’s heaviness stifles my breath – literally. One night when I was camping last year in the North Georgia mountains, I felt really, horribly lonely. I remember lying in my sleeping bag looking out at the stars. The creek bubbled nearby, and fellow campers talked quietly. Why can’t that be me laughing with others, I thought? Why am I so alone? The gripping on my heart slowed my blood flow, and my breathing was so constricted that I felt like I was wheezing. “You are not alone,” I told myself. I could pick up the phone and call anyone I wanted to, and I have some great friends. But, the feeling was there…. and it would not budge. “Just breathe,” I reminded myself. About that time, I heard a bear calling across the mountain.

The Sounds of a Black Bear

I listened to that bear, and I pretended that he was lonely, too – looking for a connection across the universe in the woods. I gazed out at the night and felt supported in my loneliness. It didn’t ease the feeling, but it did assure me that no matter how deep the cut of loneliness, I would always have compadres. The next morning the loneliness was just a memory. Loneliness passes. I just have to breathe through it and accept its painful presence.

Trailer for “Wild”

Periods of loneliness are another thing altogether. My coworker, Tiffany, recommended I watch Wild with Reese Witherspoon. It is the story of a 26-year-old who sets out to hike the Pacific Coast Trail alone in order to confront the demons that are destroying her young life. Along the way, she meets a person on the trail that asks her if she gets lonely out there. “I’m lonelier in my real life than I am out here,” she replies. I was lonelier in my marriages than I ever have been single. I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t my partner’s fault that I was lonely. Now that I’ve learned to relate to loneliness, I realize that I was focusing on another person’s presence to keep me from feeling lonely. I didn’t do the things I needed to do to create comfort within me when I was feeling lonely. I mistakenly assumed that since I wasn’t alone, I shouldn’t feel lonely. And it was their fault if I did.

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Being alone has nothing to do with loneliness. In periods of loneliness, I have come to realize that we are inherently lonely. No one else ever gets under our skin to really be with us. And, in a world where authenticity is not often welcome, it is rare to find relationships where I can truly be authentic. I may have a handful of relationships where I can really show my ugly, raw, unfiltered insides for the fresh breath of healing acceptance. When I accept that loneliness is part of the human condition and not a failure on my part to be ‘acceptable’, I can stomach it. I have to learn to be my own best friend and enjoy my own company. When I can get into that space, I find being alone enjoyable. When I’m not there, it can be agonizing. Even if I’m in a room full of people, being in a place where I can’t be myself can bring on that soul-smothering loneliness that I felt on that Georgia night.

Cheryl Strayed Talks About Her Book “Wild”

I can’t stop thinking about that movie. I’d love to take off like that in the wild and see it on my own. The truth is I’m too much of a chicken to go out into the wilderness at that level. Interestingly enough, though, the loneliness of it all doesn’t scare me anymore. At one time, it would have scared me to death. I went kayaking when I was in Georgia on the upper Chatooga River. It’s a gentle, beautiful river with only very small rapids. It was just me and Ashok, and it was a lovely day. I saw a few fisherman along the way, but I was mostly alone with nature. At one point, I misjudged where I needed to be to navigate a rapids, and I found myself caught under some branches with the current pushing me under the bushes. I naively grabbed a branch which flipped the boat. The boat floated downstream, leaving me and my dog on foot. The boat kept going. I had to run after it, and it scared me. I was never in any danger, but the thought crossed my mind that this was kind of stupid to do this alone. I finally caught up with the boat, and we were on our way after I had to coerce Ashok to get back in the kayak. In the movie Wild, Cheryl had a couple of incidents where she capsized – metaphorically – in dealing with the challenges inherent in being in the natural world. I remembered my feeling stupid, and I realized that I wasn’t stupid. It was perfectly normal to be challenged by nature, and, if I was alone, well, I was alone in the challenge. I accepted the risk by signing up for the journey.

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Cheryl found her strength on the Pacific Coast Trail. She is profoundly different now. I believe that one of the biggest game-changers for me as I’ve traveled my path is my transformed relationship with loneliness. If it is truly a part of the human condition, and I believe it is, I don’t have to fix it. I just have to learn to be in relationship with it. I have to build relationships which are authentic, understand that God is the only wellspring for my soul, and know that I am the only person that is always going to be there for me. I am aware enough to know what I need, I enjoy my own company, and I have the strength to handle whatever challenges life brings. You don’t scare me, loneliness. Go bother somebody else. 

“The clamor of ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ was a mighty shout. It could not be drowned out. The only possible distraction was my vigilant search for rattlesnakes. I expected one around every bend, ready to strike. The landscape was made for them, it seemed. And also for mountain lions and wilderness-savvy serial killers.

But I wasn’t thinking of them.

It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Facebook Rant: Just Because

A friend of mine texted me tonight that she didn’t even want to socialize with a bunch of her old friends because of the rebel flag controversy that is playing out on Facebook.

“There’s a rebel flag controversy?” I texted back.

She explained that there’s an uproar of people demanding that they have a God-given right to wave the rebel flag. Apparently, this is part of the backlash of the massacre in Charleston. I’m not stupid. I know about the killings. And I’m certainly horrified about them. But, I don’t read much on Facebook anymore, and I don’t really watch the news unless there’s something that I’ve heard about word of mouth. Perhaps I’m weird. I actually don’t care. I just don’t like seeing the bad side of life on a consistent basis. I try to focus on the positive and ingest positive stories and news. It’s part of my treatment for my anxiety and part of my wish to see the world as a sunny, happy place. Now, that I say it, it does seem a bit moronic. But, if I’m going to be a moron, why not be a happy one? At any rate, I didn’t realize that the rebel flag was reliving another controversy on Facebook.

“Why don’t they take away the guns [if his accessories seem to be the problem]?” I asked.

“Yeah, suggest getting rid of the guns, you terrorist-loving pinko commie b*stard,” she replied.

I explained that I don’t read anything on Facebook anymore because it makes me hate everybody I know. Gossip, hate-mongering, mud-slinging, religious intolerance, and gay-bashing homophobia turns my stomach, and I’m quite sick of it. I long for the days when Facebook was new and shiny and everybody was catching up on their past and there were only the people I knew on Facebook. Now, every other post is a paid ad, a gory picture of animal abuse, a political slam or some other inappropriate conversation that would never happen in real life. And that doesn’t even touch the stuff that goes on behind the scenes in Facebook messaging. They say one out of 4 divorces are caused by Facebook now. Facebook has become a heartless vacuum, a sort of no man’s land when it comes to manners and respect of others.

“I don’t read anything on FB anymore. I only read my own crap and post pics of myself. I’m down to liking only me.” I explained with an LOL.

“I’m seriously thinking of deleting my Facebook,” she replied. “I’m so much better than all of them.”

“I love myself,” I answered. And I sent her a selfie just to show how beautiful I really am.

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“Perfect!” she answered. “Why I like me so much better than you, and you, especially you.”

Thank you, Facebook. You bring out the best in all of us. Of course, I’ll be posting this on Facebook! Instagram is so much more civilized, but you can’t post a blog there!

Learning About Learning: InstructureCon 2015

yogini.sharon:

In case you are interested, I just started a professional blog! Here’s my second post….

Originally posted on Designing the Learning Space:

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I had the opportunity to go to InstructureCon last week in Park City UT. Our community and technical college system implemented Canvas (Instructure’s LMS Product) in the spring, and we are live with it this summer. I’ve been through system implementations before (many), and this one was seamless. Yes, there were complications, but they were worked out quickly. From the very beginning, we wanted to go to InstructureCon and learn more about implementing Canvas, and we wanted to bring representatives from all of our colleges to the event to ensure that EVERY school got new information. We were able to get a grant to fund the travel, and we set out to Park City for the event.

My main objective for the conference was to make some contacts at other schools for networking on projects and to learn a few tips to give me ideas on ways I can…

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Sunday Night Check-In: Happy Summer Solstice!

Double Trouble!!!

Double Trouble!!!

This was one of those weekends when I did not want to stay home. I thought I did. I was in Utah all last week, and I thought I wanted to curl up on the chaise in my living room and veg there for two days. I had nothing planned. Friday I ran a bunch of errands when I got home, had a friend over for a bit and then walked Ashok. I went to bed fairly early as I was exhausted.

Saturday was more errands, and I spent some time looking at apartments and driving around neighborhoods. I just wanted to be out and about. I hung out at PJ’s coffee for awhile downtown and blogged. It was too hot to have Ashok running around with me, so she had to stay home. I bought my first watermelon of the season from Southside Produce and had a big slice sprinkled with salt when I got home. It was delicious. I even got a chance to do a little yoga before I went to bed last night. It felt awesome.

I called Daddy, and they weren’t doing anything today, so I told them I’d come by this afternoon for a short visit. I got up this morning and walked Ashok. I got to thinking that I really wanted to get out and kayak today. It’s been awhile since I wanted to load that boat onto my car and drive somewhere to do it, so I decided I should just go for it. I pulled out a map and looked for State Parks or Canoe Trails that would allow me to also visit my parents in the afternoon. I REALLY wanted to go to Grand Isle but that would have been way too much driving. So, I settled on Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, loaded up the car and headed out.

I’ve never been to that park, but I know one of the canoe clubs here has a big spring camping trip to Lake Fausse, and I’ve been wanting to at least see what it was like. It’s a very small park in the Atchafalaya swamp, but it’s nice and, of course, surrounded by water. The campground was full even in the heat of the summer, and almost all of the picnic pavilions were taken. I opted to take Ashok on a short hike to see what the trails were like, and then I had a picnic lunch on a pavilion over the water. I decided that the lake was not all that interesting to kayak today especially since it was out in full sun, and it was starting to heat up. I changed my mind and thought I might kayak on the pond at my parent’s house instead. So, I headed down the long road to Pierre Part.

The Trail

My travels took me through the swamp and down backroads dotted with fish camps and boat launches. White pickup trucks were everywhere. All of the little camps were named, and it was fun to think about the personalities of the owners based on the names they chose. I did a double-take at one called Tranquil Spaces which had a lotus flower on the sign. This one obviously was a kindred spirit. Another one had a sign out front that said Mine, and I was trying to figure out what that meant when I passed the next sign that said Hers. I laughed out loud.

Then the scenery turned into sugarcane fields before we hopped on Hwy 90 toward Morgan City. I saw a sign for Cypremort Pointe State Park, and I turned off the highway as if I was programmed. I turned around when my GPS told me it was 37 miles to the park. I didn’t have that much time to kill. But, I read about the park, and I think I’ll have to come back one day when I’m down at my parent’s place to go see it. It’s actually on the gulf.

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I arrived at my parent’s house in the heat of the day. Daddy, Ashok and I took a ride on the golf cart and immediately regretted it. It was just too hot. The rest of the afternoon we sat around and enjoyed the air conditioning while we looked at their pictures from out West. I have to admit I was salivating at the fall colors and the cool mountain streams. Momma made a deer roast, and we had some sliced cucumbers, rice and gravy and home-grown tomatoes with it for dinner. After dinner, I decided that I’d see if it was too hot to get on the water.

Mountain Pictures

Mountain Pictures

It was really beautiful out there on the pond. I wished I’d brought my camera with me. I hung in the shade because it was still pretty hot, but the breeze was nice, and it was very peaceful among the cypress trees, waterbirds and Spanish Moss. I paddled past a fisherman and he asked if I saw the gator back there. He pointed it out. It was apparently stuck on a catfish line, and you could see the buoy moving with him. I told him he should go help him get away from it, and he laughed at the thought.

I packed up my boat and headed home. I’m tired in a good way. Ashok is snoring next to me. I really enjoyed my trek through Southern Louisiana today. Even though it was hot, I had a good time, and I now have a couple of places I want to visit when the summer heat dies down. It will happen. It’s just that it won’t be really soon. I think those weathermen that predicted cooler than normal temps here in Louisiana in June missed the boat. It was hot.

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Today was the summer solstice – the longest day of the year. I’m glad I got out to enjoy the daylight. I hope you did, too. A co-worker of mine was inspired to go to Clark Creek after my hike last week. Maybe you’ll be inspired to get out on the water next weekend. Jo Anne and I are already planning a Bogue Chitto float next Saturday. It’ll be great, and I can actually swim on this one. There will be no gators waiting to nibble on my toes. Have a good week!

To Buy or Not to Buy – That is the Question!

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My current place.

I’m running around today exploring my options for housing in the future. I’ve been noodling moving when my lease is up in October, but I’m not really sure what I want to do. I love the area I live in now, but I pay about $200 more a month for housing than I’d like to spend. I want to have a little extra to put into savings or a travel fund. I’m just not a big ‘house’ person, but I do like to live in an area that is conducive to my lifestyle. And it’s fun to think about what I might want for the next few years.

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What I do best…

My first decision is buying vs. renting. I know that people always say that buying is the obvious decision, but it’s really not. In this day and age, there is no guarantee that equity will build. Plus, there is a lot of upkeep on homes. The first spring I was in my house in Memphis, I had to replace the AC unit. Luckily, I worked for a company where I could borrow from my 401K, and that’s how I did it. It was just an expense that I had to eat early on. And, then there was the expense of the yard. As a single person, I can’t work full-time, do yardwork, keep up the inside of the house AND have a life. It got to be such an expense to pay people to help me with yardwork. I often longed for my steady $850 month rent in the duplex down the street. I can’t tell you what a relief it was when I signed on the dotted line to sell my house in August of 2013. I didn’t really realize how heavy that financial burden was until it was gone.

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Of course, with buying, I get to benefit from the tax break which gives me a little more income to pocket. And, I can generally get a place that I like or make it one that I like. I’ll never be able to afford something in my neighborhood, so I’ll have to live in a less desirable place. But, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be desirable at all. I’m thinking that I would buy a condo if I buy. That way, I don’t have to take care of the yard and the exterior. Yes, I have a maintenance fee, but they seem pretty reasonable here in Baton Rouge. I’d only have to take care of the inside of my abode. The financial burden and workload is much less on a condo. I’ve lived in several throughout my life, and I loved them.

With renting, I would lessen the financial burden considerably, and I would give myself more time to decide if I want to stay in Baton Rouge for the long-term. In addition, it would be less money upfront. I’d still have some costs with pet deposits and moving expenses, but it would be considerably less than buying. And, of course, there would be no unexpected repair bills. I’d have a budget, and it would stay pretty clean. I could spend my money on something else. Plus, I would have more freedom to move about the country if I chose.

chart Cost of Owning vs renting

Today I visited a couple of apartment complexes in town. I forgot how apartment complexes feel. Ugh … I just don’t know if I can go there. One of the managers said she gets lots of people who come in and say they haven’t lived in an apartment since they were young. I guess people in their 50s have to live in apartments for all kinds of reasons, and maybe some just choose to downsize. But, it would certainly be an adjustment. Unless I ran into something that was pretty special, I think an apartment complex is out. I’m sure I could find something better if I moved farther out of town, but then I have gas costs to contend with and the loss of precious minutes in my day to a commute.

I’m in downtown Baton Rouge right now at PJ’s coffeehouse. I drove through Spanish Town, an eclectic little neighborhood similar to my Midtown Memphis neighborhood except on a much smaller scale. I went in to a neighborhood grocery store that had a pianist playing. I could feel myself being a part of that area.  I talked with the young man at the counter, and he told me it was really expensive to rent in Spanish Town. He said you end up paying high-priced rent for a run down house with a window unit. I called about a little wooden house that had a sign out front, and the lady said she wanted $1800 month. He said this area is unique, and there is nothing like it in Baton Rouge. That’s why it’s so high. I guess that area is definitely out.

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My friend Alisa, who is also going to be my realtor, has been sending me listings via email. I’m not ready to pull the trigger yet, but I want to keep an eye on what’s available here. I texted her today and told her I thought I was going to buy and wanted to start looking at some things. As soon as I sent it, I started panicking. What if the state government runs out of money for higher ed and cans my ass after I buy a house? What if a great job opportunity comes up somewhere else, and I want to take it? What if … what if … what if…. I texted her back and said I was still noodling it. She said it’s better to buy if I can commit to three years in one place. Too bad that’s the one thing I CAN’T answer!! My ENFPness has such a hard time with commitment! That being said, she told me to relax and be at peace. It’s great advice. I think I’ll just keep exploring and looking for answers. Maybe I’ll stay where I am and get a part-time job for the extra money. Maybe a great rental will drop in my lap in the next few months. Maybe I’ll decide to trust God with my job security instead of Bobby Jindal and go for buying my own place again. At any rate, I’m putting it out into the Universe. I’m exploring. If I don’t feel an obvious draw, I’ll stick with the status quo. It’s kind of nice to be in a place where I’m not in a rush.

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Morning Sunshine: McPolin Farm Nature Trail

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I had the opportunity to attend a conference for my job in in Park City UT – a city near Salt Lake City that I’ve never had the opportunity to visit. I don’t really like work conferences. Long days holed up in an over-air-conditioned conference center make me feel tired and soul-less. I’m lucky if half of the presentations I attend have any merit to what I’m doing, but conferences are a necessary part of meeting people in my field and getting even a couple of new ideas from people outside my normal network. I planned to hike in the mornings before it all started to try to counteract my conference blues.

The first morning I was there I got up at sunrise and hiked up the mountain behind my hotel. It was a typical resort trail. A few parts were natural so I got a small taste of the high mountain desert landscape, but mostly the trail overlooked the grounds of the resort and the golf course. I felt unenlightened and eager to find something more intriguing the next day.

My shuttle driver Kevin showed me a trail that was in walking distance from the resort, but it had some nice views. It was a little blasé’ in that it followed the highway and was paved, but my time and transportation was limited. So, I set out on Thursday morning at sunrise donning my jacket and Vibram shoes to see what I could find. The walk from the resort led me past a touristy residential area before passing a cattle pasture. Black cows grazed in the early morning light among the Aspens and grasses. They looked at me from a distance as if to ask what I was doing out in this morning air. They didn’t seem at all interested in my answer.

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Just past the cattle, I caught the eye of a mule deer who seemed much more interested in my activities than the cows. His buddy ran off into the woods in a leaping, two-legged hopping fashion. But this deer stood there and locked into my gaze. “Good morning, Beautiful,” I said. We just looked at each other for awhile. I noticed that he had fuzzy, nubby antlers and was much larger than the deer I’ve typically seen in the eastern United States. I finally decided to head for the trail and walked away. My movement caused him to bound off as well.

The paved trail began at the end of the road. There was a Memorial there for Joshua. I tried to read the sign, but it was not legible. I couldn’t tell if it wasn’t meant to be read, or if the weather had worn down the print so that I couldn’t read it, but it was a rather substantial Memorial. I was curious as to what happened to him. I passed a few joggers who were very amicable. In the curve up ahead a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a juvenile were having their morning meal. Kevin told me they were always out there in that field. I was not disappointed.

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The trail was in a meadow that bordered a mountain. Another mountain rose up on the other side of the highway. In front of me was a white barn that Kevin told me was the most photographed item in Park City. I’ve seen prettier barns in Tennessee but maybe I just didn’t get the right vantage point on this one. The sun started to peek over the top of the mountain, and the light was really lovely. Cyclists pedaled by on the highway along with cars making their way into town. I found myself being grateful for the trail even though I wished it was less urban.

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I hadn’t walked too far when I saw a pile of mulch laying beside the trail. Beside the pile was a narrow little trail that was obviously being upgraded with the mulch. Further into the woods I saw what looked like little birdhouses, so I figured that the trail was for those who were maintaining the birdhouses. I decided to walk in anyway and see where the little trail led. The birdhouses were not birdhouses at all. They were signposts that talked about the Farm Trail and the flora and fauna in the area. Ironically, this beautiful little trail called McPolin Farm Nature Trail is sponsored by Wells Fargo, the Mountain Trails Foundation and the Park City Municipal Trails and Open Space organizations.

The trail continued to be narrow but meandered aimlessly up the side of the mountain. I traveled through a sagebrush meadow and then an Aspen forest. The signs told me about the Quaking Aspen trees whose leaves flutter with even the slightest wind. Apparently Quaking Aspen clone themselves in their root system becoming one massive organism but appearing to be many trees. The largest one is suspected to be over a million years old and is called Pando. It covers over 100 acres, and is the largest organism on earth. It is suspected to be over 1 million years old. You can read more about Pando here.

There was a pretty little creek that ran through the section, and I crossed over it several times. My Vibrams got soaking wet from the dew on the grasses that grew high close to the narrow walkway. My toes were freezing in the 50-degree morning air. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a variety of wildflowers in one walk. I couldn’t decide if this trail was all wild or if it had purposely been planted to showcase Utah’s vegetation. I sat on a bench at one point to say good morning to God and thank Her for this beautiful morning. The sun’s rays shone through the Aspen, and I knew that She was there. I even, for a brief second, had a vision of Jesus walking beside me enjoying the wildflowers in his hiking gear. And like the deer – He was just as quickly gone.

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The trail was a mile long, and I had apparently hiked it backwards. The entrance signpost explained that the Farm Trail had been put there so that I could experience what the natural farmland in that region looked like. The hike – and the trail – didn’t offer breathtaking views and heart-stopping natural magnificence. I was initially jealous as my brother and his family just spent a week or so in the midst of the magnificent Utah wilderness. But this trail’s peaceful, unassuming beauty touched me in just the way I needed yesterday. I walked back feeling refreshed and grateful that I got up early and made the effort.

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The mule deer was waiting for me on the way out. This time he startled me.  I didn’t notice him until he was only a few feet away from me looking out between two trees. As I walked past the cow pasture, two large cows were butting heads, and I tried to make a video because it was so funny. But, it didn’t turn out very well. They stayed head to head for several minutes until one pushed the other out of the corral. It made me laugh. I showed my picture of it to my boss later and told her we need to post that in her office so we can reference it when we’re butting heads about something.

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The hike yesterday put me in the right mood for a great conference day. I was relaxed and grounded. One of the signs on the trail reminded me that nothing in nature ever stays the same. The berries that are on the bush today will be eaten or will dry up and fall off tomorrow. The flowers that bloom today will die to make way for another bloom. The creek will be either dryer or wetter than the day before. I had the opportunity to see that sky, those flowers, those grasses and Aspens in that singular, unique moment. It – nor I – will ever be the same again. I am glad I was there to witness it.