Monday, May 31, 2010

A New Memorial Day

When I was growing up Memorial Day was May 10th. I didn't know anything about this last Monday in May deal. On May 10th each year, my father and his friends would solemnly memorialize the anniversary of the death of Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson in 1863 and that the same day in 1865, those Yankees captured President Jefferson Davis. All Confederate flags were flown at half mast. It was an occasion in the deep south to memorialize the confederate war dead. You must remember at that time, our "most recent unpleasantness" was less than 100 years ago. And, we were still wary of any one from north of Virginia. That Mason Dixon line might as well have been drawn in the sand.

Now you have to look at it from my perspective, a little girl being brought up in a time (long gone, thank God). These dates and anniversaries were still important to my Daddy and his friends. Now my Aunt Kat and Granny didn't talk about it much. When I asked them about it, they showed me the silver that had been buried in the back yard to save it from Sherman's army and the rocking chair that fell off the back of the wagon loaded down with everything plundered from the home place by those Yankee soldiers. All I knew was they must have been some evil folks.

Of course, like most of us, I grew up, learned the history of that time and that folks north of Virginia don't have two heads, are generally nice, and can be trusted. My attitude is that we all need to learn to get along. I don't have time for petty things like racism and bigotry. And, to my Daddy's credit he came around long before he died. But he was a true historian of the confederate war and I was taught that it was not a "civil war" because we were two independent countries. I never called it "the war of northern aggression", unless I was with some of my Yankee friends and just wanted to irritate them. Of course, the word "War" is pronounced "Waah".

But back to the issue at hand. I was just amazed when I went to college and learned there was another holiday - Memorial day. The one everyone else in the country celebrated - the beginning of summer. And to think, I thought summer started when school got out. How naive I was. I should have known there had to be some "official" way to start summer. Some hallmark moment, one that the supermarkets could tout. So here it was. And ever since then Confederate Memorial day is a thing of the past, just like our most recent unpleasantness.

I tried to explain this to my girls and they were confounded between the humor and the horror of the situation. The horror of the civil rights era, which I am glad they did not have to live through and that they feel should not have been an issue - all men and women are created equal. And, the humor of celebrating a holiday that no longer exists about a war that in their minds is just a chapter in a book. However, I can still see the look in my Granny's eyes as she told the stories her mother, who had lived through the war and all its horrors told her. It was very real. And, I would not take anything for having those memories.

And now I celebrate the beginning of summer with everyone else on the last Monday in May. But each year on May 10th, I think about my Daddy, his family and friends, and more importantly, all those young men on both sides of that line that died between 1861 and 1865 trying to keep a nation together or fight for what they truly believed was right. I hope that their memories are included when we remember all the other brave souls on our Memorial Day who gave their lives doing the same thing - fighting for what they truly believe is right.

A little history here, the first Confederate Memorial day was celebrated in 1866 and was held on different days in the various states of the former confederacy. The union states were inspired by this show of respect by the southerners and started a Decoration Day in memory of their dead. This morphed into what was called Memorial day and was held on May 30. In 1971 Congress enacted a law making Memorial Day a federal holiday for a 3 day weekend and moving the date to the last Monday in May.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Breaking Loose

OK, I survived the rehearsal dinner. Oh, the dinner was very nice, I just was not dressed correctly, but I knew that was going to be the case three days in advance. I even took optional outfits so I would have choices . . . and I had an idea about what most people planned to wear. I just could not bring myself to wear something very casual to a nice restaurant for a rehearsal dinner. Call me hard headed, but there are just some things I cannot get past. There I was, as we walked up to everyone seated outside. They all looked cool, calm, and casual. I looked like my Aunt Kat with her Sunday-go-to-meeting dress on. Hell, I might as well had a hat and matching purse and shoes. (The gloves would have been in the purse.) One of friends politely said I looked good in green. I think that was the most positive honest comment she could make.

After we had been sitting there, I just wanted to get back in the car, return to the hotel and order room service. One of the girls, said, "OK, I need to know right now what everyone is wearing to the wedding tomorrow." And then they all turned and looked at me. Oh, for God's sake, don't make this any worse. "Well, I had planned to wear this short blue and green dress, that I really can't describe," I stammered. I could only imagine what that description brought to their minds given my current frock. "Well, I was thinking it was going to be dressy, but after talking with everyone, I'm not so sure now," said one of my friends. After much discussion, no conclusion was reached, but I felt better about my wardrobe decision for the next day.

As we were seated for dinner, I had a little talk with my self, asking why I had to be so provincial and hold myself up to these standards. After all, my Granny, Aunt J'Nelle, and Aunt Kat, God bless them all, were not around to judge me anymore. And, times were changing and I better get with the program, or I was going to find myself turning into a caricature of one of my twentieth century relatives with blue hair and sensible shoes. It is amazing how three glasses of wine and a table of good friends will make you forget you showed up in a frumpy frock.

The next day, I put it all behind me. Like Belle, in Beauty and the Beast, said, "There must be more than this provincial life." OK, I'm not ready to dye my hair blond, or go nuts but I have got to realize that there is a happy medium between being proper and being appropriate. And, today, I'm going to break loose. Stylish, appropriate (and comfortable) wins over Amy Vanderbilt and my concerns about other's perceptions of me. I am no longer going to be the flag bearer for the fifty year year old frumpies. I say this as I put on my linen pants and sweater set with my pearls. Like I said, small steps.

Monday, May 17, 2010 (and me)

Very rarely do I get a chance to brag, but I am pretty excited about this. A week or so ago, I was contacted by that they would like to use some of the photos I had submitted as an ireporter for a Travel Snapshot they were doing on SC. They first asked for 2, then asked for several more and were very complimentary. (Everyone likes their ego stroked!) I figured if (and when) the Travel Snapshot ever came out it would include 100's of photos given the number they publish every day on-line.

I was shocked yesterday when I happened to find the piece. They had selected 15 photos for the "Snapshot" and 2 were mine. Of course, this and .75 will buy you a cup of coffee at Hardee's but I was pretty pleased.

If you are interested, here is the link:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Long Story Short

There is one phrase my Mama can utter during a phone call, that insures another 15 or 20 minutes on the line - "To make a long story short, and I know you don't have a lot of time . . ." And, that would be correct, the later not the former. She never manages to make her long stories short, I don't know why she tries. Come to think of it, if this is the short version of the long story, I should have never been intimidated by War & Peace.

I am working the other day and the home phone rings. When I see the caller ID, I realize I better pick it up, because I have not talked to her in 48 hours and God knows how many people have died, or are nigh unto it since then. (And, Lord knows, the house next door to her may have sold - to some "good people, you know 'our kind'" no less.) After I get caught up on "all the news that wasn't", I make the mistake of asking her if she is sure that my brother knows about the dates of her Beach Trip. (All the while, I am editing text and returning emails.)

"Well I'm sure he does. He should." "Mama, have you told him or not? I ask. "Well, I picked one of the weeks he said they could come." "So you haven't called and confirmed it with him." "Well, not exactly. But, I am certain he knows by now." I don't remember him having ESP as a child - did I miss out on something. Then she changes the subject, "Guess who called me this morning?" "My brother to ask when we were going to the beach?" "No, and you're being ugly." "Well, then who?" As she launches into a detailed, he said she said rendition of the phone conversation, I finish my final edit. Then I realize I cannot print because the printer is too loud (and would let her know she had not had my undivided attention during this call). Just then I tune back in to hear,"Well, to make a long story short." Now I realize we've only just begun.

Ten minutes later, when I have replied to all my emails, completed a report that was due, found some my errors in the guide I was editing when she initially called (and was now waiting to print), my ears pick up, "Oh, and I will tell you this." Now, this sounds promising . . . the end in near, maybe.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Some iPads Come and Go

Oh, over the years there have been Eight Track Tapes, Metric in America, Ouija Boards, Mood Rings, Hula Hoops, and Pet Rocks. Some fads we only had to endure a short time before we came to our senses, Thank God, Leisure Suits, Parachute Pants, Platform Shoes, and the Macarena. A few have become downright iconic like the Jitterbug, Barbie Dolls, the Beatles, and Penny Loafers.

A month ago, I fell victim to Apple's iPad mania (See April 9). Well, after long anticipation my package (or rather investment) arrived. And, it was up to its hype and more. I spent time setting it up. I learned its ins and outs, how to's, and just what it would do. I was in serious like. (Apple suggests you name your iPad to keep your iTunes account straight. So I named mine "Quentin".) Quentin traveled with me to California and as a traveling companion, he was wonderful.

Then I started reading more about security issues with public Wi-Fi. Now, if you are not familiar with it, one of the big selling points of the iPad is that you can surf the web anywhere there is public Wi-Fi: Starbucks, McDonalds, airports, even random places on the street. The good news is your are constantly connected. The bad news is you are constantly connected, however, you do not always know who is connected to you.

Thanks to the dark side of modern technology, while you are surfing the web on public Wi-Fi, it is not that difficult for a knowledgeable person to break into your private cyber space and gain access to your financial and personal information. This can happen, even if you do not have sites with this information "open" at the time. How they do this is above my pay grade, so I cannot explain the details. Now, there are safeguards one can take. But the more I read, the more I feared that as much I planned to use my dear iPad, I was going to be fodder for Cyber crooks.

My alternatives were to (a) only use it at home on our secure Wi-Fi, (b) when I took it out in public make sure the Wi-Fi was turned off and plan not to go "on -line", or, as a tear rolled down my cheek, (c) sell it. A more expensive version with 3G capability (ie you accessed the Internet via secure cell service) was scheduled to be released later that week.

The good news about the 3G model was that it gave you more access because you were not dependant on the availability of Wi-Fi. The bad news, you had an additional monthly fee for the cell service. The good news, there was no contract, so you could buy the service monthly only when you needed it. The bad news, the service was through AT&T, which is notorious for poor coverage and lack of band width. Given my choices, and the fact that I did not plan to spend a Saturday morning standing in line at my local Apple store, hoping there were enough 3G units to go around, I went online and ordered one.

Now, I needed to sell my current iPad to fund my new purchase. Due to demand, I wasn't worried about selling it (and I had kept the box and every piece of paperwork it came with.) It would be a week before my new one would be shipped. If I listed my current one now, certainly, it would sell by the time my new one arrived. So I listed the old one on Amazon, making sure I netted the same amount I paid for it. (I knew I could always drop the price, should it not sell by the end of the week.)

Three hours later, I checked my email and, much to my dismay, my iPad was sold, and the buyer had paid for expedited delivery. He wanted it asap. That meant I would be iPadless for a week. This was not fun, I had been here before. Being the responsible seller, I carefully packed it up, and shipped it off. Now what do I do? Wait, that's what I do. Again - for the FedEx man. Back to tracking my package from China, converting time zones.

Only this time things got complicated. Apple found itself not prepared for the demand of 3G units so there was a delay in production. (But, thankfully they stopped shipping to stores to fill their online pre-orders.) Then God prevailed with a flood in Tennessee, the major hub for Fed-Ex. So I was exhausted trying to keep up with Apple's sales projections, Chinese production numbers, and Fed-Ex shipping delays. This was going to be a long week.

My first iPad had come and gone. But, this iPad has not faded.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Flowers for Church

Mother's Day is coming up. In case you have not taken care of those last minute cards and gifts, consider this your two minute warning. But what brought it to mind was a red rose bush I saw this afternoon.

When I was little, we got flowers for everything. And, you wore flowers on special Sundays. Easter was a biggie. Daddy always had the florist send corsages to the house on the Saturday before Easter for me and my Mama to wear with our Easter finery Sunday morning at church. Daddy always made sure my flowers matched my dress, but Mama's was always an orchid. If Aunt Kat and Granny were in town spending Easter with us, they too, had orchids delivered for them to wear. And, we're not talking about Cymbidium orchids, Daddy made sure they sent Cattleyas.

So off to church every Easter, I'd go in my new dress, new shoes, matching purse, white gloves, and corsage. (I bailed on the hats at age 4.) And, I wasn't alone. All my friends would be sporting their new attire, just in an array of different colors. Of course, some of them still wore hats - Bless their hearts. Some mothers are so cruel.

Mother's day and Father's day were a little different. (This is where the roses come in.) On Mother's day, Daddy always had small red roses cut out of the yard for me and my mother, and red rose buds for my brother and him to wear to church. The red symbolized that our mothers were still "in life." On Father's day, he would have red roses for Mama, my brother, and me, but he would have a white rose bud, symbolizing that his father had"passed on."

On those days, I would sit in church and look around. With one sweep though the pews, I could take stock of generations, seeing whose parents were still living and whose were not. Even as a child, I realized it was done in honor and respect, but I found it eerie. To me it was like a census of the living and the dead, besides I always wanted to wear a pink rose - and that clearly didn't fit the program.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Friendly Skies

Boarding a plane reminds me that traveling is not as much fun as it used to be - at least not for those of us who either don't have our own plane or can afford to fly first class. And unfortunately, I do not fall into either of those categories. But I find it very entertaining. After all, if we have to do it, let's at least get something out of it - even if it is at someone else's expense.

We were boarding a small plane the other day - the kind that has 2 seats on each side of the aisle. Since seats "B" and " E" must be universal for middle row seats, someone in their infinite wisdom, decided if there were only two seats on a side, they would be "A" and " C" on the right and "D" and "F" on the left . The gentlemen in front of me, who obviously had had too many adult beverages, became quite irate with the stewardess. "There is no seat 3 B." "No sir. But you are not seated in 3B. You are in 3A" "But what about the person who is supposed to sit in 3B. Where will they sit?"

"There is no 3B." "I know, that is what I just said." Suddenly I wondered who was on first.

One lady I was sitting next to was grumbling about what the passengers in first class got. "Look they get blankets and free food. And, they get their own bathroom. And, they just herd us back here like cattle." I wanted to remind her that for $700 she, too, could have her own disposable blanket, packaged cookies, and free drinks. Personally, I didn't think it was worth the money. Now, I've enjoyed first class upgrades when they are free - that's a deal.

But, my favorite is watching the travelers deal with their oversized bags that they insist on carrying on the plane. Checking luggage is beneath them. However, they can make the rest of us wait, patiently, as they attempt to stuff their large bags in the small over head bins, insisting they will fit, when the physics clearly say this is not going to happen. Then they look at the cabin crew like it is their fault.

Everyone wants to complain, but the airports are full so some people must feel the need to utilize air transportation. And, I'd like to know how else you can get from the east coast to the west coast in five hours or less. Besides, the friendly skies of United, Delta loves to fly and it shows, and they are ready when you are. American is something special in the air. Northwest says some people just know how to fly. Jet Blue reminds you that you'll want to fly again. But Bangkok Airways promises exclusive service to exotic gems. (I want to go there.)