Remnants

June 12, 2015

I’m working on a book for History Press that will be titled Wicked Nelson County. Immersed in Kentucky and particularly Nelson County history for the last few months, and driving back and forth from Bardstown to Lexington has given me plenty of time to mull over the material and the landscapes in rural Kentucky. I prefer driving side roads as much as the Bluegrass Parkway.

About a month ago, after spending the afternoon at the Nelson County Public Library perusing pioneer histories, newspapers and source material from that period, I found myself scanning the fields on the side of Bloomfield Road. It being early spring, after a particularly brutal winter, and myself being the normal anxious gardener that a brutal winter (and late spring) creates, I guess I was on the lookout for any and all signs of anything flowering.

To my left, I saw a ramshackle house, rapidly being absorbed back into nature by vines and other entwining plants. But around what was probably the porch (being at the front of the hulking mass) were purple lilac blossoms peeking through the bright green leaves on the vines, and in the front were huge clusters of bright yellow daffodils. Remnants of yet another avid gardener trying to make her (or his) home beautiful, and contain nature at least on their plot of land.

Another swath of yellow to the right caught my eye. To my surprise, rows of daffodils stood erect in the middle of the field to the right, well away from the road and not exactly parallel to it. After seeing the deteriorating house, I couldn’t help imagining a pioneer house, perhaps even logs with a sod roof, sitting squarely in line with those persistent daffodils. Whispers of children running, playing, even picking bouquets of spring for the overworked Mommies cooking up spring greens at a hearth nearly large enough to walk into in a well-seasoned cast iron pot. I could almost smell them.

The remnants of our past are all around us. We just have to look…and remember.

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Learning to Live with Wildlife

December 18, 2014

It amazes me how uninformed and squeamish we as a culture have gotten. We rent our lake home occasionally, which sits overlooking Cumberland Lake, surrounded and overhung by trees, bushes, a stream running beside it, and…let’s just call it what it is: nature. But more often than not one of the top complaints we get is there are “BUGS” and “CRITTERS” around the house.Well, duh.

The killing of a young mountain lion in Bourbon County recently, and news reports of bears, coyotes, deer, and more ranging out of the woods and into people’s back yards–not in rural areas but in suburban and urban areas–signifies how important it is that we change the relationship our culture now has with nature. Richard Louv calls the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation nature-deficit disorder. Listen to these telling tales of how our perception, attention, and relationship with nature has changed in the last few years:

  • Recently, the publisher of the OJED (Oxford Junior English Dictionary), which is the final word on English Language vocabulary of/for youth, decided to replace dozens of nature-related words like “beaver” and “dandelion” with “blog” and “MP3 player”.
  • We speak of nature in negative terms, such as: “Kill two birds with one stone”.
  • A recent study showed that eight-year-olds can identify 25 percent more Pokemon characters than wildlife species.
  • Another study says the percent of children who walk or bike to school has declined 25 percent in the past 30 years. Barely 21 percent of children today live within a mile of their school.
Noted wildlife artist and conservationist Robert Bateman observed, “If you can’t name things, how can you love them? And if you don’t love them, then you’re not going to care a hoot about protecting them or voting for issues that would protect them.”
We can’t blame all of this on the electronic umbilical cord, but it has had an impact. Also at fault are fear of the “unknown,” limiting time for unstructured play with organized classes and team play (although the uptick in team sports does not seem to have had a positive impact on the obesity epidemic), and more.
The bottom line is that we’d better be thinking about how to keep our environment diverse and healthy while keeping humans safe.
We fear what we do not know…so copy the Japanese and take a “Forest Bath” which means nothing more than a walk in the woods. Reduce your stress, clear your mind, and experience nature in an up close and personal way, And if the weatherman is right, you might be able to see some tracks in the snow he’s predicting!
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Don’t Let Black Friday Ruin Christmas

November 22, 2014

Recent Phishing Email (src: PC Magazine)

This week is the supposed “beginning” of the Christmas shopping season. For decades, the day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday, was the rush to the stores to see the Christmas decorations, pick up your own new decor for the holidays, and get a leg up on your Christmas shopping. Today, when radio stations begin playing Christmas music on November 1, decorations begin seeing the light of day in stores as early as September, and the newest addition to the shopping frenzy, Cyber Monday, it hardly seems worth the hoopla.

But a TV anchor noted two weeks ago that people were already camping out for Black Friday deals. Seriously???

There are many of us, however, who will do our Black Friday shopping in our PJs at home, online. Not to mention curling up in front of that fire for Cyber Monday’s shopping frenzy. But in today’s high-tech world, there are many ways thieves can leave the store, or your home, with more than a little of your Christmas cheer. I wanted to give you five ways to protect yourself this year.

1. When shopping online, use Private Mode in your browser in order to reduce the amount of information data mongers can collect. Better yet, use DuckDuckGo.com as your search engine either in Firefox or another browser. It is always in private mode as it collects no data at all on your searches, and is an excellent search engine.

2. Just because you can log on to wifi doesn’t mean you should. Privacy isn’t guaranteed on any open network. Only shop and take care of sensitive (read financial, personal input) work only on a secure network.

3. With the influx of massive data breaches across a wide variety of industries, no company is safe. If a company you shop at has a breach, have a new card issued ASAP. Also, if you’re going shopping at a particular retailer and they’ve recently experienced a data breach, look to do your shopping elsewhere. Maybe you won’t be able to take advantage of that exclusive Black Friday deal, but what good is that brand-new big-screen TV you got for a ‘steal’ if attackers got access to your credit card number?

4. Don’t use mobile devices to shop! First of all, rumor has it that prices are 10% higher on mobile apps than online, because retailers believe you are in a hurry for the goods. But more important than that, store apps are buggy and riddled with malicious apps to steal your information and data. Using apps on a phone, especially without protection, is a great way to let those looking for your data to get it. Even if you do use mobile apps, make sure you LOG OUT every time you finish with it (this particularly applies to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like).

5. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Phishing emails look more legitimate these days than they did in the past. And the fact that the holiday season has many legitimate great deals actually benefits cybercriminals, providing a perfect venue for phishing emails that would normally seem out of place to blend in. So don’t just immediately click a link in that ‘great deal’ email that popped up in your inbox. Verify that the sender is legitimate, check for grammatical errors and inconsistencies. If there’s something odd or out-of-place, don’t pull the purchase trigger and potentially open yourself up for identity theft or money loss.

Remember, there is NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE WEBSITE! Do your due diligence and stay safe this holiday season. Celebrate the real reason for the season, and give more of yourself than your wallet.

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Fabulous, I Say

September 13, 2014

On FB today I clicked on a link to Slate magazine and read an article on fingerprint language: words that we take on and make our own, using them frequently and occasionally obsessively. As one who’s always been accused of using words that no one else will understand (not true, I just collect words that are very specific to very specifically define my intention, I promise), I was taken aback with some of the psychology in the article about how we react to the fingerprint words of others, and of our own.

I’ve noticed recently I’ve picked up the word fabulous from somewhere. A tad anachronistic (think British Ab-Fab), it’s fairly unusual in today’s lingo, but takes one’s excitement over whatever it is used to describe up a notch, IMHO. Fingerprint words of the past include: ethos, plethora, ennui, hubris, rats (emotive rather than the noun), hackneyed, juxtapose and oh, so many more.

I am always amused and pleased when I hear others use my signature words. These words are worthy of use by everyone, and any small part I may have in putting them back into play is gratifying. No pressure to differentiate my language, no annoyance that someone’s appropriated “my” words. Words belong to all of us, and the more we own, the more specifically we speak, the better we may be understood. At least that’s my take on it.

When I taught college English, I required my students to “collect” six words a week. These had to be words they read or heard that, if pressed, they couldn’t actually say what they meant. I asked them to look it up (definition, etymology) and write six sentences with the “new” word. Then I asked them to select one word and use it at least six times a day for a week. Research shows that if you do that, the word is “yours” forever. Students who got into the game were always amazed at how many words they just skipped over as they sought to understand daily communication from others. They were always stunned at how often their new words showed up once they themselves put it into use. What seem uncommon words aren’t really uncommon. They are just words we ignore.

Anyway, I enjoy words. Period. I don’t use certain words to impress, to condescend, or to frustrate others. They are simply the best words I know to say what I mean. Perhaps I know more words than you. Big deal. Perhaps I just know different words than you. Again, big deal. They are my words, and I love them.

So listen to the words all around you, and collect some of your own. They will be yours forever.

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The Bionic Woman

August 28, 2014

Having been forced to watch the $6 million dollar man and Bionic Woman when my children were young I never really thought that some of these bionic parts might make their way into me. I was young, healthy, full of vim and vigor. But that was a while back.

Today, at 64, I can claim to be at least partially bionic, and am glad for the encouragement those shows gave to medical science and their audiences. Half the women in my Sunday School class had knee replacements last year. This year, I joined their ranks.

Last Thursday I had a Stryker knee implant in my right knee, after living in denial for nearly 15 years. No cartilage, a damaged kneecap, and bone spurs galore meant that left leg was pretty much pulling the hefty weight of my movements. And it was beginning to fail.

That first step post-op told me I had made the right decision. I am one week into recovery, and doing exceptionally well by all accounts. Being someone who is somewhat impatient, I want to do far more than I should at this point. But I am pleased that I have reached (pretty much from day one) the zero degree mark (which means my leg goes completely straight) and am approaching the minimum 120 degree mark when bent. There isn’t a lot of pain either walking or resting, and this recycling ice pack/cooler is the berries!

As well as I’m doing, I’m not looking forward to doing the left leg. But perhaps being relieved of all that pressure, it will not need it for many years!

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